Clusters of excited men and women clad in blue-and-orange T-shirts hover around tables, swapping stories enthusiastically and taking advantage of a moment of downtime to talk about how they’re experiencing God in their own lives. Soon, they will be summoned to host thousands of eager believers for the next session.
This was the scene in Nashville, Aug. 3-4, in the volunteer headquarters at Send North America Conference, a gathering sponsored by North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. The heart of the event was recognizing individuals from within the church—not only pastors or church leaders—living out God’s mission. About 13,500 people, ranging from high school seniors to senior citizens, packed into Bridgestone Arena and Music City Center. I partnered with two other coordinators to handle Send’s volunteer management, designing the application process, communication timeline, training and logistics required for the event’s nearly 600 volunteers.
We served attendees in every part of the experience, from registration to lunch. Here are a few best practices we employed that may help you manage your own team of event volunteers:
Personal asks go a lot further than firing off generic email blasts to huge distribution lists. However, personally inviting hundreds of volunteers to serve at the gathering would have been an impossible task for our team of three. Instead, we focused our efforts on equipping the leadership team and employees of the presenting organizations with specific content so that each of us could reach out to our own networks. We created a volunteer toolkit that included logos and images already sized for social media sites, as well as suggested text in a variety of lengths for emails, tweets, church websites and blog posts.
Successful volunteer management requires efficient systems before, during and after an event. Invest in software specifically for volunteer management that works for the scope of your event and the demographic of your volunteers, or, if budget allows, create a customized tool. Think through the volunteer recruitment, application and assignment process chronologically and consider what technology you’ll need for each step, from spreading the word to checking in volunteers when they arrive on-site.