Volunteers are vital to all show organisations, but it can be hard to attract them. Here are some tips to help you find more show volunteers.

There are many responsibilities for volunteers as a show: some are year-round, some are for a matter of hours on show day only. Writing a comprehensive list of all show tasks, and collating them into project areas overseen by an individual steward allows people to grow and take ownership, developing leadership skills and expanding their remit at the show. 

Volunteers are not made equal. Some people will be happy to be “pole pickers” in the show jumping for 6 hours; or man the gate one morning or marshal horse competitors in the main ring for the two days of the show or pack down the craft pavilion in the final hours of the event. Others will want dynamic projects like organising the young farmers challenge or hosting the rural ambassador program or organising and managing the night show. A special few will accept year-round responsibilities like being chief steward of cattle or poultry, fleece or the dog show, perhaps because they have a background related to that role.

What is central to all approaches for new volunteers is that it is:

  • Purposeful – that what they’ll be doing has real and meaningful impact on the show society, and the broader community
  • Personal – that they have been identified for their own clear skillset and their specific attributes that make them ideal for the role
  • Prescribed – that the jobs and metric for success are clearly outlined and that they are provided every opportunity to succeed

Five factors for attracting more show volunteers:

  1. Outline to commitment level. 
    Volunteers may have a fear of being dragged into an enormous time commitment, so be upfront about how much time you anticipate them to devote.
  2. Matching people to relevant jobs.
    Volunteers typically leave when their abilities aren’t matched with jobs they’re asked to do, their efforts aren’t acknowledged, or they aren’t properly trained. Match volunteers with tasks they’re qualified in and provide appropriate training.

    Callide Valley Show President Tanya Belousoff recounted a time when four young gentleman put their hands up to volunteer on show day. When she checked on where they’d been put to work all day, they’d been sent to peel spuds in the canteen. Which they did, but suffice to say, they didn’t return. 

  3. Outline what is in it for them.
    Remember that having volunteers is beneficial to volunteers themselves, just as much as they are beneficial to you. They can develop professional skills like project management and people leadership, as well as making new connections and have a great sense of accomplishment at the end of a show. Make sure potential volunteers know what’s in it for them. It could be increasing skills, networking or helping them gain employment.
  4. Use a variety of channels.
    When getting the word out about volunteer role vacancies in your show, use social media, local radio, posters, school newsletters, local organisations like Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce, the Rural Fire Service and other related entities.
  5. Create job descriptions.
    Make sure you clearly define and communicate the abilities that will be required and scope before recruiting volunteers to fill those jobs.