Seasoned organizers know that volunteers are truly the key to any successful event. People who are willing to give their time and energy to an event are worth their weight in gold.
In today’s competitive race environment, how do you recruit non-paid staff in a way that keeps them interested in spending their time on your race, while keeping your out-of-pocket expenses low?
Who to Ask
The number one place to start is with those who came to your last event. A loyal volunteer base is most likely to work for the sheer joy of being a part of your event. They will also be more willing to recruit new volunteers by inviting friends and family to share in their passion.
Make sure you include the link to your volunteer sign-up page in any email you send, collateral you print, social media you post, and on your event page to get the word out that you need volunteers. Athletes will forward information to potential participants, who might be willing to sign up as a volunteer to support their friend or family member at the race.
How to Incentivize Volunteers
While it may seem counterintuitive—from a budget perspective—to “pay” volunteers for their time and attention, in today’s race environment, it’s the best way to ensure you have a core of volunteers who will help you year after year.
How can you do that without breaking the bank?
Consider these creative ways:
- Tap sponsors to provide volunteers with special t-shirts or other gear.
- IRONMAN® places volunteers in areas that assist in career transitions, like medical aid or massage.1 This fills the void, while also benefiting the individual, making it a win-win for everyone.
- Brighton Marathon encourages volunteers to “create your own team” by bringing a group of colleagues, friends, or sports club members together to work the event, while also helping organizers improve the event experience.2
- Bonefrog Navy Seal Mud Run and Obstacle Race gives free event tickets to volunteers and also allows youth to volunteer, starting at age 14.3
Try a Tiered Rewards System
To minimize your financial outlay but still offer rewards, leverage a point system such as the one in ACTIVE Works Endurance® event management software to assign and easily track points for tasks, based on their difficulty.
Volunteers can use points for free t-shirts or entry to an event. Or they can compete for sponsor-provided giveaways or tickets to ancillary events you award to top point earners.
This adds a level of competition to your volunteer team that can push them to do even more for your event while level-setting the cost of incentives to a more manageable degree.
We live in a what’s in it for me kind of world and with the increase in events, leveraging the available pool of volunteers requires competitive thinking. We’re here to help with that.