How to Effectively Recruit (and Retain) Volunteers For Your Game Or Live Event
If you run a concession stand (or frankly, any project) that requires volunteer participation to ensure a smooth and seamless operation, this article is for you. Finding volunteer recruitment and retention a daunting challenge? You are not alone.
Volunteers could make or break your operation. After all, there’s only so much a one-person band can do. Besides setting sales goals and coming up with the workflow, one of the first things you want to do as a concessions manager is probably recruiting a team of efficient, hard-working and resourceful volunteers.
Easier said than done right? While there’s no foolproof method of achieving satisfactory recruitment every single time, there are certainly smarter and more effective ways to go about doing that. Even if you’re already experienced at convincing people to join the mission, this blog can still act as a useful refresher and checklist for whether you’ve been covering all your bases.
DON’T DO IT ALL BY YOURSELF
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, volunteers are the most likely to sign up when encouraged by a current club member, more than when they are encouraged by family, friends, and coworkers combined.
Whether you are surprised by this finding or not, data shows that your existing team members should be playing a big role in recruitment. Especially if they’re encouraging their own families and friends to help out—that may even double the efficiency!
While it can be hard to ask other members to put in as much effort recruiting on your behalf, it’s probably unavoidable if you actually want to get the roster filled. Current members can give very genuine testimonials for why a potential candidate should join the cause, and provide perspectives different from that of a president.
BE SPECIFIC ABOUT WHY YOU ARE RECRUITING A PARTICULAR PERSON
Maybe contrary to what you believe, people like to be asked for favors — it makes them feel needed and important. The key to success lies in how you go about asking them. If you show enough appreciation and understanding of what a potential candidate can bring to the table, you are more likely to make a stronger case.
So when you ask someone to contribute their time, emphasize the unique skill set they have that makes them the ideal candidate for the task. Recognize their talents and achievements, and don’t be afraid to express how much you’d appreciate them to be part of the cause. If people are confident that their skills and the role are a good match, and that they will be truly making an impact, it’s more likely that they will say yes to your request.
AVOID VAGUE ASKS
When people know exactly what to expect, it’s easier for them to assess the feasibility and get back to you with a definite answer. If you are simply asking for someone’s time in the general sense, it’s hard for them to gauge what specific tasks they need to do and how big of a time commitment this could be. Furthermore, a vague ask may convey the false impression that the project is too large for them to finish in a foreseeable time. That just increases the barrier for someone to say yes.
It’s much easier if you could put forward your ask in a more straightforward, digestible manner. For example, asking something like “Can you run the concession stand during the football season every Thursday from 7 pm to 9 pm?” is more specific than “Can you help us with our concessions this season?” The former is way easier for potential candidates to gauge the time commitment and answer whether they can manage that, whereas the latter really doesn’t convey much useful information, and can be easily turned down.
What if people respond to a specific ask with “I have something else planned that hour?”
This is when you can be flexible, within limits though. You can tell them that they are free to choose another time or another task, but with a similar time commitment. That way they still know what to expect, but also appreciate your willingness to accommodate their personal schedules.
We understand that among our readers, people in charge of concessions at high schools (booster clubs and athletic directors) rely more heavily on volunteer participation than other types of venues. So the following are two bonus points for this particular section of our audience:
EXPAND YOUR SEARCH RANGE
When brainstorming potential candidate, the natural choice would be fellow parents. However, the most intuitive answer might not always be the best one. Instead, expand your search to beyond just parents: alumni, parents of alumni, students, and even local community members should all be on your search radar.
In fact, parents sometimes are among the least ideal candidates because they don’t want to volunteer at an event where their kids would be competing or performing. One trick is to do a volunteer swap with other booster clubs, for example, an art booster club can run concession stands at sports games and sports booster clubs can manage the ticket booth at theatre performances.
Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to people not directly related to your high school. You may be surprised to find how many people would be willing to help out even without having their own children enrolled in the school (retirees with lots of free time, people who just arrived at the neighborhood and want to connect with the community, or college students in need of community service credits). If the budget allows, you can try putting up ads in local newspapers, posters at community centers, or publishing posts on online platforms such as craigslist.com, idealist.org, or volunteermatch.org.
TELL A GOOD STORY
Alright, now you are probably thinking that this is too far a stretch. After all, you are pitching to adults, not kids — so what’s the purpose of storytelling?
As long as you are pitching to humans, one thing is certain: People love stories, because they can empathize easier (and also because we always want to be entertained). While pretty much everyone understands what fundraising entails, that’s the logical part of their brain working: Do I have time for volunteering? How much can I get out of this? How many other volunteers are there? A successful pitch, however, almost always plays to the emotional part of their decision-making process and that’s where storytelling comes in.
So what stories can you possibly tell? Certainly, we don’t mean fairytales or “once upon a time” type of stories, rather, it’s stories about how students benefit from what your booster club has been doing. You can bring up how many student-athletes were able to upgrade their equipment from your fundraising efforts last year, or how students desperately need more lockers in their changing rooms due to the expansion of the football team. You can even mention the names of some students who would be grateful for all the hard work your booster club is doing if the person you are pitching to happens to know these students. This helps potential candidates visualize how their help could translate to tangible impacts, and as a result, more emotionally propelled to do their part.
If you are new to running booster clubs and would like a step to step guide on how to go about doing that, download our “Ultimate Guide to Booster Club Fundraising” here.