To pull off a successful sports or performance event, you need more than expert planning — you need volunteers who are willing and able to pitch in. And while they may be expert bowlers or soccer players, they may not have much expertise when it comes to running an event. Here are some tips on how to train them to do the job.

  • Tell volunteers that they can come to you at any time for help. Be willing to sit down with them individually and listen to their questions and problems.

  • If volunteers need to visit a facility or attend a special event to help them in their role, encourage them to do so, and support them in it.

  • If budgets are part of volunteers' responsibilities, work through the budget so they understand how it works.

  • Be sure that volunteers have complete instructions. Don't let them start a job until they know exactly what their duties and limitations are.

  • Prepare a timeline with details on when every piece of the task should be completed, then monitor the progress.

  • Make them aware of the importance of their job performance. In case they have questions, tell them who their contact person is.

  • Set ground rules so nobody is made to feel stupid.

  • Give inexperienced volunteers the opportunity to interact with and ask questions in person of other people in the organization.

Working with Locals

Limited-experience volunteers have some familiarity with the area that they have chosen. Often, these are members of a local organization that is lending volunteer support to a national body.

  • Set the parameters within which the local volunteers must work; what volunteers are allowed to do within their organizations might be different from the protocol you must follow.

  • Let volunteers know they are a viable and valuable part of the team.

  • Remember that volunteers are not professionals: You must be very explicit. If you say, “I need a table for the judges,” do you mean a skirted table or a draped table? Does the volunteer know the difference?

  • Develop a mission statement for volunteers and communicate it consistently and often during the meeting.

Working with Specialists

Recurring, specialized-knowledge volunteers include your computer-network personnel, publishing experts, and audiovisual teams.

  • These volunteers look forward to working 20-hour days at your event for the duration — make them feel they are doing something worthwhile.

  • Consider paying for the transportation and housing of those specialized-knowledge volunteers who are coming from around the country.