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Discussion: Attracting Volunteers to a local Orienteering event Suggestions needed

in: Orienteering; General

Aug 21, 2017 2:00 AM # 
Hello All,

OK, I edit this to Again, seriously ask (the thread topic) , " WHAT more can I do besides the "meet and greet" type of advance "volunteer" seeking and the great amount of time a CS or Event dir. needs to recruit NEW volunteers, way before the event weekend? Does any one have a crib sheet of "modern" ways to attract Meet volunteers?" ... seeing that no one has any ideas to post on this board, for - 3 - days - running (pun intended). Like we have a solar eclipse thread with over 40 posted replies, but this volunteer for orienteering topic request is so far a completely silent one...

as the summer is Winding down, My new TBD Event, The HVO Back Behind and Ramapo St Park event is somewhat on Schedule for Nov 25th. The new Wanaque map (Matthew's) I am told is "On" schedule, but of course it has to enter an HVO editing phase (assumed). The Course setter (me) has been flagging potential sites and learning all trails (even the obscure ones) in the state park, gaining local knowledge (like where are those pesky hunter stands, ladders (4 so far), are). What I do need is ADVICE from this group, and maybe even gain contacts with NJ or Downstate NY members whom might actually Attend and - dare I ask, help me with early commitments to staff the B meet event. I do this as I need experienced O community members to ante up. So I hope all you attack point regulars, I appreciate all Suggestions, but this thread is an E attempt by the acting event director (me) to drum up volunteers, to an audience whom I hope to meet and get you into my network. This will or may be aroller coaster topic, and I may ruffle a few Old Fashion member feathers, but I have two reasons to ask. This is not just a local event. It is a dual Scout and HVO member local O meet (my Eagle Scout Instints). But that said, I need new staff and am concerned that the normal word-of-mouth route (say in HVO area sept and Oct O meets) will be too late and too random. HVO does Not have a DVOA like E board, for communication of new ideas and "situations wanted". the Situation I want, I hope the Attack Point ... audience will let me bend normal electronic O chatter, and see if you can be a PROACTIVE discussion board. WHAT more can I do besides the meet and greet type of "volunteer" seeking and the great amount of time a CS or E dir. needs to recruit NEW volunteers? its estimated on the order of 10 or 12 persons (2 shifts of 6 so they can relieve each other). Also in the mix is Adult Scouter recruits (planned) that I then teach the 1: start procedures 2: registration (physical check in, team information roster collection, and fee exchange (deposits are planned for BSA TROOPERS), and 3. Support helpers (water stop support, parking lot support, registration Line support, and training support). Ideally, I want HVO or available DVOA & USOF members support. On Nov 25th, being a ThanksG holiday, I figure some people will be difficult to attract until the very last 2 weeks before the event. So thats the thumbnail. It will be most help-full to gain more VOL attractant ideas to enact. FYI I work two Jobs, 62 hours plus commute a week. So Time management is very important to me. But my attitude is high, and I seek to shock HVO dissenters with nothing less than total staff success and with happy repeat O public runners whom, return to other events, not just the Scout audience... Mmmmmm, maybe can I raid/hack the MASOC email address directory? Oh skip that last. My Ears are On... signed Bob
Aug 26, 2017 12:04 PM # 
OK. I'll bite and offer a few suggestions.
(I'll not bite on the inner HVO remarks which I do not understand)
One suggestion is to make a list of the volunteer positions you think you need. Then see if there are ways to pare it down - for instance how many at the Start do you have? If you are using SI timing then you should be able to run the Start with one volunteer standing by to give advice. Participants com to the Start. pick up the right map and click their dibbler/SI stick/ finger stick in the Start box. And away they go.
Do you have a controller? You need one to help make sure the flags go in the right spot.
Are you short of time to hang all the flags? Use less map by using cross-overs and loops in the courses, thus putting the flags closer together.
Are you placing anyone at the Finish? Don't bother. Just have a sign to direct participants to the Download.
Are you short of morning vetters? Offer free entry to people who will start early, check their course as they go and phone in any problems as they find them and hang a provisional flag where they think the marker should be. Surely they will find no problems so but they get the free run and they get to appear in the results while you get your course vetted so the others can race with confidence.
Bringing in Scout Troops? Offer some incentive to have their parents or others from one Troop act as your event registrars.
Need someone to hang up the results sheets? Forget it: buy a used monitor at a second-hand store and run the results from your results computer - it is faster and looks classier.
Still need more people? Get on the club phone list and ask. It is a strange phenomenon but few people will come forward in response to a general appeal for volunteers but many will say yes if they are personally called or e-mailed and asked to perform a specific task on a specific day. (For me this is a tough thing to do but I know if I don't ask the potential volunteer will not say yes.)
Hope that is enough to go on.
Aug 27, 2017 12:24 AM # 
Try breaking your post up into readable paragraphs, that way the volunteers won't have bleeding eyes by the end of it.
Aug 31, 2017 4:01 AM # 
OK Gordon, You at least refresh the volunteer attractant topic here, and have a clear mind and a logical list of many things to consider as an event director and volunteer key 3.. "Well Done Sir!!!"

