We spoke with two Help-Portrait organizers who ran successful multi-site events in Atlanta, Ga., and New York City last year about how to organize and mobilize the volunteers in your group. The consensus was that getting volunteers and organizing them is the easy part. The part you have to be a little more intentional about is building the “trust” factor – making sure your team can count on you and making sure you can count on them.
More on that in a minute. First, some details on rallying the troops.
“This is actually a lot easier than one would think,” said Frank Lazaro, who organized H-P Atlanta last year. “If you utilize social media, like Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and the community site on H-P, you’ll be surprised how fast you can pull together volunteers.”
Utilizing the H-P community site is key. Once you’ve created your group – organized by city or region – invite members to join. Get the word out like crazy using social media, then schedule a meeting.
Single out people who are interested in taking on a lead role and give them areas to cover – either within the event or at different locations if your region has more than one. Assign each leader “administrative rights” on the community website.
“The team at Help-Portrait put together a great community website for people to create groups,” H-P organizer Jérôme Aoustin said. “In the case of NYC, we served eight locations and needed eight leaders. Creating sub-groups for each location is a good way not to confuse all the events.”
Jérôme’s group used Google Docs to create spreadsheets with the roles needing to be filled (photographer, photographer’s assistant, makeup artist, hair stylist, someone to handle CF cards and make backups). “There are quite a few roles that volunteers can fill in,” he said. “Volunteers could check out [Google Docs] and put their names and contact information in the spreadsheet. This was a very efficient, collaborative way to organize things.”
But organizing isn’t enough. “You have to actively engage and prove to people you don’t know that you are not a flake,” Frank said. It helps if you already have photography friends and build momentum from there – which is what I did in Atlanta and now have 180 volunteers across eight locations in the metro area.”
Jérôme agreed. “Activating the volunteers was easy. Everyone was so motivated that we had very few cases of ‘no-show’. However, it’s good not to rely on everyone showing up on the day. It can happen. So have photographers and assistants as backups.”
How do you organize and mobilize volunteers? Leave tips for other H-P organizers in the comments below.