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June 24, 2016 Last-Minute Volunteer Training? I Wouldn’t if I Were You…

I was talking with a new nonprofit client the recently who has plans to bring in some local college students to assist with auction-day duties at their upcoming event.  This is all well and good but when they’ve done this in the past this group has trained these volunteers just prior to doors opening at their event. While some volunteer roles are fine with quick on-the-fly training there are other roles that need more intensive training that cannot be accomplished in a short period of time. As an example, you’d be setting your group up for disaster if you attempted to train cashiering, registration and silent auction volunteers at the last minute.

The biggest negative with plugging volunteers into roles in this manner (as arrive just before doors opening time) is that you’ve most likely not assessed those volunteers’ skill sets in order to match those to the duties at hand.

As I told this client, not all volunteers are suited for all roles.

For example, a sales-minded person, like myself, might not be best suited working behind the checkout table. Personally, I can’t imagine doing a good job as cashier, especially without some intensive advanced training.

It’s also important that volunteers have a vested interest in your mission in order to put their best foot forward in carrying out their assigned tasks. Enthusiastic workers help set the tone of your event. If volunteers haven’t had any involvement with your mission prior to the event it’s sometimes hard for them to supply that enthusiasm.

Ideally, you want to have a meeting several weeks before your event where you identify the volunteers you have access to and asses their strengths and their interests in the particular duties you need fulfilled. Once roles are assigned, train these people on their tasks and the expectations you have for them.  Also share with them your dress code (if applicable) and arrival time.  Some volunteers will have to take off work early in order to arrive early and they need the opportunity to communicate this to their employers in a timely manner.

For cashiering, I suggest you have an in-person training session five to seven days prior to the event.  You can even create a mock auction to run through the processes and create challenges this group might need to work through event night.

For the volunteers who will help with packaging the silent auction items, it’s best to involve them early on in the planning process. Your event night silent auction team can be trained just a few days in advance. This is the group responsible for assisting in the silent auction closing, securing the packages after the closings and helping guests with pickup after they have checked out.

The live auction clerk, live auction runner and most raffle/game sales volunteers can be trained an hour or so before the doors open but NOT afterwards.

Understanding the various roles of your volunteers and the importance of their training is crucial to the success of an event.

Make every minute a revenue generating minute!

 

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