A volunteer ’s perspective! As an Event Management student, my perspective on event volunteering comes from being a frequent participant over the last few years. In the event students world volunteering is considered as an important extension of our education. Our lecturers tirelessly encourage and promote the value of volunteering. Industry professionals tell us our employability value is measured by our event experience rather than our studies. Most Event management students know they have to pack their CV with event experience and at the present time volunteering is the easiest route to that experience.
It has been found that in general students are willing to volunteer, as according to the 2013 National Student Union survey, student volunteering saves charities and organisations over £175 million a year. Academic researchinto the motivation of students has noted that they have a mixture of altruistic (doing a good deed) and egotistic (self-serving) reasons for volunteering, but it is the pressure we feel to gain work experience, in a competitive employment environment that drives us the most. Further research has shown a 9% rise in volunteering in 2013 when compared to 2005. The burning question is whether the rise is sustainable or fuelled by the Olympic legacy of the 2012 Games maker’s achievements.
One point on which the industry and academic opinions agree is the fact that a large number of events would not happen without volunteers. Considering the needs of the students and the event industry this should be a win- win relationship for both groups, however there are mixed feelings from the student camp.
From my viewpoint, there are clear advantages and disadvantages to the relationship between an event student and an event organisation. Some of the volunteering advantages are the networking opportunities and seeing theory turned into practice. Other advantages can come from the worst tasks, such as; being a human sign post, moving boxes, rubbish collection, filling goody bags, ‘flyering’ the list of basic tasks is endless. While they may not be the most glamorous tasks, there is no better way of doing a time and motion study of basic events operations tasks, than by filling 6000 goody bags or hand out 10,000 flyers. As a hopeful future event manager I feel I am in a stronger position with an appreciation of the worst tasks. I can safely say that seeing and being part of the organised chaos behind the scenes of events has helped me run my final year event to a successful conclusion.
The disadvantage I have noticed some students facing is being expected to work very hard and pay for the privilege, as under the definition of volunteering, some organisations feel they can go without offering even basic travel costs. This holds students to ransom offering them the work experience they need, but with the increased cost of living and the rise in tuition fees, organisations are in danger of losing the student volunteers demographic. In my view unless we choose to volunteer totally free and pay our travel costs, we should not be made to in effect pay to volunteer.
I have noted that happy volunteers make good repeat volunteers and more importantly happy staff at your event do contribute to a good event atmosphere.
This is a guest post by Lorraine Tragett. Lorraine is a mature soon to be Event Management Graduate from the University of Greenwich. She has volunteered and worked at more than 30 events. You can tweet her @ToriaTragett