event volunteersProviding Exceptional Experiences for One-Time, Short-term, and Event Volunteers + Email Scripts 

If fundraising is part of your job description, then short-term event volunteers are likely part of your life. But there are so many other ways event volunteers can help your cause, by giving their time in small amounts. 

Local student service clubs, employee volunteer programs, court-ordered community service requests, family volunteering, and others are seeking places to lend their time and talent.  And, all can help you move your mission forward. 

With a few simple strategies, you can tap the talents of short-term volunteers and perhaps even convert them into long-term supporters. 

Make it Easy on Yourself 

For busy nonprofit staff, dropping everything you have planned for the day to support an incoming volunteer team may be a little frustrating, particularly if it always falls on you to coordinate short-term volunteers.  

After all, you have other stuff to do, too, right? And, switching gears can really throw a wrench in your week. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  

In fact, we’d be better off if we adjusted our views and gladly accepted all gifts, both large and small, equally. 

Having a plan of action can help you make the switch from reluctant to abundant thinking which is generally fueled by fear or overwhelm.  

Planning ahead can reduce stress and help you make the most of one-time, short-term, and event volunteers, ensuring they have the best time possible. 

Yes, it’s easy to set aside time to plan for a high-profile day of service, but what about all those other, less visible requests for the opportunity to serve? If you’ll be hosting an individual volunteer, keep a running “honey-do” list of tasks that need to get done, but aren’t critical to daily operations. Do you have data entry, filing, or info packet stuffing that needs doing? Your one-day superhero can help you get caught up. 

You might even schedule a certain day or days of the week when you’ll accept individual volunteers for short-term assignments.  Choose a day that works best for your schedule and promote these “Volunteer Workdays” on your volunteer page on your agency’s website.  

If you’ll be hosting a team, consider creating projects in a box.  And, I mean literally in a box (or boxes). Assemble supplies and instructions in a plastic crate and turn them loose.  You might even have a shelf full of ready-made projects that can help you and other departments.  Allow volunteer teams to peruse the shelves and pick a project that works best for them.  

Want to add in a little friendly competition? Include a “logbook” in each box where volunteer teams share their achievements and advice for future teams. Ask staff and clients to add their expressions of thanks, where appropriate. Think of it as an “Airbnb guest book” for volunteers.  It helps everyone see the bigger picture. 

Need the project boxes to be refreshed with supplies?  That’s a great job for your individual volunteers. 

For event volunteers, assign a volunteer team leader for each role, station, or activity.  Provide team leaders with clear instructions and have them oversee their team’s performance.  Make yourself available via phone or text if questions come up or they get stuck. If it’s possible to have longer-term volunteers take on the team leader roles, all the better.  You can train them as a group on expectations, safety protocols, etc. and have them act as your representatives. 

Keep Volunteers in the Loop 

While somewhere in our distant past it may have been sufficient to send one email confirmation, in today’s busy, distracted world volunteers need to be reminded. 

The easiest way to do this is either through email or text-based reminders. Email is the most used and accepted by volunteers.   

To keep things easy, set up an automated email series template that you can use again and again with only a few small edits.  If you can upload the contact names and emails to your email service provider, you can tag them or the specific event or volunteer shift date and set the campaign to automatically send reminder emails on certain days.  This reduces the need to send broadcast emails. 

To add a more human touch consider adding videos to your emails or supplementing them with a combination of phone calls and handwritten notesReminder calls are another great task for that individual, one-day volunteer. 

Sample Event Volunteer Email Reminder Series 

Reminder Email Scripts 

The following emails can be loaded into your bulk mail service or email software ahead of time and scheduled to be sent on the appropriate date. They are written for an event, but you can also tweak them to work for a one-time or short-term volunteer commitment. 

Upon Volunteer Commitment/Appointment – Save the Date! 

Dear [insert first name]: 

Thanks for agreeing to give your time and talents to our [insert event name]! 

By volunteering, you become part of [insert organization name]’s solution to solving [insert your mission-based result]. This event is special because [insert reason it is unique and what it does for the organization or those you serve]. 

Know you’ll be part of a legacy of compassion in our community – [insert brief sentence about the history and one key achievement of the event, if it is held regularly] OR Know that you’ll be the first to spark the beginning of what we hope to be a successful event for years to come. If you want to know more about our mission and how we bring about change, visit our website [insert link]. 

Be sure to get these details on your calendar: 

[insert date, time, location name & address, link to map] 

We’ll be back in touch about a month before the event with more reminders. 

In the meantime, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions by responding to this email or by calling me at [insert phone number]. 

We’re so happy you’ll be able to join us! 

[insert handwritten first name]
Your email signature (name, position, phone, website) 


1 Month Before Event – What to Expect 

Dear [insert first name]: 

Thank you for agreeing to volunteer for our [insert event name]! 

This event is important to [insert the people who benefit]. Here’s one example of how your efforts will make a difference in partnership with us at [insert organization name].  

[insert very short story of someone who has been helped by your organization]. 

Here are the details again: 

[insert date, time, location name & address, link to map] 

At the event, you’ll be working with [insert team name]. The team’s main responsibility is to [insert the key objective for the team]. Plan to arrive at [insert time] to allow enough time to check-in and start your shift on time. 

When you check-in at the event, we’ll introduce you to those you’ll be working with. We know your team will be a real asset to our success! 

We will be back in touch a week before the event with more details. 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at [insert phone number]. 

Looking forward to seeing you soon! 

