Volunteers are the lifeblood of competitions. We rely on referees to keep things fair, emcees to keep things exciting and queuers to keep things on schedule. As the volunteer coordinator, to help recruit, direct volunteers to training and provide support the day of the event.
Volunteer Recruitment for an Aerial Drone Competition
Reaching out to the community is a great way to recruit volunteers and promote your organization and the Aerial Drone Competition Program. Here are some suggestions on where to find volunteers:
Parents, Teachers, School Administrators, Mentors and Siblings
Volunteering can be a school and family affair! Younger siblings are often good at Field Reset. School staff and administrators often enjoy learning about the competitions and make great volunteers.
Local Schools, College and Universities
Classes, honor societies, sororities and fraternities may have community service requirements for membership, scholarships and graduation. Check out clubs and groups, specific departments like the college of engineering and ROTC programs for assistance. Give your local Army recruiter a table in exchange for providing volunteers. Pre-service tech and student teachers are also ideal candidates for volunteering.
Partner with Local Schools
Contact nearby schools and agree to do a volunteer swap. They provide volunteers for your event, and you provide volunteers for their event.
Local Businesses and Sponsors
Reach out to local tech companies who may be interested in supporting STEM learning in their community. Other companies may also use events for team building experience. Reach out to the HR department and ask if they have a volunteer program for employees.
Community Groups, Organization Chapters, Church Groups
Check with your local maker community, TechSoup, Local UAW, NSBE, IEEE, SWE, Chamber of Commerce, Library, church groups, etc. All of these are great places to find volunteers.
Employee Programs and Corporate Responsibility
Many local and national chains have community service and philanthropy goals, and employee volunteering is part of their culture. Some even provide a grant donation to your event if you get so many volunteers from their location.
Volunteers from Teams Attending Event
Event Partners can request that each team attending their event provide 1 or 2 volunteers. A few positions like Judges and Referees require that there is a level of impartiality so outside non-affiliated volunteers are critical to the integrity of the event. If finding non-affiliated volunteers isn’t possible, endeavor to provide Judges and Referees that represent multiple organizations from the event.
Volunteer Job Descriptions and Recommended Staffing Plan
Volunteer needs for each event will vary, depending upon size, format, and layout. The Volunteer Descriptions and Staffing Guide can be used as a guide for your volunteer recruitment and planning.
Volunteers such as Inspectors, Team Check-In, Team Queuing, and Scorekeeping Referees may be able to fill dual roles in order to fully utilize their event support. For example, one volunteer can help with Team Check-In in the morning, and then transition to a Scorekeeper Referee or Queuer once matches begin. Teams can also help reset fields after each match under the supervision of the Head Referee, as can younger siblings watching the competition.
Encourage volunteers to dress comfortably and appropriately for events. Clothing should be team- neutral, and a polo shirt or t-shirt with jeans or dress pants is fine. Volunteers should wear comfortable closed-toed shoes, and may want to wear safety glasses in the practice area and near the game field. If you are providing volunteer t-shirts, please advise your volunteers of that ahead of time. Volunteers should plan to arrive at your event early enough for any on-site training (recommend 30 minutes minimum), be on time for their assignments, share a cheerful, positive attitude, and be flexible and open to helping other volunteers, if assistance is needed.
Volunteer Training and Preparation
- Online Resources – Please instruct all volunteers to carefully review the training for their position(s) a week prior to your scheduled event. In addition to the training materials the REC Foundation provides, you may wish to include videos, narrated PowerPoints, and more. Give volunteers the opportunity to ask questions and prepare before the event date.
- Watch Matches – Advise them to watch matches for the current season's game on YouTube to get familiar with the event style. Provide them with specific links, if possible.
- Training Calls – Consider holding your own training calls a week prior to your event, setting expectations and giving volunteers the opportunity to ask questions.
- Attend a Local Event – Encourage volunteers to attend another local event, if possible, to get a feel for how tournaments are run, and perhaps even shadow another volunteer in their upcoming role.
- Sensitivity Training – Remind volunteers that tournaments are student events where they will work with children. They should do what they can to make the kids feel comfortable, like taking a knee to get down on their level, talking firmly but positively, and never touching or grabbing a student. Volunteers should also be sensitive to students from different cultures who may be competing.
- Onsite Orientation – If you are able, hold an in-person training session the evening before your event (often referred to as the “Night Before” event) so that volunteers can meet the volunteer team and get onsite training. Many “Night Before” events run practice matches if there is a host team or home team available to help set up. This will help build volunteers’ confidence, making the morning of your event run more smoothly. Whether you host training the night before, or provide training onsite the morning of your event, plan to provide volunteers with the training documentation and materials required to successfully perform their roles and enjoy their event experience. This may include printing out hard copies of Volunteer Role Guides, field diagrams for reset, score sheets, etc.
Volunteer Care and Appreciation
- Food & Drink – Have water and snacks available for all volunteers throughout the day and provide lunch for those who volunteer for a full event day. Hydration, food, and appropriate breaks are important to the volunteer experience. If it is possible, stop the entire competition for lunch so that ALL volunteers can take a break and eat; plan for lunch shifts if the entire competition cannot stop at the same time. If you have space, set up a Volunteer Break Room or roped-off area for volunteer use.
- Comfort – Be sure to advise your volunteers to wear comfortable shoes and bring a water bottle (if you're not providing them). If possible, have a few packs of lozenges in the volunteer break area to help soothe vocal cords (especially for the emcee)
- Recognition & Certificates – If funding is available, use t-shirts and/or name tags to identify your volunteers. Share your appreciation with your volunteers, who provide invaluable support to your efforts. Recognize volunteers by providing them with a Community Service Certificate that is customized with your event name.
- Tokens of Appreciation – Even on a small budget, consider giving all volunteers (or just key volunteers) a small gift certificate, like $5 to Starbucks or a local food venue.
- Hand-written notes – The power of a hand-written “Thank You” goes a long way today!
- Social Media – If you are active on social media, consider writing a brief recommendation for a key volunteer on LinkedIn or giving a shout out on Twitter with a photo if they go above and beyond the call of duty. Tag them on Twitter along with @REC_Foundation. You can also send volunteer and event photos to the REC Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Follow Up & Keep in Touch – Email your volunteers after the event to gauge satisfaction and collect opinions on event success, or use SurveyMonkey to send some short questions. Also, keep in touch with volunteers for future events. If you have the budget, host a volunteer appreciation dinner or party. A happy volunteer who has a great experience will usually return!
Event Setup and Take Down
- Add volunteer roles for “Setup Crew” and “Take Down Crew”” It’s best to have 6-8 adults and many students helping. ROTC and local Civil Air Patrol are fantastic at helping set up (suggest that they set up an info table at your event).
- Pre-stage materials in advance.
- For Setup Day:
- If possible, set up the day before the event! There is rarely enough time to set up an event the morning of the tournament.
- Have two people set up Tournament Manager.
- Have one adult and two kids constructing each field.
- Appoint a leader to oversee each area: pits, competition fields, concession stand, etc.
- Be sure to test the TM computer, projectors, printer, etc. before leaving for the night; everything should be fully functional and ready to go!
- Make it mandatory for students to stay after school on the night before an event to help set up.
- For Tear Down:
- Utilize parents who have been sitting in bleachers. They have “fresh legs” and can help.
- Partner with other host teams. Have them help with your event take down and you help with theirs.
- Any school club needing service hours can help with tear down. They don’t need any experience, just willingness to help.