Many events and festivals heavily rely on large numbers of volunteers to run smoothly and give their attendees a positive experience.
Many events and festivals are organized by non-profit organizations or community groups, which may not have the resources to pay for all of the labor required to put on the event. In these cases, volunteers are essential for the event to take place at all.
As winter comes to an end, organizers start prepping events for the long days of summer. These preparations include finding, recruiting, and training key festival volunteers whose work makes these concerts and cultural happenings financially feasible.
Less-experienced team coordinators may find this task daunting, since it involves foreseeing the needs of hundreds of guests and performers. To help with this challenge, here is a list of the basic event volunteer roles at festivals that you might need to cover so the show can go on.
Also known as assistant coordinators, they help the lead volunteer manager to implement strategies across all teams in order to make the event function. They are also in charge of recruiting and keeping volunteers involved. As this is obviously a position with a lot of responsibility, it’s usually manned by volunteers who have been with the festival for many, many years.
Setup and breakdown
Every major festival requires a lot of hours spent setting up tents, stages, and other structures, laying out tables and chairs, hanging decorations and signage, unpacking and setting up equipment, and preparing the festival grounds.
This is an active and physically demanding position, where the bulk of the work is done before and after the event.
After the event, it is necessary to find a lot of hands for disassembling stages and other structures, packing up equipment, cleaning up the festival grounds, and loading and unloading trucks. They may also help with organizing and inventorying equipment and materials before and after the event.
Directing attendees and providing information
They may also help with managing entry and exit flow, controlling crowd, managing VIP or special entry lines, directing festival parking, managing the lost and found, guiding attendees to specific areas or stages, and helping to resolve any issues or concerns that may arise.
Registration and ticket sales
Volunteers are a great asset as customer service: helping attendees with purchasing tickets, checking tickets at the gates or entrances, and providing information about the event schedule.
Although many festivals now sell their passes way ahead of time, there are still some that rely on the good ole ticket booth. Other festivals also offer guests the chance to pick up their passes on the spot, which means volunteers are needed to manage these two guest services. This is definitely a front-facing role suited best for friendly helpers.
Working at merchandise or food booths
While large festivals usually rent their food court spots to contractors, community festivals may set up their own volunteer-powered soup kitchen instead.
From checking IDs, to pouring drinks, to manning the till, these volunteers keep guests in good spirits (pun intended!), or sell festival merchandise such as beanies, towels, water bottles, posters and t-shirts. Good people skills and experience as a cashier are recommended here.
Security and first aid
While it’s a bad idea to rely 100% on volunteers in such mission critical matters, volunteers can be of great help with supporting activities such as monitoring festival grounds, providing minor first aid and providing a visible presence to deter potential problems. Checking bags and enforcing festival policies such as no smoking or no alcohol can nip most problems in the bud.
Backstage assistance is usually in high demand as a volunteer spot, as it’s the best place to meet VIPs and experience the industry first hand. Volunteers can help with managing artist and performer schedules, coordinating transportation and lodging for artists and performers, and providing support for production staff and crew.
They may also help with ongoing tasks such as setting up dressing rooms, providing refreshments and meals for performers, running errands, and providing general support as needed. This can include coordinating with stage managers and technical crew, making sure the stage is ready, and the performers are on time, and all equipment is working properly.
A picture says more than a thousand words about your festival. Volunteers with photography skills can help you to snap pictures that you can use to promote future events and keep the festival spirit alive in social media.
Just remember that these are extra pictures, and you should never rely 100% on volunteer media production. If you really need good pictures, hire an additional pro.
Runners / floaters
These are volunteers that go around the festival transporting things from one point to another. They also run basic errands to keep the core team focused on getting things done.
With so many guest publishing to their social profiles, you will need help sorting out the best guest-made snaps and videos about your festival. These volunteers can also create more creative media exclusively meant for social sharing.
Facilitating additional activities
Depending on the nature of your festival, additional volunteer-powered activities may be a great bonus for your visitors. Scheduling guided activities for children or maintaining devoted pet care areas can make your event more accessible for families and pet owners.
As you can see, running a festival is akin to running a small enterprise for a few weeks every year. With hard work and commitment, your team will surely deliver and help you to manage volunteers for an unforgettable event that unites people during the warmest days of the year.