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How important are volunteers to events

| December 20, 2012

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The purpose of the following paper is to explain how important volunteering for events is; it is inevitable to say events will not succeed without the input of volunteers.  The paper will discuss whether volunteering is a method of reducing costs for the event itself or in general for an organisation. There are numerous concerns in relation to volunteers and the implications in which may occur when participants are made to work long hours with no pay. However this is done from their own free will so this is a complicated issue as volunteers have their own means of motivation. The paper will then focus on explaining the implications of volunteering for Organisers.

A definition of a volunteer can be “someone who willingly gives unpaid help in the form of time, service, or skills, through a club organisation or an association” (Australian Burea of statistics, 2003, p.2).

There are numerous reasons as to why volunteering is regarded as a fundamental aspect in an event, many of the sporting events such as the common wealth games , tennis tournaments, the world cup and etc use volunteers (Green and Chalip,1998). Volunteers make up a large amount of the workforce for an event; Stirgas and Jackson (2003) suggest that without the help of volunteers a sporting event will not succeed. Cnaan and Goldberg Glen (1991) share the same views and state that with the help of volunteers, managers are able to develop the magnitude and diversity of the services required without having to spend in terms of finance, this will be discussed further in the paper.

When sporting events are held each year, Organisers have a growing concern about recruiting volunteers, this in itself goes to show how important volunteers are to the success of an event. It is considered that volunteers are seen as an integral part of an event, this is not just whilst the event is taking place but also before the event has taken place as without the aid of volunteers it is possible that the event would not take place at all


It is apparent to advocate that the role of volunteers in events are important, volunteers aid to the planning of events and also to the organisational aspect of any event, furthermore they also benefit to the marketing and production element of an event (Hall, 1992). Such work carried out by volunteers of an event is imperative in relation to the financial shortfall in which many event organisations struggle to deal with. Yet on the other hand the resources which organisations have to offer appeal to volunteers which is regarded as a means of motivation for volunteers, other methods of motivations can be that, volunteering is seen as a leisure activity as it is associated with similar incentives which leisure activities also have, for example they are both fundamentally motivating, whilst also having constructive advantages such as; positive physical and mental feasibility, a sense of organization, gaining a feeling of purpose and also part taking  in social  participation (Shmotkin, Blumestein and Modan, 2003).

Katz (1960) shares the same views and explains that volunteers are recruited in accordance with their psychological gain, he believes that volunteers have some sort of gain for working in events, it could be for experience, self fulfilment or any of the reasons previously mentioned. However it is not enough …/…..

There has been various debates in relation to whether having volunteers in an event is due to recruitment issues, yet the aspect which is so appealing to organisatiopns is that they are able to have a workforce without having to pay them, thus many mangers in organisations are incredibly reluctant to incorporate human resource concepts to their volunteers as they have such a minimal workforce they are so eager to get them to start work and hesitant to send them away if they are unable to meet human resource requirements, for example if they are not skilled enough to enable them to carry out the job in hand, this is why the organisations are not carrying out the right requirements before taking on volunteers (Hartenian, 2007).

On the other hand volunteers can be classified as consumers and volunteers are regarded as a consumer who would like to take on a challenge in terms of marketing. Managers in this instance search for enabling the needs of consumers to be met, thereby doing all they can to receive the benefits which volunteering brings about, they do this through their product, i.e the event itself and label this as ‘ the volunteering experience’  (Riecken et al., 1994).

Conversely Yavas (1997) argues that it is a necessity to view volunteers in this manner due to excessive pressures and rivalry caused in the voluntary sector, thus this has resulted in managerial organizations to endure survival techniques in the form of using marketing management tools on the application of consumer behaviour concepts. Therefore there becomes an implication in terms of volunteer attraction, drawn from a marketers view point and the perspective of consumer behaviour patterns (Wymer et al., 2002).

Events such as mega sporting events generate a worldwide interest, however this also causes a problem in terms of opportunities and the fact that certain issues about volunteering in some instances can be disregarded. What is meant by this is the fact that when volunteers in an event take part in unpaid labour many organisastions initially think this is a advantage for them as this is a means of reducing costs, they do not consider the other benifits in terms of cultural interaction or postitive association with host communities, yet the first thing that springs to mind would be that they are reducing costs (Getz 1997).

Getz (1997) also discusses other issues relating to volunteering such as; costs and viability, economic restoration etc. Ingerness (2001) also shares alike thoughts on this matter and explains that volunteers in general whether they are volunteers for a mega sporting event or for a local art events, are regarded as an important economic and cultural factor to the production and performance of an event. Green and Chalip (2004) add to this view and state that volunteers are cruial for an event and having volunteers working in an event, is in a way a method of reducing costs as their services and their labour which contributes towards the event is not paid for, whichever way you look at this matter it can be regarded as a means of reducing costs.

The Sydney Olympic games (2000) explained that volunteer labour is vital for the running and financial operation of an event. The Sydney Olympic games needed over 40,000 volunteers for the event (SOCOG, 2000). They also sated that although this was a sporting event on a huge scale, smaller events also require large numbers of volunteers.  Yet research indicates that without the aid of volunteers an event is more than likely to fail, yet there are various implications which are related to volunteers in events for organisers.

Pearce (1993) stated that there are a number of problems with the performance of volunteers, e.g. organisers do not ensure that their volunteers work to a high standard. Howden (2003) also explains that 25% of volunteers fail to turn up for ther shifts, which then causes operational problems for the organisers. Yet on the other hand there have been many cases where the event organisers over recruit volunteers as they view organisers as a source of unpaid labour where they don not understand the factors which influences their reason for motivation, by doing this organisers would gain a better understanding as to why volunteers are willing to give up their time for the event. Another problem with organisers over recruiting is an increase number of volunteers results in an increase in costs for selection, placement, training, transport, meals, etc (Howden, 2003).


An additional implication in hiring volunteers for events is the issues it causes for the volunteers themselves, for example large events are usually staged over a short period of time, sometimes in a number of days, such events have deadlines which must be stuck to thus adding immense pressure on volunteers and making them work in a manner which is highly courteous and example of this is in The Sydney Olympic Games volunteers were made to carry out a minimum of 10 shifts which were each 8 hours long over 16 days (Sydney Olympics 2000).

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