According to Florence May, owner of Indianapolis and Boston-based Simply Hospitality, volunteers should be regarded as an important resource that needs to be properly trained by event managers. “There are many ways of looking at volunteers,” she said. “Event managers tend to see them as people to whom certain tasks can be assigned and try to figure out the types of incentives needed to attract them. Executive directors and CEOs tend to ask how much the volunteers are going to cost them.”
The question of cost is actually an important consideration, May said. Even though we tend to think of volunteers as “free help,” the fact is that most of them will at least expect a T-shirt as a reward for their efforts. Other costs of using volunteers might include badges, postage, parking, food and complimentary tickets to the event. Additionally, volunteers are often managed by paid staff or an outside consultant. “There is always a cost involved with volunteers,” she said. “So it is both appropriate and necessary to determine the return on the investment when you use volunteers.”
May, whose company has managed large groups of volunteers for eight years, developed registration and event management software that includes a volunteer management module. The TRS volunteer product is based on her team’s experience and the “best practices” of many other companies for which she has consulted.
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