Race Registration & Event Manager

Managing Your Race Volunteers


In December, we offered some tips on attracting race volunteers. Now that you have bushels of volunteers at your disposal, we're going to discuss some tips for managing all of these nice people.

Managing Your Race Volunteers

In December, we offered some tips on attracting race volunteers. Now that you have bushels of volunteers at your disposal, we’re going to discuss some tips for managing all of these nice people.

You've marketed your race, coordinated with your city or park, and runners are getting ready to toe the line. You can't be everywhere at once, so you're relying on your volunteers to help make your race a success. In a lot of cases, these volunteers are people you've never met before, but you're relying on each and every volunteer to be where you expect them to be, at the right time, doing what you need them to do. You're going to have to manage volunteers with different personalities, capabilities, and general work ethic. At the same time, you can't micromanage your volunteers and need to be available to manage every other piece of your race.

Here are some tips that have helped me during my 5k race with 2,000 runners and 130 volunteers:

  1. Have a get-together to meet your volunteers, hand out assignments, and answer any questions they may have. It's much easier to answer questions at that time than 4 minutes before the race. Personally, I host a volunteer get-together the week before at a bar where food and drinks are on me. I have their names on the top of their assignment sheet, get them a shirt and other race swag, and have the opportunity to meet them face-to-face. If a volunteer doesn't show up for free food and drinks, they're probably not going to be too reliable on race day. A lot of times volunteers can't make it the prior week, so I just make a note if they've emailed. In RaceDirector, you can also easily click the button to mark that a volunteer is confirmed.

  2. Provide a handout of written instructions with nitty gritty details. For my race, I have 17 volunteer opportunities and each has a page or two of detail. For instance, someone working as a course marshal will have a specific cross street for their position, map of the course, and details about when they need to be there, what to do, emergency protocol, etc. Here's an example of what I provided to volunteers working the water stop at last year's 5k: (water-stop.pdf). Sure, it might be overkill, but it ensures all aspects of the race go as closely to plan as possible. It keeps the guesswork out of the equation, especially for a position where I'm 1.5 miles away. I've never seen the water stop in action, but I always pick everything up after the race and it's exactly as described in the instructions.

  3. If you have a good group of volunteers you know and trust, you can also assign team captains to certain positions. In the water stop example above, you could choose to assign a team captain, who will communicate with volunteers in their position. You're basically assigning a manager to each volunteer position, so you have fewer points of contact. This can be helpful in ultras where you may have numerous aid stations throughout the course.

  4. Overbook volunteers. There's a point where you simply can have too many people in one spot. However, just like airlines, be sure to overbook by a few people per position, depending on the size of your race; just don't boot the extras like an airline if everyone shows. I generally have a small pool of general race setup volunteers and floaters. If a position has too many missing volunteers, they simply shift over to that position.


Be sure to almost over-communicate details to your volunteers so you can ensure a successful event. You can't do it without your volunteers, so be sure they know they're appreciated, and make it as easy as possible for them to do their jobs.

RaceDirector allows you to easily manage all aspects of volunteer management, including emailing volunteers, creating opportunities, and assigning volunteers to tasks.

See for yourself how RaceDirector can help you save money on race registration fees while maximizing your time with robust race management features.

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