In my previous blog, I talked about my a-ha moments. Here, it is about lessons on managing volunteers. You would think it was all about going to listen to the experts speak, but there was more. The Humentum team did not just choose the topic of the conference, they lived and showed it throughout the conference. The level of expertise, collaboration, planning, and implementation was of great excellence. It taught me five key lessons to think about when managing volunteers.
Here are the 5 things that could help if you are planning to host an event and working with volunteers.
While the event was not about managing people within the two and half days, I had my Fair moment of learning how to effectively organize a successful power event, working with volunteers.
Planning saves time: Anyone one in that conference could tell every aspect of the session was well planned. Even with the high level of attendees, speakers, and exhibitors, Humentum still had a well laid out plan and activities for volunteers. From the call for application to the selection, to when volunteers were asked to select sessions, to orientation and the event proper, everything was well planned. There was a dedicated young woman who worked to ensure that happened. It is good to seek for volunteers, but then it is critical to have a well laid out plan for volunteer engagement, and that saves the time required to get things done smoothly.
Communication is gold: The level and ways information was communicated to the volunteer made us be very confident from the first day of the conference. We had a well-structured 4-hour orientation before the conference, which helped us have a great knowledge of the conference. Beyond that, we had an online group to disseminate all urgent information as well as needs prior. All the volunteers were confident of what to do at each of the sessions throughout the conference.
Let volunteers be employees: Now this one was very new to me. We are often very quick to create this sense of an employee vs a volunteer. During the days of the conference, we all felt like an employee of the organization. This created a sense of belonging as well as collaborations.
Volunteers want to learn too: The primary reason, why people volunteer is not just to answer the title ‘volunteer,’ but they want to learn and participate too. Humentum provided that safe space and time for learning. Each of the volunteers that participated in the conference had some moments to listen and learn. Do not just make people feel they are just to work, provide an opportunity where there is calm learning at the same time.
Goodies Create Memories: Yes, it is not enough to have people serve your vision. Most organizations believe they are doing volunteers a favor by accepting them to volunteer for their programs. Some organization even force a volunteer to buy the organizations branding materials like Tees and are not given any note of appreciation. I got more than I bargained for personally. I got the conference bag, eats as a participant and got some good books that were the gift for presenters. Those books will be in my Library and will be a memory of my experience as a volunteer at the Humentum conference 2018.
And of course, the Humentum conference gave me much to think about as a young international development practitioner, a social impact strategist and as a trainer. While nothing will ever be perfect, excellence is required in all areas of the organization, even the effective management of volunteers.