The volunteer experience at the Esplanade was more positive than the experience at Very Special Arts (VSA) for the following reasons. The instructions given at the Esplanade were clearer than the ones given at VSA.
There was also more support and supervision given at the Esplanade. Compared to VSA, the volunteers’ welfare was better-taken care of at the Esplanade. The event held at the Esplanade was a Mother’s Day concert for invited guests only. They mainly came from old folk’s homes or daycare centres.
The volunteer’s job scope was to usher the guests to their designated sitting area. As for VSA, a theatre production of Peter and the Wolf was held. The volunteers’ duty was to usher people to their seats and ensure that those who require sign language interpretation were seated in the front row. Since it was a free seating arrangement, we also had to ensure that the audience filled up the empty seats in between.
Firstly, we will be comparing the instructions given during the briefing session for both organizations. The Esplanade did a better job of giving clear instructions to the volunteers. For instance, the volunteer management team gave volunteers a handout. The handout was detailed as it included the event timeline, our job scope and clear directions to lead the guests to their seating area.
Moreover, the volunteer managers were clear of what volunteers had to do so they could promptly answer any questions that were raised. This ensured that the briefing session went smoothly. As for VSA, the instructions given during the briefing were unclear. It seemed that the volunteer management team did not come up with specific instructions and logistics to provide for the volunteers.
For instance, there were designated seats for VIP guests and for those who require sign language. We needed to know where their designated seats are to ease the ushering process, and the volunteer manager only gave us the seating plan after we asked for it. Moreover, they could not immediately clarify some of the volunteer’s doubts.
In order to improve on the volunteer experience at VSA, volunteer managers can consider printing out a handout like what the Esplanade did. A handout will be able to concisely inform volunteers about their job scope, event details, certain aspects they need to take note of and the seating plan. A better communication medium like this ensures that volunteers are clearer of their responsibilities.
The act of giving instructions is a form of communication. Tompkins stated that communication consists of explaining to volunteers about the way the organization runs their events and the expectations that volunteers should adhere to (as cited in Gasiorek & Giles, 2013). The expectations can also encompass the explanation of a volunteer’s duties for the event, and the code of conduct they need to abide by.
With the lack of clear information and details, volunteers will tend to get confused, and this may hinder them in carrying out their duties effectively. Kramer considers communication as an essential factor in interacting with volunteers who involve themselves in volunteering activities for a day (as cited in Gasiorek & Giles, 2013). This applies to most of the volunteers at the Esplanade as it was a one-day event.
Clear instructions play an important role in ensuring effective communication between volunteer managers and volunteers. Volunteers can carry out their responsibilities with confidence when they understand the volunteer manager’s expectation of them. Thus, good communication is key to ensuring that volunteers can execute their duties well. Subsequently, the support and supervision provided at the Esplanade were more prominent than VSA.
At the Esplanade, the volunteer managers aided volunteers in the ushering process when it got too crowded. In addition, on the event day, each volunteer was paired with a full-time staff or a more experienced volunteer. This pairing system ensures better supervision of the volunteers, as the staff can better direct and advise them on how to execute their duties more efficiently.
To emphasize the sufficient support provided, I will provide another example. Halfway through the event, the volunteer managers checked in on us, asking if we could handle our job scope and if we require any assistance. This assured us that we are well-supported should we face any issues during ushering.
On the other hand, VSA did not provide enough support and supervision for their volunteers. Unlike the Esplanade, the volunteer managers at VSA hardly gave volunteer assistance. They rarely check in on them to see if they require any support. As a result, volunteers had to solve any problems they faced by personally approaching the volunteer managers.
To elaborate on this point, I will provide an observation. One of the issues we faced while volunteering was that we were unsure of how to identify the VIP guests., so two of us needed to approach the managers to clarify our doubts.
In my opinion, the staff at VSA can check in on their volunteers from time to time so that they can seek assistance with ease. This can also reassure volunteers that there is the support provided for them. We can utilize the social exchange theory to explain why support is essential in motivating people to volunteer. Blau defines social exchange theory as the voluntary acts of an individual which are motivated by the rewards they expect to receive (as cited in Usadọlọ, 2016).
For example, in the context of volunteerism, people expect rewards or benefits from the organization in exchange for chipping in their time and effort to volunteer. Blau, Cropanzano and Mitchell state that the exchange can come in several ways. One of them would be in the form of assistance (as cited in Usadọlọ, 2016). Assistance assures them that there is a source of support they can rely on should they face an issue. Thus, the provision of good assistance and support can ensure the volunteers’ needs and expectations.
Last but not least, the Esplanade also took better care of the volunteers’ welfare. They cared for the volunteers’ well-being. For example, during the briefing for the Mother’s Day concert, the volunteer managers asked if any one of us were afraid of heights so that they can relocate us to another circle which is nearer to ground level. After the event was over, they provided a space for volunteers to rest and offered refreshments, such as drinks and light snacks.
All the volunteer managers also thanked them for their hard work. This made volunteers feel appreciated. However, VSA did not seem to pay as much attention to their volunteers’ welfare. They did provide us with water as a refreshment, but only a few volunteer managers thanked us for putting in our time to help out for the event. This may cause volunteers to feel less rewarded as compared to volunteering at the Esplanade.
To improve on this aspect, VSA can reward volunteers such as giving them vouchers or discounts for their future productions in exchange for taking their time to volunteer. This can make them feel valued and it can motivate them to volunteer for future events. A motivational theory: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can emphasize the importance of taking care of a volunteer’s welfare.
When one’s welfare is well taken care of, the person will feel appreciated for the hard work and effort that was invested. This fulfills the fourth stage of the hierarchy, which is esteem needs. Maslow broke down this need into two categories. One of it would be the “desire for reputation or respect from others (as cited in McLeod, 2018).” This means that as humans, we crave for appreciation and recognition for our contributions to satisfy our esteem needs, which explains the need to reward volunteers.
To add on, when volunteers are appreciated for completing their duties, they will feel a stronger sense of belonging to the organization. This is supported by Huppert (2017) who discovered that the top factor that contributes to the feeling of inclusiveness in a company was the recognition of an individual’s accomplishment.
This links to the third stage of Maslow’s hierarchy: Social needs, which ensures that volunteers feel accepted by the organization when they are recognized or rewarded for their efforts (Cherry, 2018). Esteem needs and social needs play an essential role in making volunteers feel valued for their hard work. As a result, people may enjoy their volunteering experience more and involve themselves in more volunteering activities.
In conclusion, I find that the volunteer experience at the Esplanade was better than VSA as their briefing instructions were more clear-cut. This makes it easier for volunteers to understand their job scope. The volunteer managers at Esplanade also ensured that they supported and supervised their volunteers during the event, however, the VSA managers rarely supported and assisted their volunteers.
The volunteer management team at the Esplanade ensured that their volunteer’s welfare was well taken care of, whereas in VSA, they lacked in looking out for the volunteer’s well-being. Through volunteering for these two organizations, I learned that good volunteer management is important as it can affect an individual’s motivation to volunteer again. With good volunteer management, arts managers are able to better understand the needs of volunteers. This can help arts managers to improve the volunteer experience for future events.
Good volunteer management can also create a more inclusive working environment for volunteers. This can provide volunteers with a more enriching experience, and they may volunteer again as a result.