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How to get volunteers to show up to their shifts!

How to get volunteers to show up to their shifts!

We all know that a lot of work goes into putting together an event volunteer team - time spent recruiting, gathering shifts and deciding where and when volunteers are needed, scheduling volunteers based on their unique details, and communication, communication, communication!!! At the end of all this, wouldn't it be nice if volunteers actually showed up to their assigned shifts!! Here are a few ways you can help make that happen:

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Work Hours, Shifts, T-shirts and more

Deciding what offerings to exchange for volunteer work hours can be quite the balancing act - ensuring volunteers see value in providing their time and energy to the event while ensuring the event sees value in the work trade deal.

You may be wondering where to start?! What are you looking for from the volunteers? You want their work hours of course! The event will want as many work hours as possible, and most likely there will be departments asking for MORE work hours than probably should be asked of fan workers. As the volunteer program manager, it's your job to keep both the departments and the fan volunteers happy.

A fan worker at Electric Forest Festival in a sweet event T-shirt

A good place to start when figuring out the program incentives is to start with the price of the event ticket. It's a pretty simple metric to trade 1 work hour per $10 of the ticket cost, usually taken as the 'day-of-show' ticket price, or the cost of the ticket at the Box Office when the gates are open. So if your event's ticket costs $150 at the gates, then you can easily expect 15 hours of work total from each volunteer, as if a volunteer work hour costs $10. Now, if your ticket costs $300, it may not be in the industry acceptability to ask for 30 work hours during the event, but you may be able to ask for this many hours for volunteers pre or post event. Missing 30 hours of the event due to work shifts might not be the most realistic - remember, the volunteers are coming to the event to ultimately enjoy it as a fan!

Once you have decided on the ideal total number of work hours you will ask volunteers to trade for their ticket entry, you can decide how those work hours will be split into shifts, and also decide if some departments will have different shift structures. It's a good idea to keep the shifts as uniform as possible across departments as this makes it much simpler for volunteers and the clock in process, and also makes it much easier to move volunteers around based on changing department needs. However, there may be some departments that require longer or shorter shifts. When deciding to allow these exceptions to the shift structure, it's best to look at the total number of volunteers the department is requesting, and base a decision off of that number. For example, if the department is front gates, and the department is requesting a large bulk amount of volunteers per shift, then it would make sense to accommodate their shift anomalies. However, if the department has a small number of volunteers, it would not make sense to bend the program boundaries for it as it will inevitably create headaches for all involved. Remember, departments will be requesting their best scenario possible, but you must decide what the program boundaries will be, and when it makes sense to bend them. Stay strong friend!

Volunteers at WayHome Festival checking in cars at the Toll Booths

Don't forget to check with local state and federal laws governing breaks and meal requirements based on shift length. Even though this is a volunteer program, you want to structure it in a way that's not going to raise any eyebrows.

OK, so you've got total work hours and shifts. Your program is based on trading a valuable ticket for valuable work hours. Should the program provide anything more? Many programs offer items such as t-shirts, or catered staff meals of vendor meal tokens, swag or merchandise, a place to camp or free parking, or perhaps even special access to areas of the event or special parties. I am personally a big believer in offering t-shirts as it unifies the program and gives the event a polished look, and makes managing the workers much simpler for departments. Catered meals and vendor tokens are necessary if shifts are longer and volunteers will need to eat on shift. Fed volunteers = happy volunteers = happy fans! Perhaps keep the event cost down by offering meals for only those workers that require them on shift.

A volunteer manning the water stations at Boots and Hearts festival

Additional items of value are always cool, but really they are not necessary nor will they really assist that much with recruitment if you are in a recruitment rut. The only value that really shines for the volunteer is 'how much do they have to work each day of the event.' Beyond that, adding smaller items won't change the program basics. However, smaller swag or merchandise, or special privileges can be added on as special incentive to work a particularly long shift, or to recruit into a particularly difficult department, such as early morning trash clean up. When volunteers feel like they are going above and beyond what the general program volunteers are doing, it's a great idea to give them something as a special thanks!

