If your event relies on the help of volunteers, then you know how difficult recruiting them can be. A person’s time is valuable – and asking them to spend a chunk of it with you doing work, for no pay? Well, that’s tough.

The good news is, most people are happy to volunteer their time for a cause or organization that matters to them. But getting them to return for your next event (so you can spend less time recruiting) depends on their experience the first time around: how well they’re treated by staff and if they felt it was a good use of their time.

With care and attention to the specific volunteer experience, retention should be a breeze! Start by following these rules:

RULE #1: Treat them like attendees.

It can be easy to think about attendees as staff since they’re onsite to lend a helping hand. And while you’ll want to treat them like they’re a part of the team, it’s important to remember that their experience still needs great care and attention. Much like you would for an attendee journey, map out your volunteer journey and think about how you can enhance their experience from the moment they arrive and until they head home.

RULE #2: Set them up for success.

Your volunteers haven’t been as close to the planning process as you and your staff…but attendees WILL approach them with questions. Since they won’t have all of the nitty-gritty details locked into their brains like you do, give them the resources to help them…well, help! That could come in the form of a printed cheat sheet, a map, details in a pre-event meeting, or having them download your event’s mobile app so they can access all the info they need right on their phone.

RULE #3: Keep them busy.

There’s nothing worse than showing up to volunteer and having little (or nothing) to do. Be intentional about the jobs you plan to hand off to volunteers, and the number of volunteers you’ll need for each job/shift. You’ll want to find a balance between giving volunteers enough to do with their time, without stressing them out. Have some backup tasks ready, too, in case you recruit more hands than you really need!

RULE #4: Make their comfort a priority.

Volunteer work can be physically demanding. Make sure they have plenty of chairs and – if the shifts will be long – a place to take a break and recharge. You’ll also definitely want to provide some kind of refreshment. That could look different depending on your event, but there are plenty of budget-friendly options. Early morning? Coffee and bagels. Outside in the heat? Stock up on bottles of water or provide a water station. Whatever the case may be, don’t make your volunteers bring their own food and drink.

Keeping volunteers happy and engaged is key to encouraging them to return. Now that your volunteers are squared away – what are you doing to engage event attendees? Take a look at our free download to really supercharge their experience –