SportsEvents Magazine

JUL 2018

SportsEvents is edited for those who plan tournaments or other sports events.

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Page 14 of 59 July 2018 15 t GAME Plan has a positive experience at each event and creating that bond with them that encour- ages them to continue to come back." But, he noted, building relationships has the power to do even more. "Building relationships with current volunteers can certainly bring new volunteers into the organization," he said. "We hope that our volunteers discuss their experiences with their friends and family members, which will drive more people to want to be a part of what we do for the community." With sport management becoming a popular college major, sports commissions are finding success by connecting with local higher education programs. Strable said it's become a way to find event volunteers and provide college students with internship experience, and he's not alone. Stoll said the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission has a strong partnership with Colorado Mesa University's (CMU) sport management program. "We guest lecture in their classes, engage them in the planning process through required course- work and then they get to see events come to fruition as volunteers," she said. Ultimately, creating connections with volunteers goes back to The Golden Rule. "Be authentic with your volunteers, get to know them, ask about their family," Stoll said. "They are not just course marshals, they are people, and each one should be personally thanked by organization staff and LOC (local organizing committee) members." Create Experiences Given the host of other responsibilities volunteers have, it's important to make sure that the donation of their time has purpose and meaning, according to Anna Shircel, public relations and communications coor- dinator for the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We are most effective at recruiting vol- unteers if we are able to provide them with experiences that they can't get elsewhere or provide a donation back to an organiza- tion that the volunteers care for," she said. "Potential volunteers have a lot of options every day, whether it is time with the fami- ly, attending another event or entertainment, or chasing their kids at their own activities. Having the ability to provide funds that go towards their club, church or service group has helped with securing volunteers for our events." Creating a meaningful experience is important at the event too, she said. "We have found that the best way to retain volunteers is to ensure that there are the right amount of volunteers per job," Shircel said. "It is important that volunteers have enough to do so they feel that they contributed to the event but at the same time not too much work where it becomes overwhelming and not enjoyable." Say Please & Thank You Expressing appreciation to volunteers for their time and efforts is a must, according to sports commissions and CVBs. There is a multitude of ways to do that, from the Erie Sports Commission's annual volunteer awards dinner to providing event T-shirts, tickets and more. "Our organization prides itself on treating our volunteers really well and we want to thank them for their time and dedication," said Stoll. "Being creative, whether it's a Volunteer of the Year award or a post-event thank-you party really go a long way and reinforce to volunteers just how much we appreciate them and how our achieving our goals would not be possible without their efforts." Strable has found that being creative with awards works especially well. For example, during the 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Golf Championships in Greensboro, Strable said volunteers were entered to win a team T-shirt contributed by each participating team. "Rewarding volunteers with ways that are unique to the event is a good strategy that can pay off," he said. "It adds an ele- ment of fun and randomness." Saying thank you can extend even to the organizations that help provide volunteers for events, according to Stoll. "The other successful initiative we have launched is donating back to organizations that support us through volunteer hours," she said. "For example, our marathon, the U.S. Bank Rim Rock Run, funds an entire CMU cross-country student athlete scholarship in appreciation of the program providing volunteers." For every sports commission and CVB, volunteers are important. Madison's Shircel said they are "critical to the success of our events." "They shape the experience for the participant by being friendly and well-in- formed," she said. "They bring excitement and enthusiasm to the event, ensuring everyone has a good time and that both the participant and the volunteer want to return in the future." Strable emphasized the importance of the effect of volunteer retention. "We feel our best customers are repeat customers," he said, "because it gives us the opportunity to be successful down the road." n A volunteer in Madison, Wisc., directs runners during IRONMAN Wisconsin. Greater Madison CVB

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