Building a Winning Team: The Volunteer Blueprint

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<span>Building a Winning Team: The Volunteer Blueprint</span>
Bottom Line:

Volunteers play a vital role in the tourism industry. Understanding successful strategies from global destinations can help your destination organization build sustainable volunteer cultures that enrich community engagement and event success, fostering positive change in tourism and beyond. 

In the dynamic tourism industry, the heartbeat of success often resonates from the dedication and passion of volunteers, who embody the spirit of community and service. Their commitment transforms events into unforgettable experiences, fostering engagement and a sense of community spirit. Yet, cultivating a sustainable volunteer culture poses challenges for destination organizations. This blog explores best practices in volunteer workforce development by drawing insights from global destinations that illustrate effective strategies in communication, recruitment, retention, and appreciation, all while aiming to enhance long-term success and sustainability. 

Building a Sustainable Volunteer Culture

Effective communication is a cornerstone in volunteer workforce development, ensuring volunteers feel informed, valued, and connected to the organization's mission. In Malmö, Sweden, the kick-off event at Baltiska Hallen for the Eurovision Song Contest rehearsals exemplified this by inspiring 400 volunteers through communication pieces demonstrating the transformative power of cultural events for their community. This information allows volunteers to understand their importance in fostering community engagement and volunteerism. 

Destination Tips: Utilize communication pieces to highlight the organization's mission and volunteers' impact. Ensure the volunteers have a voice by providing surveys for feedback so that next year, the event can be enhanced. Clear and consistent communication can make volunteers feel more connected and appreciated, improving their engagement and commitment to the community.  

When building a volunteer culture, the Florida Sports Foundation highlights the importance of apprising, acclimating, and assigning volunteers according to their aptitude. They provide comprehensive information about their various events to ensure volunteers feel informed and confident. Regular meetings are held to help volunteers become comfortable with the staff and foster a sense of belonging, making them feel valued and more likely to return. The Florida Sports Foundation matches volunteers to roles that suit their skills and interests, enhancing their experience and effectiveness. By investing in these strategies, the Florida Sports Foundation ensures volunteers feel connected, appreciated, and integral to the event’s success.  

Destination Tips: Assigning posts where the volunteer feels they can excel in their skillset will make them feel confident in their abilities. Having procedures where the organization's staff can understand and get to know their volunteer base will showcase their commitment to valuing their volunteers and better assist in assigning posts. Personalizing training approaches will allow volunteers to feel prepared and connected to the organization's mission, enhancing their confidence and comfort and building a sustainable volunteer culture. 

The 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow and across Scotland offer an exemplary model of effective communication and volunteer engagement. This inaugural event brought together thirteen individual UCI Cycling World Championships, relying on 3,500 volunteers. The Volunteer Strategy employed for the Championships recognized volunteers' vital role and incorporated key learnings from previous events. A Volunteer Learning Portal provided access to various training programs, including an Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion module, which allowed volunteers to enhance their skills and understanding. Event Delivery Partners (EDPs) further supported inclusivity by briefing volunteers on inclusion and accessibility and offering specialized training sessions, such as Mental Health Awareness and Deaf Awareness.

Enhancing Recruitment and Retention

Personalized recruitment strategies tailored to individual interests and skills effectively attract and retain diverse volunteers. Destination Markham works diligently in community outreach strategies by forging partnerships with local educational institutions, businesses, and community groups, thus cultivating a robust volunteer network. Emphasizing the professional and personal development opportunities associated with volunteering fosters long-term engagement. A mentorship program and social events outside the volunteer event cultivate a sense of belonging and camaraderie among volunteers, contributing to overall satisfaction and retention.  

Destination Tips: Personalized recruitment efforts, such as targeted marketing campaigns showcasing the impact of volunteer work through videos and testimonials of past volunteers, can attract a broader demographic. Creating social media campaigns with specific hashtags can help recruit volunteers by reaching them based on their interests, ensuring a steady influx of passionate volunteers. 

Celebrating Volunteer Contributions

Recognition and appreciation are fundamental in sustaining a robust volunteer base. Initiatives such as Volunteer Appreciation Weeks and special events publicly acknowledge volunteers' contributions, reinforcing their value to the organization and the broader community. The Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau, which hosted the 2024 Arctic Winter Games, recruited and trained 2,000 volunteers over two years. The destination organization ensured these dedicated individuals were celebrated for their vital roles in the event's success, thus boosting morale and inspiring continued engagement. Visit Indy's approach emphasizes treating volunteers as valued team members. Comprehensive volunteer experiences include providing uniforms, materials, and even fanny packs as part of the volunteer uniform, ensuring that volunteers are well-prepared, valued and feel a part of the organization.  

Destination Tips: Recognizing the importance of appreciation, such as hosting thank-you events throughout the local community and volunteer appreciation posts across social media, ultimately improves the volunteer experience. Anything an organization can do to boost morale will reinforce the volunteers' commitment. Even a small personalized thank-you note will enhance the volunteer culture.   

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

At its core, workforce development through volunteerism thrives on inclusivity. Organizations enrich their volunteer programs by embracing diversity in backgrounds, perspectives, and abilities, fostering innovation and resilience. Snohomish County Sports Commission exemplifies this through its integrated approach to volunteerism. By leveraging strong ties with local schools, businesses, and community organizations, they offer accessible volunteer roles and ensure equitable opportunities, empowering individuals from all walks of life to contribute meaningfully to sporting events and community initiatives. Creating flexible and diverse volunteer opportunities that cater to different preferences and availability is essential for maintaining engagement. This can include short-term and long-term volunteer projects, accommodating volunteers' schedules, and creating roles catering to various interests and skills. The inclusivity efforts at the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships showcased this. Volunteers from 73 nationalities and ages 16 to 82 further highlighted the event's commitment to inclusivity. 

Destination organizations can build robust volunteer programs that drive workforce development and enrich community life by implementing inclusive practices, celebrating contributions, and nurturing meaningful connections. Ensuring that your organization has effective communication in conveying volunteer impact along with the organization's mission will be essential in developing the workforce development for volunteers. Volunteers' need for personal and professional growth and social integration should be considered when designing volunteer programs. Volunteers' unwavering dedication to their community ensures events are transformative experiences that unite and inspire the community. As we look ahead, let us continue championing volunteerism as a powerful force for positive change in tourism and beyond. 

About the Author

Peyton Glover

Membership Engagement Coordinator
Destinations International

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Peyton Glover has cultivated a robust background in destination marketing and sports marketing since earning his bachelor’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University. Peyton is the Membership Engagement Coordinator, leading initiatives to enhance workforce development and community engagement. With a keen interest in sustainable travel and community enrichment, Peyton is dedicated to leveraging his skills and experience to foster impactful connections within the tourism and sports marketing sectors. 

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