Lessons to be learned from Sochi event volunteers

So here goes my Carrie Bradshaw of volunteering rant.

I was so impressed with the applause that the volunteers received right off the gate at the opening ceremonies. The athletes were cheering hard and fast for the thousands of volunteers that are helping in the games. That made me proud and helped me to reinforce why I decided to go down the career path of volunteer management and development.

I have to tell you there are days I wonder why I stay in this field, it is always taking two steps forward and one step back but during events such as this, when you are visibly seeing the volunteers everywhere, when you know these games would not happen without the volunteers, even though they had to ship them in and they were still learning as they were volunteering…it makes me proud.

So in return I thought I would talk a bit about engaging event day volunteers. I have built event day volunteer programs from scratch and I can tell you the recruitment aspect is probably the easiest. The biggest challenges is:

retaining them from recruitment to event day

keeping them from year to year


proper recognition

appropriate and timely communication

I found that over the years of running event day volunteer programs the most successful approach is to give up control. What does that mean?

The first step is to find leadership volunteers that can assist in the recruitment, training and retention of the volunteers over the weeks and months leading up to the event.

By breaking down the functions and having a dedicated group of volunteers that can lead teams of other volunteers, allows you to really communicate the proper information to the right volunteers. For example, the registration volunteers will need a different kind of training then your cheerleaders. By using a tiered approach to managing special events volunteers…it limits the amount of communication that you have to disseminate amongst the masses.

In terms of retaining volunteers prior to the event, you team leaders could be sending out updates to the volunteers weeks prior to the event, keeping them informed and excited about how the preparations are going. As well they can be your ambassadors of recruitment as you continue to fill up your spaces.

When it comes to recognition and next steps, a thank you immediately after the event is essential…not just from the CEO but also from yourself and the volunteer leader that they worked with…it makes such a difference for the next year.

Speaking of next year….how do you keep these volunteers engaged…..there are so many ways.

You can provide quarterly updates on how the event is forming…you can get some of the volunteers involved in the planning….you can provide some education and start preparing the chosen few that you think are ready to take the leap to volunteer leader.

Succession is the key to a successful event based volunteer program. Always think about tomorrow.

So back to Sochi, so far they have thanked the volunteers well before they have even started…they gave some great looking uniforms to wear and I hope that they continue to cheer them on throughout the games and give them a big thank you at the end….remember volunteering does make a difference and activities like this…and even for us in Toronto 2015…..with the right plan…the right volunteers….these events can take a life of there own

if you want any more information or need some help planning event based volunteer activities, or providing workshops on how to plan an event based volunteer activity…email me at lorigotliebconsulting@gmail.com


One thought on “Lessons to be learned from Sochi event volunteers

  1. Hurrah! You are affirming everything I learned in my experience of managing event volunteers. I would add (1) a really good electronic database for ease of communication and (2) giving responsibility and trust to volunteers – they will exceed expectations.

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