Why the volunteer team is the backbone of your music festival
When you start to staff your music festival, don’t underestimate the power of a volunteer team. Your volunteers are people who want to be part of your experience, and they’re willing to give their free time in exchange for access to the festival. Through this harmonious exchange, you’ll be able to provide opportunities to others while increasing your ROI. Not to mention, you could be encouraging some valuable team members for the future!
There are quite a few areas in the festival that could be staffed with volunteers. Just to name a few, ticket scanners, trash pickup, and parking attendants are positions a volunteer could do. We’ve included more ideas for you in our free download below.
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The way to recruit the best team in a “work hard, play hard” culture is to create an engaging and organized volunteer program. We’ve put everything you need to know in a timeline you can repeat for every event. Read on and use our free volunteer scheduling sheet to put together and execute a successful volunteer program.
Phase 1: Recruiting the volunteer team
The best resource for recruiting volunteers is anyone that has volunteered for you in the past. You can always incentivize returning volunteers with upgraded camping, free meals, etc. But if this is your first time establishing volunteer management procedures, be sure you have clear processes in place with your event management team.
Begin running social posts and email blasts about your volunteer program. Make sure it has links to application forms and information pages. Make sure to include all of the essential information on the pages and posts, such as the time commitment, contact information of the volunteer coordinator, and all of the added benefits of volunteering.
Log applications into a database or software to match skills to responsibilities. You might consider looking into a volunteer management software or app that can help store applicant and volunteer information.
Phase 2: Engaging with potential volunteers
As you accept volunteers into the program, begin with a warm welcome to your organization. Address each volunteer personally and let them know what to expect in the coming months or weeks leading up to the festival. Create private social media pages for volunteers to encourage healthy communication and engagement.
Send emails and post social blasts up until the festival. The volunteer coordinator should have increments of checking in with volunteers to make sure they’re still committed. Most music festivals charge a deposit for a ticket that is returned after the festival is over. If you decide to do this, still have a contingency plan in place in case a volunteer wants to cancel their ticket early.
Plan volunteer meet-ups and activities. This is where you can get creative! The more fun and inviting you make the experience from start to finish, the better luck you’ll have at retaining volunteers for your next festival.
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Phase 3: Volunteer scheduling
First decide your approach to volunteer scheduling: Top-down or Self-registration? Top-down is the old-school way where one 1-2 people make decisions regarding scheduling. In self-registration, the volunteers will sign up for open positions and/or time slots to fill on a first-come, first-served basis. Naturally, there are pros and cons to both of these approaches.
Old school scheduling will take up more employee hours because there needs to be at least one person writing the volunteer schedule and there will undoubtedly be last-minute changes from the volunteers throughout the entire process. Some volunteer management organizations choose to let volunteers elect their top three music artists, and the person in charge of scheduling will take do their best to work around them.
The self-registration approach gives volunteers the opportunity to work at their desired times and/or positions. You’ll have a lot of volunteer positions open up in the beginning, but might have some trouble filling the last spots - especially if they’re during the headliners. This is where the volunteer coordinator steps in to ensure all the spaces are filled. Either way, always plan for no-shows by adding a few extra people in the schedule for padding.
To save time, consider using an employee scheduling software, or our free Music Festival Volunteer Scheduling Sheet. This way you’ll have a central location to store all of the information needed.
Phase 4: Volunteer management
There are three important guidelines to follow when it comes to managing volunteers effectively. Maintain communication, provide clear direction, and have a designated go-to person for the volunteers. This is another reason why hiring or nominating a volunteer coordinator from your staff is so important.
The volunteer day-to-day person should be the one implementing these guidelines at the festival. It would also be beneficial for the volunteer coordinator to take part in writing the SOP’s for instances like volunteer no-shows, safety procedures, and how volunteer credentials will be handled.
Phase 5: Volunteer team retention
The ideal scenario is being able to retain 30% to 50% of your volunteer team for next year’s festival. You can accomplish this by incentivizing repeat volunteers with upgrades that gradually get better with every year they volunteer. For example, volunteer coordinators would rate the performance of each volunteer. If the volunteer has a good rating, they qualify for ideal scheduling slots or hours.
Even if you decide not to incentivize, you can create a great experience that will have volunteers returning by providing a safe and organized work environment. Make the process as simple as possible for volunteers and always deliver your promises on time.
Photo by ray sangga kusuma on Unsplash
Now you’re ready to execute the plan
You have all the information you need to run a successful volunteer program for your music festival. The bottom line to remember is that your program will work as well as the effort and care you put into it.
Recruit your volunteers by offering a unique experience. Engage with them throughout the entire process to encourage communication. Schedule fairly and according to business needs. Have clear management guidelines, and deliver promises. Following these tips will help you retain your volunteers for years to come.
Start creating and executing your plan by using our free volunteer scheduling sheet. Download now to get started!