by Sally Seddon

Planning our second Volunteer Festival meant adapting plans for the online world. Following the success of our first Volunteer Festival in 2019, we planned to repeat the event two years later. Fast forward to Spring 2021…well, you all know how things looked then.

Our Volunteer Festival forms part of our Volunteers’ Week activities. We aim to offer something for everyone through a variety of sessions run by colleagues. We look forward to delivering something revitalising for volunteers. Here are our top tips for taking this type of activity online.

Consider your platform

We had already been using Zoom for a few years and had used this to engage with volunteers before. We knew that not everyone would be familiar with it, but it would be accessible to all volunteers and we could support those who needed some help getting on board with it. It would enable us to invite staff to both contribute and take part in our plans. We were also able to invite an external speaker. We could also record the content to make this available to volunteers unable to join ‘live’.

Plan your content

We wanted to get a balance of content that was interesting, inspiring and a bit of fun. We had a variety of sessions running. We had staff talking about the development of case studies, which are used by some volunteers. We are an international organisation and so we invited a colleague to introduce us to her region of the world. We invited an external partner to generate a discussion about a hot topic in our sector. We also had a fun session with some interactive, competitive activities to bring a smile.

Send out your invitations

We created our programme of sessions to cover two days with each session lasting 40 minutes. There were three sessions on each day, nobody wants to be on Zoom all day long! We created a super simple invitation and booking system using ‘Forms’ and sent this to all volunteers and staff. People signed up to the sessions they wanted, and were able, to join. Remember, we recorded the sessions, so we shared the recordings afterwards so people could catch up. We then sent the Zoom meeting links to the people who had signed up for each session. We sent reminders too, which minimised no shows.

Hold your event

Some sessions involved screen sharing and some incorporated the reactions tool. Other sessions simply involved video and audio. As well as diverse content, we aimed to have diverse formats for the sessions too.

Gather feedback and reflect

Following each session, we sent attendees (volunteers and staff) a quick feedback form. We received some excellent feedback which will help us plan our next Volunteer Festival. Suggestions included session content for future events and running sessions more than once. We are thrilled with attendance and feedback from our first online Volunteer Festival. We look forward to planning our next one, it may even become an annual highlight.

If you’d like to know more about what we did and how we did it get in touch,

About Sally

Sally Seddon is Volunteer Engagement Manager for Shared Interest.

As Volunteer Engagement Manager for Shared Interest Sally’s role involves recruiting, supporting and engaging with their network of volunteers. Volunteers carry out a growing number of roles at Shared Interest which means Sally is constantly learning and developing new skills in volunteer management.

Sally is a keen networker and currently leads on a small network of Volunteer Managers supporting speaker volunteers. She has also been a member of the AVM Conference Planning Group since 2017.