Let’s get it out of the way, volunteer work can get a bad rep. At first glance, you’re just working for free. Sometimes companies will look for volunteers in order to avoid hiring new people and therefore keeping costs down. As a result, often times these people get mistreated and overworked.
Then why would someone in their right mind do it?
If you want to get into the event planning business, volunteering is a good place to start. It will teach you skills and introduce you to professionals in the industry who you might otherwise not have access to. Another good reason to volunteer is that most event planning agencies won’t hire you if you don’t have previous experience. Everyone starts off getting simple tasks, like placing an order of bulk t-shirts, but you soon will get the experience and responsibility you are after.
So how do you avoid the abusers and find the organisations that have great volunteer programs that open the doors to new possibilities and experiences?
How do I find events to volunteer for?
You’re in luck because most events need as many helping hands as they can get. If you want to find any that need volunteers, as with anything else, you start with Google! Look for events that are coming up in your area. Once you’ve found one you fancy, contact the organiser. Most of these organisations have a contact page on their website from where you can send an email offering your services. Don’t be discouraged if nowhere on their website does it say they’re looking for people. Most organisers don’t make these messages public in order to avoid spam.
Any other ideas?
Do some networking. Try looking for groups in meetup.com and Linkedin with similar interests to yours. By approaching some people who are in a similar situation, you might end up landing the volunteering position of your dreams.
Ok, I volunteered. Now what?
Just because you’re not getting paid, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be professional. If you work hard then the chances of making a good impression will increase. And if you make a good impression, then the odds of being called back or maybe even getting a job offer will get.
If they ask, tell them why you’re interested in volunteering. We already mentioned the experience, but your intentions might be different. There are many different reasons to volunteer, a giveaway, the chance to meet someone important, or just because it’s fun. They’re all valid reasons. If you’re honest with your intentions then the organisers will know what’s the best job for you.
It is easy to visualise what we want before we get into something, but once the running around starts, it’s easy to forget why we wanted it in the first place. In order to avoid burning out or worse, feeling like you’ve lost your time, keep in mind at all times what it is you want to get out of this experience. Write it down on a post-it 8and stick it somewhere visible if it’s necessary.
You’re a volunteer, not a slave
Remember that even if you don’t have a salary, you still have rights. This is important to understand because many a times organisers take advantage of unpaid positions and make them handle things they shouldn’t have to. If you feel like you’re not being treated fairly, then it is completely okay to “quit”. There are many other events out there. Whatever it is they’re offering, it is not worth being trampled over. Your mental and physical health always come first.
Look for feedback
If you’re working for a serious organisation then chances are you’ll receive feedback at the end of the project, but if you don’t, you have the right to ask for it. If you want to learn and take your first steps in the world of event planning, it is crucial to understand what you’re good at and what what you’re not and one of the fastest ways to do this, is through feedback. Also, if you’re not getting paid, experience is the next best thing you can get.
Keep in touch with the people you worked with during your volunteering experience. There are two kinds of people I advice you to build relationships with:
The event organisers
Send them a thank you email after the event is done. The message should be short and sweet while highlighting a couple of things. First, tell them how much you enjoyed (if you did) the overall experience and second, let them know you’re available for future endeavours. It might seem meaningless, but you’d be surprised by how rarely people write just to say “thank you”. They’ve probably already added you to their database, but a grateful email might place you at the top of that drawer.
Your fellow volunteers
Exchange phone numbers, emails and social media. This is actually a good way to find out of future volunteering opportunities because if they volunteered once then chances are they’ll do it again. And who knows, you might also make a friend or two.
Here’s a small list of organisations who are currently looking for volunteers:
Volunteering can be a great opportunity to gather experience and take a first step into the world of event planning. If you make sure you get the most out of every situation and work on your contacts network then you’ll be off to a great start.
Do you have any valuable volunteering tip you’d like to share with us? Maybe you’ve volunteered before and would like to share your experience with us? We’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment below or drop us a message in any of our social media outlets. For more awesome content, keep reading the Printsome blog.
Printsome is an custom printing agency printing t-shirts in Cardiff to Wolverhampton and everywhere in between. For a quick quote on personalised clothing, or simply a nice chat about events, get in touch!