You comments are valuable and timely.

In review (audience explanation) , I asked basically ...

Who Has .... New Ideas - ON HOW TO - to attract Local O club volunteers to share with this Attack O discussion bulletin board?.

OK Ricky T, simple and Clear?

I am a veteran O club course setter and event organizer, and even I know that as a "Key 3" person (a key 3 =the three most important people who run any meeting of other people, usually heard in Scouting leader areas) .. can never know it all. Can always learn new skills. Hence my asking this topic be considered...

I am basically doing a Rodney Dangerfield bit, insulting my knowledge on the topic (he away's insulted himself ... " I told the doctor I had yellow teeth, he replied I should buy a Brown Necktie..." Butta, Boom!). I also have a rebel in me, hence my side comments that confuse and distract. I will be kind and lessen any reference to them. Let it be said, that there are those who lead, and those who follow ... I know a whole bunch of silent followers living in my area, and I seek the higher road. The road to a successful local O meet without the risk of no or so few experienced club volunteers, and a lessening of dependency on luck of instantly finding a available network to solve my thread question. I have some friends named Bob, Pat, Bob, Kathy, Ed, Jerry, Mark , Mary and Peter (others), and I Kinda like to let them have a volunteer break as they live far from my event, and its not obvious how to get new helpers whom have some O meet expertise.

I pursue the truth. And the truth is, volunteer organization is great when it works, and is terrible when the group is not together, is not of a size where the natural group of O regular helpers step forward, or the group of members is not used to helping out the event organizers.

So I reach out to this group, and again, I was a bit taken back that the solar eclipse viewing topic had over 40 suggestions, and all I got was one list, although that one reply from Gordhun - is very much what I desire, more suggestions, new suggestions, from experienced peoples that "orienteer" with maps and compasses .,, some I had though of, some that had not. So Attack point readers, what say you, is Gordhun the only one I can ... ' reach'. I can wait you free time to ponder even further suggestions.

To help, I leave you with the original request, rephrased.

What if I had asked, I am a First time event director, what besides meeting and asking friends at O meets in the next 2 months, too ask volunteer (sign up?) for being helpers at a Nov 25 local O meet? I am sure the replies would have been better and more numerous.. Thanks in advance, from the new guy on the block

PS And Gord, you are spot on. I sent without getting into specifics, did a email to 8 or 9 people, and got - not - One reply. People just will not respond to a group message, the others will do it syndrome kicks in. When I switched tactics and called the listed persons one on one, I got many replies, of course some were 'no's', but eventually I got one (1) other key 3 to round out my small cadre. 3 more months to go, so little time; but I think I can .... attract more O meet help good night all.
Aug 31, 2017 4:13 AM # 
Why do volunteers need O meet experience?

Last time I checked orienteering doesn't hold copyright on navigation.
Aug 31, 2017 5:47 AM # 
Yeah never send a group email asking for volunteers. I sometimes think maybe I respond to too many emails but I'm of the view that if someone sends me something, then a reply is just common courtesy but 90% of the population must see it differently. Of course if the mailing list is really big (say 20+ recipients) then getting a response from everyone would overwhelm the sender and perhaps the recipient has this in mind if no response is forthcoming so keep it small.

I'm trying to organise our local summer series at the moment and I emailed ten schools (individually) and got not one reply so followed up with phone calls a little over a week later. I'm still waiting to hear back from four of them (two of which told me they were having a meeting about it the next day - the follow up call is now three weeks ago).
Aug 31, 2017 5:57 AM # 
I get slightly better success with an email that is highly specific - enumerating the jobs I need people for, the times I need people in those jobs, and the level of experience necessary (usually none).

Our club currently pays an event director, continues to have trouble finding enough course setters (but getting by), has a dedicated e-punch person, and trains every other position on site if necessary.

We have online preregistration and ask for volunteers when people preregister. We get about 3% to 5% of registrants who respond they are willing to help. Often the same people, who over time become more experienced volunteers.

