Learn how to successfully onboard event staff and volunteers with this guide.

How to Successfully Onboard Event Staff and Volunteers

Event staff and volunteers are integral team members for organizations all around the world; they can even be the main workforce behind large events or programs. With such a crucial role to fill, it’s important to invest in setting up your event staff and volunteers for success. 

Getting these individuals up to speed quickly allows them to develop crucial skills and start fulfilling expectations much sooner than they would otherwise. With a complete onboarding experience, they’ll spend less time learning through trial and error and more time carrying out their duties.

At InitLive, we’ve worked with thousands of organizations to train and manage their event staff and volunteers. We’ve seen which tactics tend to work well and which tend to fall short of expectations when onboarding newcomers. Based on this experience, we will look into what steps are required to successfully onboard and train your event staff and volunteers. Here is a quick outline of what will be covered in this article: 

  1. Provide Sufficient Training.
  2. Lay Out Expectations Upfront.
  3. Share Access to Event Materials.
  4. Create a Direct Line of Communication.

Ready to learn more about successful onboarding? Let’s jump in.

1. Provide Sufficient Training.

Volunteers need to be given training just like any employee would require. It’s important to ensure that every volunteer is set up for success from their first day to their last. There is nothing more frustrating to a volunteer than the feeling that their time is being wasted. Investing in training for all your new volunteers and training for existing volunteers who are being tasked to perform new duties is essential to successfully onboard your staff. 

A simple and effective way to provide training during the onboarding process is through online training. Online training offers the most accessible and convenient training experience. Going digital allows your volunteers to do their required training on their own schedule, whenever it’s most convenient. Most online training tools also offer you the ability to incorporate online assessments to ensure that every volunteer has obtained the information they need to succeed from the training courses. 

Training should line up directly with the roles and responsibilities that fall under their duties as well as any health and safety training that is required. Your training program should be ready to go before you even begin recruiting your volunteers. That way, they start training right away. 

2. Lay Out Expectations Upfront.

Nobody likes being blindsided with responsibilities or tasks they didn’t sign up for. In order to find the right volunteers for the right roles, you need to communicate what the expectations are for each of your volunteer roles. This will ensure that every volunteer who signs up to work will understand what they are committing to.

A volunteer role description should be as detailed as possible to ensure that no expectations are left out of the role or shift listing. Here is a quick list of things to consider adding to your event volunteer role descriptions: 

  • A simple but descriptive role title – You want your role titles to describe the role’s main duty or responsibility. For example, go with distinct titles such as Clean-Up Crew Member, Athlete Registration Clerk, or Refreshment Stand Clerk.
  • A list of tasks Here you want to quickly outline the tasks and duties that will be performed in this role. This where you really need to set expectations and provide the volunteers with an idea of what they will be doing during their shifts. 
  • Skill requirements – List the skills required to perform each task for the role. For example, this could include ‘money handling’ or ‘food preparation.’ 
  • Certification qualifications – If the roles require specific certifications, you should state what they are. For example, list out details such as the need for a driver’s license, background check, or CPR training. 
  • Physical requirements – Some roles will require physical abilities, and that should be defined in your role description to ensure people aren’t injured on the job. This includes things like the ability to lift 50 pounds, walk 5K, or stand for 5 hours. 

The time investment required to create full role descriptions is well worth it as it will ensure that every one of your volunteers understands what they are responsible for on the big day. This role description can be reused over and over again if you host similar events where the scope of work doesn’t change. 

3. Share Access to Event Materials.

Next up is ensuring your volunteers and event staff are equipped with all the tools and information they need to do their best work on the event day. There is nothing worse than a lost-and-late group of volunteers right when they are needed the most. 

To avoid any confusion and reduce shift no-shows it is important to ensure every volunteer has quick and convenient access to their personal volunteer schedule and any additional material they may require.

Here is a list of materials volunteers require access to when they are working:

  • Their personal schedule with detailed shift information like location, time, and who their supervisor is 
  • Access to a venue map that clearly outlines the various volunteer shift locations to ensure they are able to find and start their shift easily  
  • Emergency plan documents to reference if needed 
  • An event itinerary to keep track of activities and aid people when required
  • Any other vital information like health and safety protocol documents

Providing access to material through an event volunteer mobile app offers a great solution for event producers and their volunteers. Mobile access to all these documents ensures that everyone has access to what they need without the risk of losing paper documents. 

Regardless of how you choose to equip your volunteer with these materials, what is important is that they are given everything they need to perform their duties while ensuring the event runs safely and smoothly. 

4. Create a Direct Line of Communication.

Communication is an absolutely vital part of onboarding and managing a team of event staff and volunteers. It is important to establish an open line of communication with volunteers from the day of sign-up to the work itself to the day after your event is over. In order to accomplish this, determine who is responsible for communicating with volunteers.

Consider assigning volunteer team supervisors who are responsible for managing and communicating directly with your team of volunteers. This ensures that volunteers understand who to contact with questions and who to expect a response from. By assigning a supervisor to a team of volunteers, it is less likely that any question is forgotten. 

As for keeping volunteers in the loop on any schedule updates or shift changes, consider investing in a volunteer management software that automatically communicates updates to volunteers who are affected by any changes to the schedule. This communication automation ensures no updates are left uncommunicated and everyone is always kept in the loop. 

Mobile communication tools like a volunteer management app also allow for quick direct communications during the event. This tool will allow volunteers to send chat communication directly to their supervisor when needed, ensuring no volunteer is left in the dark. 


Now it’s time to start implementing your event staff and volunteer onboarding strategy. No matter how large or small your event or program is, taking the time to implement the above recommendations will ensure that your team is set up for success and that everything runs smoothly.

This was a guest post contributed by Cassandra Smallman of InitLive.This guest post was contributed by Cassandra Smallman of InitLive.

Cassandra is a passionate content creator dedicated to fostering positive impact through thought leadership in both the Nonprofit sector and live events industry. You can find her work at www.initlive.com or on Linkedin and Twitter.

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Matt Hugg

Matt Hugg is the president of Nonprofit.Courses.

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