This past weekend my boyfriend and I volunteered at one of my most favorite local races. I am still on the injured list and thought that I would take this non-running time to volunteer at as many races as I could, to get an insider scoop on other races inner workings as well as giving back a little bit to the community that supports me and my business.
Well, it was hard work! Harder than running!
So, here are some further thoughts on making volunteering a little easier on the volunteers, coming from a race director and a volunteer. Perhaps a little bit more work on the behalf of the race director, but goes a million miles for the volunteer experience. A lot of races I have volunteered for do most of these things and I applaud the ones that do. But, for those that don't please consider them. Every single race should have enough volunteers and if someone has a bad experience volunteering at one race he/she may think every race is like this and never volunteer again.
First, volunteers make your race happen, without them nothing wo
uld get done on race day. Therefore you should treat them like royalty. Have a cup of coffee waiting for them when they arrive, give them some breakfast treats, make sure you have enough t-shirts so they get one, take the time to answer questions, provide hand warmers if its cold....
Second, thank them! It drives me crazy when I volunteer for an event, even one that I absolutely love, and the race director does not bother with a thank you. Even at the event itself, a thank you goes a long way. And, take the time to
send your volunteers a thank you email post race. Be sure to include some interesting numbers in your email, like how much money they helped to raise, how many people were at the race and any positive comments you heard about volunteers from race day. Its free and only takes a few minutes.
One local race company actually goes so far as having an annual volunteer thank you picnic. I love that idea and might adopt it as this company grows a little bigger.
Third, at the event itself, tell your volunteers everything there is to know about their job. I know from first hand experience that race day can be a crazy
few hours and that you do not have time to devote to any particular person or problem like you should. But, there is a remedy, write out in advance every aspect of a volunteer's job and send it to them in advance. Have that job description printed out and have one place where volunteers check in and get their information. Don't make the volunteers track you down. Give them maps and timelines and anything else they might need. It is the worst feeling as a volunteer not knowing the answers to some basic race questions - where is the start line? where are the bathrooms? what time does the race start?
Fourth, if you have any sort of raffle or drawing or door prizes, be sure to throw in the names of all your volunteers so they also have a chance at winning.
So, to all my volunteers: A huge thank you for showing up on cold, rainy, blustery, early mornings and donating your time so that others may have a great time and so that we can raise lots of money for lots of great causes. We love our volunteers!