Our annual scout event has a small dedicated group of club volunteers (MD, CS, e-punch) who can be counted on annually. The rest of the event is run with scout volunteers who are trained on site.
Aug 31, 2017 11:26 AM # 
smittyo, does your dedicated epunch person get to orienteer?
Aug 31, 2017 5:14 PM # 
I don't know why it is but people seem unlikely to respond to a general call for volunteers but more likely to respond favorably to a personal request for their services. This goes for orienteering or anything else. I remember being told by a neighborhood chair for a national charity campaign how she put a notice in our community newsletter asking for volunteers to canvass door-to-door in parts of the neighborhood for the charity. She got not takers - NONE. But then in desperation she picked up the phone and called. In seven calls she got the five volunteers she needed. I was one of them. We had all read the newsletter and resisted calling to volunteer. But we had no issue with stepping up when we were asked directly. I'll never forget that lesson. Could it be as simple as when the neighborhood chair called it was proof that our service was valued?
Aug 31, 2017 10:59 PM # 
I think there are five important tactics.
1. Design events to be as labour efficient as possible. [This will mean a greater requirement for technical skill from organisers which is a trade-off]
2. Design the annual fixture within the constraints of plausible volunteer availability.
3. Personal approach rather than just bulk email.
4. Awards and recognition for volunteers- from personal thanks to end of year awards.
5. Be prepared to cancel events with a publicly stated reason about volunteer shortage. It sends a useful message to potential volunteers as well organisers of the next year fixture.
Sep 1, 2017 12:02 AM # 
I agree about the personal touch. I also think that a focus on volunteer development helps. I remember then-president of the New England Orienteering Club, Hans Bengtsson, saying that most of his time was teaching others, and that it was important even if he could have done the task faster himself, or with less effort than teaching another. NEOC became the biggest club in North America at the time, had at one point fifty essentially ISOM maps, and numerous national champions. It pays off.

Volunteers are often enthusiastic when they get some creative choice. There are many tasks that just need plugging away, but also some that offer some self expression. Let volunteers choose an area that they'd like to course set in, or suggest a format. I remember a lover of logic puzzles who included them into an orienteering event; great fun, a bit of variety, and something that interested him. Another came up with Vampire O, another with the Billygoat. Some came up with areas that they'd like to see mapped, and mapped them, leading in part to the massive number of maps that NEOC had, and choosing the area gave the volunteer mapper particular interest in it.

Another way to value volunteer effort is to get rid of time wasting, exasperating stuff. If something takes an inordinate amount of effort, is hard to learn, annoying, failure prone or pointlessly unpleasant, eliminate it and substitute. I'm thinking awful results software in particular. Rather than, say, endlessly trying to (re)train people on something that's just inscrutable when things go awry, punt it and substitute. This same nasty package I've seen in use numerous places, with exactly the same problems, year after year, decade after decade. I probably needn't name it. Ugh. If volunteers are precious, then why throw them into this wood chipper event after event after event? (I'm a retired software developer, BTW. People shouldn't be any shier about significantly bad software than about other significantly bad products or services.)
Sep 1, 2017 3:29 AM # 
A few observations from our club experience:
1.A personal approach will yield results and it is especially made easier if you can make this personal approach at a club event eg organise personnel for major event 2 club events beforehand so you can "backfill" if necessary.

2. All jobs are necessary but some are more beneficial for the future. I made a point of giving new club members jobs that put them in contact with "the action" so that they could see the club in action and were made to feel part of the team. Yes eg digging toilets or parking cars is necessary but being at the Assembly or Start or Finish really helps to cement the newcomer as part of the club.

3.Doing the recruiting at local events beforehand also is less time consuming and people see others volunteering and step forward.

4. Proof of this appraoch? At a 3 day event I asked people to volunteer on 2 of the 3 days and they specified which days. That way they got a free day. Of the 4 new club members I put in the thick of it all went on the next year to offer to be (mentored) course planner or event organiser and have subsequently become very valuable club members.
Sep 1, 2017 11:21 AM # 
Another point is that when it comes to the orienteering technical tasks I think it is important to not toss the potential volunteer in to the deep end of the volunteer task pool.
Here is a suggested way to get them wading in to volunteering:
Picking up controls after an event
Placing controls at a sites that are already ribboned
Checking/ vetting to verify that the ribbons are in the correct spot
Ribboning someone else's suggested control sites
Then you get in to the heavy duty stuff probably requiring some extra training (but those guys in Asheville are re-writing the book on that.
Course setting
Re-mapping an area
Mapping a new area
Sep 1, 2017 6:38 PM # 
@Urban_Blight Yes, our dedicated epunch person generally goes out on a course once the registration crunch has died down. We have a number of club members who can staff the epunch table and handle downloads while he is on the course. If problems come up, he handles them when he returns.

This discussion thread is closed.