[insert handwritten first name]
Your email signature (name, position, phone, website) 


One Week Before Event – Logistical Details 

Dear [insert first name]: 

Thanks for volunteering for our [insert event name]! Your team, [insert team name] is looking forward to meeting you! 

Our goal for this event is [insert one main goal]. We know with your help; we can reach it! 

Below are some details for your convenience: 

Event Day & Time: [insert date, time] 

When You Should Arrive for Your Shift: [insert time] 

Event Location: [insert location name & address, link to map] 

Parking: [insert details on where volunteers should park and cost, if any] 

What to Wear: [insert details, and if anything will be provided, recommend comfortable shoes] 

Where to Store Belongings: [insert details, if there is no secure storage discourage volunteers from bringing valuables] 

Where to Check-In: [insert details on where volunteers should sign in and/or who to contact when they arrive] 

We’ve also put together a short orientation video. Please watch it here [insert link to video] before the event. Be sure not to miss it because we share some important guidelines that will help you be better prepared to help your team and make a difference. 

If you have any last-minute questions, call or text me at [insert phone number]. 

See you next week! 

[insert handwritten first name]
Your email signature (name, position, phone, website)


One-Two Days After Event – Thank You! & Recap of Success 

Dear [insert first name]: 

Thank you for volunteering at [insert event name]. Volunteers like you were critical to reaching our goal of [insert key event goal]. 

We’d like to know how we can improve the event and your experience. Let us know how we did by completing this survey [insert link to survey]. You’ll also be able to request a specific team or role for next year’s event, if you’d like to join us again. 

Thank you! 

[insert handwritten first name]
Your email signature (name, position, phone, website) 


Handwritten Note (if possible) – One-Two Days After Event – Thank You! & Recap of Success 

Dear [insert first name]: 

It was a pleasure to work alongside you at [insert event name]. The way you [insert something unique or special you or the team leader noticed about the volunteer’s contributions]. I believe it is a big part of what made this event successful. 

Also, your hard work helped us reach our goal. Because of your contribution to this event’s success, [insert goal that was achieved]. This will make a difference in the lives of [insert name of primary beneficiary]. 

I appreciate all the energy and passion you gave to our organization, and I thank you so much for volunteering. 

I hope you’ll consider working with us again at next year’s event. 

Thank you! 

[insert handwritten first name]

Now that you’ve got your preparatory emails ready to go, it’s time to think about how you will create an exceptional experience for volunteers. 

Treat Volunteers Like the VIPs They Are 

Volunteers are very important people.  They are contributing their time and talent, which I argue is as valuable as financial contributions made by donors. 

How challenging is it to pull out your checkbook or credit card and make a donation?   

Now imagine the challenges involved in making space for, and participating in, volunteerism.   

Respect the sacrifices, small and large, that volunteers make to help you out by treating them like the VIPs they are. 

Also, when you show extra special care to volunteers, you also model the kind of exceptional customer service you’d like to see volunteers bestow on your agency’s client, customer, patrons, and guests.   

So, how would you treat a VIP?   

Here are a few ideas for a “velvet rope” experience … 

  • Special Parking Area or Spots – Free, easy access 
  • Make Special Entrances Easy to Find – Make sure signage is posted and directions are sent 
  • Ensure a Quick Start – Make sure a sign-in sheet is already printed out with their contact info OR you have a tablet where you can sing them in with a click. 
  • Be Prepared for “Plus Ones” – VIPs like to bring a wingman, be prepared to match and deploy the extra helpers 
  • Anticipate Special Needs – Ask ahead on your volunteer registration form 
  • Include Special Touches – Water Bottles, etc. 
  • Special Lounge Area – For breaks, include snacks 
  • Insider Gear – Special volunteer swag they can wear with pride 

Also, don’t forget to shower volunteers with appreciation. 

Cultivate a Culture of Gratitude for Short-term and Event Volunteers 

In the end, what a volunteer will remember about your organization is how it made them feel. 

If they feel good, they’ll more likely support you in some way again. 

If they had a horrible experience, they will likely complain about you and then move on. 

So, make sure they are matched with opportunities that give them a sense of accomplishment.  Even if the task isn’t glamorous, if you take time to explain why it matters and how it connects to the mission, it will have more value in their eyes.  Connect the dots that not everyone can see. 

Also, make sure they understand and hear from multiple people how grateful you are for their help. 

Human beings are most motivated by feelings of safety, belonging, and mattering. When we take time to express gratitude personally, we help people feel like valued insiders, not just cogs in a machine. 

Three Ways to Recognize Volunteers 

Below are three ways to recognize volunteers. All three will help you keep volunteers coming back year after year, and thus reducing the time you have to spend on recruitment for next year’s event or next week’s shift. 

  • Gratitude – Sincere appreciation expressed in person 
  • Feedback – Both confirming and corrective feedback on performance that is explicit  
  • Acknowledgement – Recognition for specific contributions of time and talent, large and small 

Gratitude is contagious. Make saying “thank you!” a habit, and you’ll be surprised how the practice spreads throughout your agency. 

And, by the way, research shows that expressing gratitude on a regular basis will also help you, too. 

So, next time you’re asked to welcome short-term, one-time, or event volunteers, take a pause and consider the gift they can be. 

There are people in your community who want to help and, while they may be initially motivated by external forces, why not take the opportunity to create an exceptional experience that transforms their relationship to your organization and perhaps even how they see their role in the world.