Glasgow 2014: Volunteer Recruitment

Tools of the Trade

As I’m wrapping up my contract as Volunteer Coordinator for Luminato Festival, I’ve started a series of roundtables with volunteers willing to share their feedback and suggestions to improve the volunteer programme. One great comment amongst many was how volunteering allowed people to come closer to the artistic experience than mere audience members and to make them feel that they’re playing an integral part in the festival team.

With a tagline such as “It’s not just athletes at the heart of the Games”, Glasgow Commonweatlh Games 2014 Volunteer Programme is positioned along similar lines of contributing and belonging. They’re looking for 15,000 Games Time volunteers and 400 pre-Games “frontrunners”.

Registration opened on 5th November 2012, and, as early as 20th November 2012, over 20,000 candidates had registered their interest in volunteering, coming mainly from Glasgow, but also “from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Stirling and even London”.  In the words of a London 2012 volunteer: “London 2012 set the bar, but Glasgow 2014 can leap over it.”

(Update!) After connecting with Glasgow 2014’s Head of Marketing on Twitter, I discovered the following record figures:

Martin Reynaldo Tweets

The Volunteering section of Glasgow 2014’s website is remarkably well developed, obviously trying to be as comprehensive as possible, detailing processes, timelines and roles, and there are quite a few lessons in volunteer recruitment and management to be drawn from it. For example, the volunteer journey page clearly outlines the steps and timeframe that apply to all Games Time volunteers selected for an interview:

April – December 2013: Volunteer interviews (some specialist roles also interviewed in 2014)
October 2013 – July 2014: Response
March – July 2014: Training (3 sessions, 4 for leadership roles)
April – August 2014: Uniform and accreditation
April – August 2014: Details of Games-time shifts

Registration seems to be closed at this time; it was accepted in person at the Volunteer Centre, by phone or online through the Volunteer Portal.

Volunteer Criteria

Volunteers are expected to be responsible for their travel and accommodation, attend training and volunteer at least 8 days during Games time (23 July 2014 – 3 August 2014), with shifts lasting between 8 and 12 hours. Break length (at least 30 minutes per 8 hours) and rest between shifts (a minimum of eleven hours rest between eight-hour shifts) are clearly stated.

Volunteers must be aged over 16, be eligible to work in the UK and speak and read English or British Sign Language.

They are also expected to take responsibility for their own uniform and accreditation and to be flexible about their role and the venue where they are based.

Security checks are part of the selection process, and for jobseekers, “time spent volunteering can also count towards up to 50% of (their) weekly job search commitments”.

Volunteer support

Financial and practical support is available to potential volunteers who wouldn’t be able to participate otherwise, thanks to £500,000 worth of funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government, to assist with the following needs (Scottish residents only):

  • Travel and accommodation costs for people on low incomes who live outside Glasgow
  • Additional costs of personal care for people with disabilities
  • Respite care costs to allow carers to be confident their caring responsibilities are being met
  • Additional childcare costs


Pre-Games volunteers, or frontrunners, assist with planning and delivering a range of activities between 2012 and 2014:

  • Volunteer Management (recruitment and scheduling), Training (around 50,000 training sessions and 250,000 hours delivered before the Games), Uniforms (17,500 Games Time uniform kits designed, produced and delivered to to volunteers, paid staff, technical officials and medal bearers).
  • The Queen’s Baton Relay  (from Buckingham Palace to the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony), Games Family Relations & Protocol (supporting the 71 Commonwealth Games Associations and athletes, team officials and wider Games Family).
  • EngagementDigital MediaMedia Communications & Broadcasting.
  • Venue OperationsCatering, Cleaning & Waste ManagementTransport (400 buses and 1,500 fleet vehicles).

Another page on pre-Games volunteers states that all frontrunners will be assigned a mentor from the department they’re working with, and that “previous Games volunteers have described their experience as life-changing and people who give up their time to volunteer for Glasgow 2014 can expect a wide range of personal and developmental benefits”.

Volunteer Interviews

With thousands of applicants, interviews are are huge undertaking for the Games staff, assisted by frontrunners. It’s also a potentially stressful time for would-be volunteers, and the Guide to Volunteer Interviews section of the website gets into a high level of details to cover all grounds and minimise anxiety.

A “Volunteer Interview Guide” video with frontrunner Robbie shows other pre-Games volunteers conducting 1-to-1 interviews in the Volunteer Centre:

Volunteer Roles 

Volunteers will assist in many different ‘functional areas’ (too many to list here!), ranging from frontline customer service to volunteer and staff support, First Aid, anti-doping tests, “brand protection” and more.

Every single one of these functional areas is presented in a way that helps applicants assess the scope of the role and evaluate their suitability, as per the example below.

Spectator Services

Your Role:

You will be the face of the Games and among the first and last people spectators and guests see during their Games experience. You’ll provide a variety of services, inside and outside our venues, to visitors from all over the world, from giving directions to monitoring access.

Role Highlights:

You’ll have a truly authentic Glasgow 2014 experience. You’ll be part of the team of friendly faces who shape the experience of everyone who comes to see Glasgow 2014.

You’ll be on the ground with a smile and good cheer, interacting directly with spectators and other volunteers.

Is This You?

You will possess excellent communication skills, have a strong focus on customer service and most importantly a positive attitude. Some roles will also require leadership skills.

