Racing season is in full swing, and the need for volunteers to safely and effectively stage events can be a daunting task for many race directors.
During the last decade, I have been impressed and inspired by the dedicated volunteers of Durango Motorless Transit who repeatedly give of their time to ensure others experience the gratification of competing.
As a nonprofit organization, the running club relies heavily on volunteers to maximize race proceeds toward sustaining the Marc Witkes FLC Memorial Cross Country Scholarship and for supporting various nonprofits in our community.
Volunteering, especially within the context of an activity you love or a cause you embrace can be extremely gratifying.
Jigger Staby has been the DMT membership coordinator for five years and a regular presence at race registrations, packet pickups and finish lines. “Being passionate about something and feeling like you are making a difference” are a couple of reasons Staby cites for her motivation to volunteer.
The running club struggles with building a larger pool of volunteers by continually evaluating how we can make volunteering more enticing.
“It’s important to help people understand the value of their efforts,” Staby says. “We need to appeal to the sense of being a community that involves everyone doing just a little to help the whole.”
Many organizations have volunteer-recognition events or provide incentives to attract more volunteers. In these busy and economically stressed times, maybe the nature of volunteering has changed from an intrinsic desire to give back into more of an extrinsic need to be recognized for your efforts.
Matthew Krichman, race director for the Steamworks Half Marathon, remembers when he was younger thinking that volunteering was tedious.
“Someone else (parent, teacher) was always choosing the volunteer activity for me,” Krichman says. “The key was to find something I was passionate about, like running. Volunteering at races is like hanging out at a party – everyone’s happy and excited, so it really doesn’t feel like work.”
In addition to the fun aspect, Krichman feels good to be able to give his time to a worthy cause.
“Knowing that my work is helping raise money for a scholarship fund or for the Manna Soup Kitchen makes it really worthwhile,” he says.
Building a larger and more-varied volunteer pool is the goal of many nonprofits, and suggestions abound when the dialogue begins. Encouraging people by offering incentives is one piece of a very complex puzzle.
“A good rule is asking runners that once they have run a particular race three times, that the fourth time they volunteer instead,” Krichman says. “They may not even need to sit out. They can help on the days leading up to the race or help take down the course afterward.”
DMT board member Jim Nichols suggests: “I would advocate for giving them something like a coupon for a reduced fee on their next race entry or something to reward them for helping.”
It’s definitely a topic we will continue to revisit in an effort to bring awareness to the need for more volunteers to sustain the many events we offer. We welcome suggestions for building our volunteer pool and encourage those who have not volunteered to consider giving back to the sport they love.
Marjorie Brinton is president of Durango Motorless Transit, a regional running club. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.