Volunteering at a Techstars Startup Week can be a great opportunity for individuals who couldn’t commit to an organizer role, but still want to be involved in the event. It’s also a great way to learn the ropes of organizing a Startup Week—volunteers make the ideal candidates for running a future event.
We recommend that you assign the role of “Volunteer Lead” to someone on the organizing team to be responsible for outreach to potential volunteers, act as their main point of contact, assign volunteer assignments, coordinate volunteer training, and handle all communication to volunteers before, during and after the event.
Volunteer assignments will depend on your specific event activities and needs. Here are a few of the helpful roles volunteers can take on.
Volunteer shift leader: This person gathers the volunteers working their shift and introduces new volunteers to those currently in the role for knowledge transfer. They also make sure everyone has something to do.
Event setup support: This person helps set up the different events. They set out supplies, help out at the registration desk, arrange tables and chairs, put up posters or other decor, and do anything else the organizing team needs help with.
Greeter / information desk / speaker check-in: This person helps with a variety of tasks, including answering any questions about the event and showing people where to go.
Basecamp / Food and beverage / Kitchen support: This person helps coordinate caterers, set up and break down.
Basecamp floaters: This person helps clean and tidy, greet people in the space, manage the crowd and just generally help where needed.
Social media volunteer: This person (or people) helps cover the event on social media to take some of the pressure off the person on the organizing team who is responsible for this during the event.
Tech support / mic runner: This person is available to assist with any and all tasks related to technical support needs that come up during the event.
Mentor coordination: This person meets and greets mentors and helps them connect with those who signed up to be mentored by them during mentor hours.
Marketing materials distribution support: This person helps set up, distribute and transfer posters, stickers, lanyards, and roll-up banners to different venues.
General event support: This person is available to the organizing team to help with whatever pops up over the week.
Connecting with potential volunteers early and often will go a long way in the success of your event. We recommend sending out an email to potential volunteers to get an initial sense of interest in volunteering around 2-3 months before your event. Around four weeks before the event, once you have more information, you should share details about assignments and schedules in an assignment allocation sheet.
When reaching out to potential volunteers, be sure to include the following in your communications:
Techstars Startup Week is powered by volunteers and anyone can get involved, regardless of background, experience, gender, age, skills, or ability.
Give as much information about the event as possible, including dates, venue, and possible assignments.
The mission and values of Startup Week, to inspire and energize potential volunteers, and so they see the value of supporting this type of event in their local community.
Expanding Your Outreach
When reaching out for volunteers, don’t be afraid to expand your outreach. Here are a few places you will want to consider.
Nearby universities—entrepreneurship, BA, or MBA students
An existing email list of past Startup Week or Startup Weekend attendees
Small business organizations
Startup Meetup groups
Your network — your own volunteer groups and colleagues
You can create a volunteer sign-up sheet following this volunteer sign-up sheet example to gather interest from the community. It includes some of the different assignments that might be available at your Startup Week. You can also access a volunteers outreach email template.
Communication makes a huge difference. Please consider the following practices when organizing.
Email list: To keep your volunteers informed and engaged, consider keeping a separate email list of potential volunteers and another list of volunteers who have expressed interest or confirmed volunteering. Many use a Google spreadsheet or Mailchimp list.
Weekly emails: (starting around 4-6 weeks out): Send updates from a personal email, or a provider like Mailchimp. This can include volunteer time assignments and a signup sheet, promotional social media content you want them to share, exciting speaker or session additions, logistical information like parking and transportation details, T-shirt and credential pick-up, and pre-event venue tours.
Training sessions (from 2 weeks out): Invite all those interested and confirmed volunteers for a gathering (or two) before Startup Week to review expectations and prepare volunteers for their specific assignments.
Post-Startup Week volunteer appreciation: Show your appreciation by inviting all volunteers (organizers, mentors, and speakers included) to a post-Startup Week celebration to thank them for volunteering. You can set some of your budget aside for food and beverage for this occasion. Here is a wrap-up and invite email template you can use.