Please note roles in Spectator Services start from 21 July 2014.

Your Impact on Glasgow 2014

As part of the Spectator Services team you will be in a position to shape the atmosphere of Glasgow 2014. Your good humour and friendly service will be one of the things that will stand out in the memory of everyone who comes to the Games.

While it’s quite clear that Glasgow 2014 has put a lot of time and effort into their organisational structure and development, they haven’t neglected the more emotional side of the preparations, as this great video created for the 500 days countdown demonstrates. To the sound of “I Would Walk 500 Miles” by the Proclaimers, it’s complete with sweeping city sights, hundreds of cans of Irn-Bru, a community choir, construction work and even a cheerful lollipop woman. It’s a lovely celebration of the community involvement: volunteers, fans, local shopkeepers and workers who will, together, create the Games experience.

Additionally, although I’m not usually too keen on Olympic-type mascots, I want to mention the short animation film about Glasgow 2104’s Clyde Thistle, because it’s animated (always a bonus) and because it’s available in a subtitled and British Sign Language version.

Volunteer Management: A Free Taster

Tools of the Trade

Volunteer management is often on my mind right now, and I find that it’s a component of the festival mix that’s not too difficult to get right. Fortunately, there are plenty of enthusiastic people out there who are happy to trade a bit of their time and skills for the satisfaction to create a memorable collective experience. That leaves us with three problems: recruiting, scheduling and communicating.

I’m preparing a presentation on ‘Recruitment, Recognition and Retention‘ with my colleague Saskia for a Volunteer Managers meeting at the Art Gallery of Ontario in April, so I’ll come back to this in a later post .

As for scheduling, the tricky part is not to figure out when volunteers are needed for which tasks, but rather to display them in a manageable way. If you have multiple sites, simultaneous activities, one-off necessities such as an airport run, it can quickly get messy to try to visualise them all at a glance. And without a dynamic system, it’s easy to forget to fill in a shift or to miss out on some volunteers when notifying them of changes. A spreadsheet and emails can go quite a long way, but they’ll cost a lot of time and frustration.

Enter technology, and even better, a totally free software. I’ve used a platform called VolunteerSpot for two different events now, Jane’s Walk and Toronto Design Offsite Festival, and even though it’s nothing like ‘proper’ volunteer management software such as Volunteer Squared, which I blogged about previously, or Volgistics, it’s a million light-years from the awkwardness of a painfully manual system.

A few features that will seem unbelievably sophisticated to anyone who’s never used such a software (i.e. me about a year ago):

    • You can create a custom link that take volunteers straight to your sign-up form.
    • Volunteers register online, with all the details that you want to collect, and they sign up themselves for shifts.
    • You can leave shifts open, with no sign-up limit, or lock them once they’ve reached desired capacity.
    • You can see at a glance any vacant spot.
    • You get a notification when volunteers cancel their shift.
    • Volunteers receive an automated email reminder before their shift.

It’s geared towards small nonprofit and volunteer-led organisations, so it’s suitable for a festival with fairly simple needs, maybe up to 60 volunteers.  Beyond that, it might be worth moving on to a more robust platform that gives you more options and support. After all, Volgistics costs as little as $380 per year for 200 active volunteer records, but that could be $380 that you need to buy volunteer T-shirts.

VolunteerSpot has 5 sample sign-ups to demonstrate its multiple uses and a few video tours. I should also mention that it has a premium version, but if you can afford to pay, then other softwares offer a smoother interface and more features.

A collection of old clocks

So many softwares

Tools of the Trade

I’m using a new (to me) volunteer management software right now, called Volunteer Squared. Rather confusingly, it is sometimes called Volunteer Impact on the back-end, and to volunteers it’s known as Multiple names aside, it’s a rather intuitive system, with all the functions you’d expect – filters, direct emails, reports… – and a few that are sorely lacking (I searched high and low for a way to insert a logo into outgoing emails, to create a signature matching my usual one – unfortunately in vain).

I’m currently working for Luminato as Volunteer Coordinator, and the volume and complexity of the volunteer program calls for a robust dedicated contact management system.

Because I’m prone to bouts of extensive comparative research, I started looking up other large events and organisations to check which system they use, going as far as signing up for a few of them. So far, I’m staggered by the number of different volunteer management platforms out there. Volunteer Squared, Volgistics, Volunteer Hub, Go2Give… there’s also VolunteerMatters, which I  reviewed a little while ago on another blog…  and finally, the feature-light but free Volunteer Spot, also reviewed, and recommended to get a taste of how volunteer management can be assisted by technology.

There are even more options listed on Jayne Cravens’ Coyote Communications website, in a handy comparative table that she updates regularly. Choosing the right software is rather complicated but absolutely crucial, because chances are that once you’ve configured the system, set up your templates, created your registration form… you won’t want to do it again anytime soon.

Which is why I’m happy to stick with the software I’ve inherited in my new role – especially 3 months before the festival. However, if I had to choose one amongst all of the above to start from scratch, I would have a hard time. Given that there might be a few staff members in charge of coordinating volunteers versus several hundreds volunteers using the system, my first criteria would probably be a nice, simple interface that works just the same on all devices and platforms. So I’ll carry on signing up for testing purposes, and chances are that I’ll get tempted to get involved with a few local organisations… because, rather fittingly, I love volunteering for festivals!