4 Tips for Volunteer Succession Planning

Summer is just getting underway and the Bay Area is buzzing with volunteer activity. This time of year the GoVoluntr team is continuously recruiting volunteers for some of the largest summertime events around – local 4th of July festivities, art and wine festivals, and music fests to name a few. I’m always impressed by the sheer number of Do Goodrs that are early to rise and lend a hand at these events, but I’ve got to give major props to the volunteer coordinators and planning committees that work tirelessly behind the scenes to bring the whole event together.

As a spectator these events might look effortless, but I can assure you they’re not. I’ve enjoyed the privilege (and pain) of participating in the planning stage for these large-scale events. Many of them are planned six to nine months in advance; sometimes planning for the following year commences literally the week after the event. The dedication and hard work of these unsung heroes ensures an even better event the next year, but these rock stars can only lead the charge for so long before it’s time to recruit a fresh crop of volunteers to take the reigns and keep the tradition alive. So, for all you incumbent event coordinators, committee members, and Professional Do Goodrs preparing to pass the torch, we’ve posted some tips to help you develop your pièce de résistance – the succession plan.

4 Tips for Successful Succession Planning:

 1. Cover the Basics:

Remember the 5 W’s? Yes, those same five– who, what, where, when, and why. Let incoming volunteers know what needs to happen and when – on the day of the event and the time leading up to it. A reverse calendar is always a great idea. It can provide a list of critical deadlines and milestones leading up to the event itself so there are no last minute surprises. For the event itself, make sure to create a detailed punch list of all action items and execution times. Try including photos of previous years’ events to illustrate your operations to fresh volunteers. Keep an updated roster of who is registered to work the event and where they belong. And always remind your Do Goodrs of why they’re working so hard to make the event a success.

2. Collaborate:

If this a recurring event organized by the same people for several years running, your committee members may have institutional knowledge you’re not aware of – an efficient method to get the job done, a special tool or program, or a specific vendor that they prefer. Make sure to create a survey or take some time for an exit interview with your event lead before you let him or her move on. If you forget this step you might find yourself at square one next year.

3. Be Open to Change :

A succession plan should be more than just a document stored on a shelf someplace. Make an effort to revisit it after your event. It should be a living document constantly evolving to accommodate new ideas and efficiencies.

4. Prepping the Move:

It’s critical to identify new pools of potential replacements. Tools like GoVoluntr, Next Door, and Facebook can be a great place to start. Ask repeat volunteers that are familiar with your event to take the lead (GoVoluntr reporting is great for this). If all else fails, tap into your personal network and ask a trusted connection. Sometimes a direct “ask” is all that’s needed to for someone to commit. Once you find that suitable successor make sure they “shadow” you for the event whenever possible. Nothing is scarier than taking responsibility for a huge event you’re not familiar with.

So whether you’re a volunteer looking to get more involved or a volunteer coordinator trying to plan for your next festival, take a moment to follow these 4 tips to help you build on top of each year sustainably.

Have any other tips not listed in this blog post? Share them with us at hello@govoluntr.com or share them with our social media network on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

- MJ from GoVoluntr (VID 4)