Making the Band: Key Festival Volunteers

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 roles that festival volunteers need to cover (either on their own or as a team) so the show can go on.

festival volunteers clapping

Junior Volunteer Coordinators

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. Ben Lickerman, Volunteer Coordinator at AFI Documentary Film Festival, details that one of his top priorities as a leader is to create a base of returning volunteers.

“Being able to bring experience forward each year is invaluable to volunteers new to the festival, who will always learn and benefit from the people they’re volunteering with,” Lickerman explains.

Team Supervisor

These are the people who head out the different committees and teams that collaborate in the festival. They have to be both independent and collaborative leaders, while also having a special skill so they can head one of the volunteer teams as journalist Will Coldwell points out in a recent The Guardian article.

“If you already have experience in things like first aid or stewarding you could end up taking on a role with more responsibility, such as managing a team of stewards,” writes Coldwell.

Set-Up and Tear-Down

They are the people who build and remove the stage,  also known as Load-In and Load Out crew. This is an active and physically demanding position, where the bulk of the work is done before and after the event.

According to the Kennedy Center American College Festival, these tasks include securing, processing, and scheduling unloadings and loadings.

Parking Assistant

This team is in charge of welcoming guests that drove to the festival and guiding crew drivers to the drop-off and pick-up zones. This position may be challenging  to volunteers because it requires standing for long periods of time in an area exposed to the elements. Still some former volunteers rate this post as most interesting, as Ian Carroll explains in Outdoor Revival.

“If you enjoy dancing with glow wands, or telling people what to do, it can be a lot of fun. If you’re parking people as they enter, you’re sure to see some funny things fall out of the trunks of overstuffed cars. And you’ll definitely meet people that are pissed about how long the line was as well as people stoked beyond belief to be there. You’ll see it all,” says Carroll.

Registration and Ticket Sales

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, as the Greenbelt Festival volunteer job page describes.

“Here you will be required to exchange wristbands and scan and sell tickets. You will need to be friendly, energetic and able to work under pressure,” states the role description.

volunteer festival barman

Beer Tent Servers

From checking IDs, to pouring drinks, to manning the till, these volunteers keep guests in good spirits (pun intended!). Volunteers may need to be legally-certified to serve alcohol and respect additional rules, like the ones outlined in the Ottawa Dragon Boat festival volunteer call.

First Aid

With so many people running around, small accidents are bound to happen. These volunteers are trained and certified in first aid care and know how to act in case of emergency. This is a perfect fit for people currently working or studying in the medical field, are good working under pressure, or who already have a first aid certificate.

security around mascot

Security

Volunteers in charge of security keep guests and performers safe by keeping unsafe substances and items out of the venue. In case there are guest camps, they also do several overnight rounds to avoid thefts. They also help the younger guests to find their parents in case they get lost, and are in charge of the Lost and Found office.

Some festivals, like the Vancouver Island Music Fest, ask volunteers to rely on the advice of more seasoned volunteers in order to better perform their responsibilities.

“The shift supervisors are amazing and have been with us for many years. They are a wealth of knowledge! Never hesitate to ask questions and get clarification,” suggests the festival.

Merchandise

These volunteers are in charge of the sale of festival merchandise such as beanies, towels, water bottles, posters and t-shirts. Good people skills and experience as a cashier are recommended for this task. Some organizations, like Mile of Music, also request these volunteers to be able to lift up to 30 pounds.

Stagehand

They help performers with the technical details required by their acts. Although these positions usually are filled by more experienced volunteers, newbies can also perform well with the correct guidance. Kristian Clark, former volunteer at the Supersonic music festival, points out that meeting the performers is one of the perks of this role.

“There was a real community spirit to it all, where the artist were genuinely grateful to us for giving our time to help run the festival,” recalls Clark.

concert photographer

Photographers

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. Neda Lundie, former volunteer at the Abbey Medieval festival, notes that this task is quite demanding since so many things can take place at once.

“Photographers get assignments to cover, but there’s always more to fit in. Many times we may forget to eat or stop for more than a quick drink at the fountain because something just happened to catch our eye,” explains Lundie.

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. The ideal runner is a proactive and friendly volunteer as the Electric Love Music Festival describes in its call for volunteers.

“You get to see the inner workings of a festival and behind the scenes experience. It’s also an excellent chance to connect with rad like minded music loving people to make new and possibly life long friends,” states its website.

Social Media

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, as Carrie-Anne Elsden from Heritage Open Days learned.

“I wasn’t expecting how creative and fun it could be as a form of expression. Instagram became a firm favourite of mine, allowing me to utilise my love of photography to bring to life the inspiring stories and words of wisdom I was uncovering,” she recalls.

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 an unforgettable event that unites people during the warmest days of the year.