Keeping volunteers happy

09Oct15

I volunteer a lot. I realize events don’t happen without volunteers, and if I’m participating in something, someone has gone to a lot of trouble to try to make it memorable for me. So if I can, I try to help out.

I also run. I’m rehabbing right now, so instead of signing up for races, I’m signing up to volunteer. Sometimes I don’t feel needed at an event, and then I consider my volunteer time wasted. Other times, I’m assigned a job that is necessary, and I feel useful. This past weekend I volunteered for the overnight shift for a 24 hour endurance trail event called the Lemming Loop. It was the most fun I have ever had volunteering.

Library events run on volunteers. It can be a challenge to recruit the right mix of expertise to ensure a memorable experience for participants. Most of the time you’re at the whim of whoever decides to sign up. I know I pick and choose which events I’ll volunteer for. I want to feel like I’ve contributed in some way, and be proud of the end result.

What I learned from the Lemming Loop is that if it is at all possible, keep your volunteers busy. I was on my feet doing something (washing dishes, serving runners, making soup) almost the whole eight hours. There is  nothing worse than just standing around, waiting to do something. (Sometimes, there’s no choice – you need a help station staffed in case someone needs help, but no one comes.)

A compliment goes a long way. The runners were grateful for the help they received at the aid station, and expressed it often. We were thanked, told we were awesome, and so many other forms of appreciation were sent our way.

Do something for your volunteers. I’m heading to a volunteer appreciation party this evening – a hayride and bonfire at a nearby provincial park.

Your volunteers, like an organization’s employees, are your biggest asset. Keep them happy, and they’ll go above and beyond to perform for you. I had such a good time, I’ve already been able to recruit more volunteers for next year’s event.

Here’s to Lemming Loop 2016!

~ Karen

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