At the Registration System (TRS) we frequently see organizations encounter high-no show rates or low second year return rates for volunteers. Over the past 15 years our team has documented that these results are often indicators of poor volunteer experiences and fundamental change is needed. Take stock in your motivational toolbox. Does your organization…?

  1. Set unrealistic expectations for your volunteers? Do volunteers think they will be near the event action, when in reality they will be in a parking lot far away? Is the volunteer job too physically demanding for some of your recruits?
  2. Not have the right number of volunteers? Volunteers value their time. Are they bored or completely overwhelmed?
  3. Give volunteers jobs that don’t interest them? Do your volunteers get to pick their jobs? Or does your organization assign roles based on need? If you are assigning volunteers jobs they don’t want, it’s likely they will not return. It’s important to recruit the right people for the right jobs.
  4. Ignore volunteers who have negative impact? We’re talking about those volunteers who get the free shirt, free parking and food, but don’t work, or showcase anti-social or unprofessional behavior. Consider cleaning house before those volunteers start impacting your best volunteers.
  5. Assign inappropriate work? Heavy lifting, industrial clean-up, and potentially dangerous work should be hired out to specialists or community groups as they are the experts and are prepared to safely manage these jobs. Make sure to identify injured, disabled and pregnant volunteers to place them in positions they can safely enjoy.
  6. Establish low standards? A “good enough” mentality will discourage high achievers from volunteering with your organization. Provide opportunities for volunteer roles within the leadership structure that volunteers can work towards.
  7. Communicate poorly? Is all communication after the fact? Is there a system (e.g. email, text) to communicate changes or send regular reminders about important items? Or do volunteers discover challenges on site with no warning?
  8. Ignore on site volunteers? Most volunteer managers are great at showing appreciation for your volunteer force during the event. But it’s important for every Executive Director, Board Member and staff person to say “Thank You” during the event as volunteers notice these types of things.
  9. Not offer training in advance? Do you let your volunteers guess what they are supposed to do or provide incomplete information to your guests? Do volunteers feel unprepared or feel like they have no idea what is going on? Volunteers need to be trained well in advance to prevent mishaps and confusion.
  10. Undervalue volunteers’ experience and service? Or do you know which volunteers “make it happen” behind the scenes? Which volunteers are the “best face” of your event? Does your organization recognize longevity, hard work and great volunteer service?

Did you answer “yes” to any of the above questions? If so, re-evaluate your volunteer program with these items in mind. Ensure you are showing appreciation for volunteers and their time. They volunteer their precious “free” hours with you – make it worth their while.


Want more information on how to recognize and show appreciation for volunteers?

Check out these blogs:

How Do You Recognize Your Volunteers? More Fun Ideas for Volunteer Appreciation to Try At Your Organization
5 Relationship Tips for Your Volunteer Program
7 More Ways for You to Show Volunteer Appreciation
Ideas for Volunteer Appreciation and Recognition


Florence May is the President and Managing Member at TRS, The Registration System. Prior to taking this high tech role, she managed operations and volunteer services for major events including the host committees for the United States Grand Prix, American Association of Museums and the National League of Cities. Florence is a frequent speaker on volunteer management best practices at industry conferences and a regular contributor to the International Festival & Event Association magazine. She can be reached at email: and by phone: (317) 966-6919.


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