Smart Meetings - The Rose Parade: Inspiring Volunteers for 131 Years
By: Georgia McMillan | Smart Meetings | Published: July 18, 2019
Volunteers make the non-profit planning world go ‘round. The annual Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day is hosted by the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association and employs 935 volunteers every year! That is some incredible volunteer motivation. We talked to the (volunteer) President of the 2020 Tournament of Roses, Laura Farber, about energizing a volunteer base to consistently pull off the world’s biggest (and some say, best) parade.
The Rose Parade
The 2020 Rose Parade will be the 131st parade held in Pasadena. What began as a way to drive tourism towards SoCal, the parade and subsequent Rose Bowl Game have become American institutions.
Preparations for the 2020 parade began before the 2019 event took the first step. This allows bands and float makers time to prepare and fundraise and speaks to the organization of the association. When asked about traction surrounding the parade, Laura touched on the increasing popularity of it. While it has always been a big event (800,000 annual attendees!), technology, social media and innovation have allowed the parade to be broadcasted further and wider than ever before. With this growing innovation and attention comes a growing international presence at the parade. Laura said she has travelled to various countries, many in Latin America, to review bands that want to play in the famed parade. Laura mentioned how often, when she is travelling, people express how amazed they are that such a big event is run by a volunteer-driven organization. Smart Meetings chatted with Laura about how she keeps volunteers motivated, energized and organized. Here’s what we learned:
The prestige of the event is, according to Laura, a huge motivator in getting new volunteers. There is actually a small volunteer fee that participants are willing to pay for the privilege of volunteering. As the Tournament of Roses is much more than just the Rose Parade; they host a youth empowerment forum, give grants to non-profits, host community events etc. volunteers feel they are helping an organization that is doing good for their community. That belief in the values of the association is the main motivator behind volunteer involvement.
Recognition is “absolutely crucial” to keeping volunteers energized and coming back year after year. Recognition of volunteers’ efforts and ideas leads to the high retention rate of volunteers that the Tournament of Roses has and creates an environment in which volunteers feel valued and appreciated.
Volunteers work within 32 Operating Committees that effectively divide and coordinate tasks. The organization also implements a ‘two-year gig’ system in which the first year a volunteer learns and the second year they teach. This promotes innovation and allows volunteers to be creative whilst preserving institutional knowledge. Allowing volunteers to be innovative gives them a chance to make a real impact and is a big motivator!
Smart Tip: If you end up in Pasadena around New Year’s, the Pasadena CVB has a visitors’ hotline available in the weeks leading up to the parade to help with information about the event, hotels, travel etc. so expert advice is just a phone call away!