I hope this article helps you come up with the magic formula for your event, meeting your recruitment goals while providing the best value for the event! Happy Festivaling!

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Why do volunteer programs fail? Nail down these 6 vital details in advance of your program launch for sweet success!

Why do volunteer programs fail? Nail down these 6 vital details in advance of your program launch for sweet success!

Managing expectations can be one a challenge to master - you want to give the volunteers enough information to be prepared for their event work, but you don't want too many details to be revealed as these details so often end up changing closer to event time, or even once onsite. It's important to keep a flexible workforce without having to make changes to published information that affects the integrity of the program. These 6 program details are the cornerstone building blocks of any well-managed team - decide them early, and once published, never change them!

Nail down the details that can not be changed, and carve them into stone!

First, figure out what the absolute necessary information volunteers must have in order to successfully (and happily) complete their work shift onsite. This can include the Required Arrival Date and Time, Accommodation details, Meals, Job Requirements, Shift Times, and Perks.

Of course the first few mentioned are no-brainers - it is vital for planning purposes that volunteers understand when they are required to be onsite at the event, and many events require Volunteer Check in prior to event gates. Volunteers should understand this requirement before committing to participate.  Accommodation and Meals are basic needs that must be considered. If the event is out in a field in the middle of no-where, then a spot to camp, or some sort of transport to and from town, must be considered. Meals should be considered for longer shifts, or shifts that are before of after food vendors are open. Of course, providing meals to volunteers is great perk and should always be offered when possible!

Happy Camper Volunteers at Okeechobee Music Festival

Job Requirements may be necessary in some situations, such as long standing shifts, or even long standing overnight shifts, or perhaps shifts that require lots of walking/bending/stooping.  Or perhaps there are shifts that require manual labor. These details should be provided to volunteers prior to confirming them into the program, as some volunteers might not be well suited to certain work conditions or tasks.

Shift Times are necessary in advance so that volunteers can properly plan to be ready to attend shifts, and of course so they can plan their 'off' time with their friends!  What may NOT be necessary is what they are going to be doing ON shift... keeping this detail hidden until shift check in allows the program manager to re-assign workers to other departments as the need arises, without having to deal with broken volunteer expectations (moving Sally from a VIP shift to a Parking shift might not be received with such glee, and could dampen her volunteerism gusto!).

Happy Hulaween volunteers taking a pizza break

Ahhhh the Perks!  Nailing these down and then actually providing them is essential to maintaining program integrity. Perks include lodging, meals, t-shirts or other swag, event passes, food & bev tickets, special privileges and more, and are the main program marketing tools and usually the main reason behind a volunteer's initiative to join the team. Perks are super important to program recruitment, but here's the thing: PERKS PROMISED MUST BE PROVIDED!!!!  I can't stress this point enough - if your program expects the volunteers to keep their promise and work their shift with happy motivation, then your darn-tootin' the perks promised better meet expectations. <--- yes that's right :: MEET EXPECTATIONS.  That means that if meals are promised and volunteers get a PBJ sandwich, that's not going to meet their expectation of a meal (unless your program is made up of toddlers).  So in arranging with the event the perks that the program will offer, be sure to decide on enough perks to recruit ample help, but be sure that the event will follow through on their end of the deal!

Nailing down these 6 details, publishing them at program launch, and never, ever making changes to this vital information will ensure your program is a success and has a platform of integrity to build off of year after year.

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3 Questions EVERY Event Should Ask When Creating a Fan Volunteer Labor Program

3 Questions EVERY Event Should Ask When Planning a Volunteer Program

This may seem like a no-brainer, but your event needs to have an offering that folks are truly interested in. Granted, there is a wide berth to this quality, as let me tell yah, you can find groups of people interested in nearly anything these days, thanks to the internets. But seriously, finding enough folks interested in event offerings can be one of the toughest challenges producers face, and they can spend incredible amounts of money on headlining acts and special experiential performances to that end.

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