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Manging Music Festival Volunteer Shifts.

Andy Robertson

Every music festival relies on volunteers to make their events happen and they are a key part of festival operations. Volunteers can be fickle and the motivation for each volunteer can vary wildly. How can festival organisers perfect their volunteer shift management to maximise the effectiveness of the volunteers they have.


One of the biggest challenges for managing volunteers is the potential reliability in performing duties they have been scheduled and assigned to. The volunteer recruitment and selection process can help to select volunteers more likely to be reliable by choosing those with previous experience and many organisers also ask for a small deposit that is refunded after the event and successful completion of their duties. Assuming that a festival organiser has successfully recruited their required number of volunteers and they have completed their training what steps can they take to manage the shifts?

Identify Work Duties. 
The volunteer manager should identify the work details required and in the planning process estimate the number of volunteers required to perform those tasks matching this to volunteer availability. Typical duties and tasks may include litter picking, cleaning, security, entrance gate duty, customer services, medical centre assistance, traffic management and campsite stewards for example.

Allocation of Volunteers. 
Allocation of shifts to volunteers is usually based on their preferences, availability, experience and skill set which should be established in the recruitment process. It is not unusual for volunteers to be expected to do 3 x 8 hours shifts over a typical 3 - day festival which gives them sufficient time to enjoy their complimentary event entry. All shifts allocated will be split between different hours on each day and most organisers attempt to provide a balance of duty types and time of day allocated.

Flexibility.
The key to successful shift allocation is predicting the number of volunteers required for specific duties. If a shift requires 8 volunteers it makes sense to perhaps allocated 9 or 10 to allow for sickness and no shows which unfortunately are still common place. If volunteers inform the manager that they are unable to make an allocated shift the planning should be dynamic enough to move volunteers around between shift duties as requirements change. Having an automated shift system that operates in real time accessible by volunteers ensures that notifications and reminders can be sent to volunteers as things change. Such a system accessible on mobile devices means that volunteers can be contacted at any time and wherever they may be located on a festival site.

Volunteers give up their free time in exchange for festival access and on the whole this transaction works well but organisers need to have a robust shift planning and management process in place that can react to changing circumstances. This requirement for flexibility should be clearly communicated to volunteers during the training programmes which will help maintain the good relationship between organisers and volunteers. 

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics including a dedicated volunteer management module. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov via Pexels

Andy Robertson
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