One of the responsibilities of being Volunteer Chair for Boston Pride is planning a party to thank all of the volunteers that made the events happen that year. In the past it had been a gathering at a billiards place or bar, but I wanted to make it a real selling point in recruiting volunteers. I approached a few cruise ship companies based out of the Boston Harbor to see if they would be interested in a barter. Boston Harbor Cruises answered the call and donated the ship, staff, food, beer, and wine for a 3-hour event in exchange for a sponsorship package of ads, registrations, etc.
Telling volunteers that they would get a free cruise for volunteering was a huge addition to my pitch. I created a few events within the cruise that I hope will encourage the volunteers to return next year. The first was “Speed Meeting.” Lots of volunteers join up to meet new friends, professional connections, dates, etc. I wanted to make sure those connections were facilitated. I created speed meeting to be like speed dating, but instead of just meeting a date you could meet a friend or other connection. Everyone who wanted to participate had two minutes to talk to a stranger, then I would ring the bell and they would move on to the next fellow volunteer and have two minutes to talk to him or her.
The other was an Awards Ceremony. This was something the Pride Committee had been talking about doing for years, but hadn’t been done, at least for several years. I created awards such as the “Unwavering Loyalty Award” for a volunteer who stood in the rain without an umbrella or rain jacket to complete his task, the ”Sustained Leadership Award” for a group of veteran volunteers, the “Long-Distance Love Award” to the volunteer who had traveled the farthest to be a part of Boston Pride. Winners received certificates, Boston Pride schwag, CD giveaways, and in some cases, tickets to upcoming shows! Overseeing and MC-ing this ceremony was a lot of fun and I think it gave all of the volunteers incentive to return and go above and beyond in 2011.
The whole event was a blast and the Boston Harbor Cruises staff and Boston Pride Committee team helped out so much that I was even able to enjoy myself too. Being the MC was so much fun – I could live with a microphone in my hand. Thanking volunteers is one of the best parts of being a volunteer coordinator!