People volunteer for different reasons.
Some people volunteer as a way to get connected and break into the industry they are interested in.
Some people volunteer for perks.
Whatever the reason, there is an art to volunteering and in order to be successful, you MUST have the heart of a volunteer.
As someone who requests the services of volunteers frequently, I thought I might use my blog as a reference point for those who sign up to help me out in the future. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
To volunteer means to donate your time, goods and/or services to help fulfill the goal of another. That means that YOUR goals, should go out of the window. You should come to work focused, with a willing heart and eager to do WHATEVER is asked of you.
Because you are at the mercy of the person you are reporting to you should volunteer for work that you have an affinity for. Keep in mind that as a volunteer, your role may not be pre-defined and oftentimes, you are given assignments “on the fly”. You should, therefore, be prepared to be flexible. This can mean multi-tasking, but, it can also mean that you are seated for five hours with nothing to do. It depends on the cause, workflow, etc.
Keep in mind that if you are volunteering, you are working for free. You know that when you show up. Don’t continue to seek ways to “get paid” while on the job. In most instances, where volunteers are used, there is no staff budget or it has already been allocated – which is why the call for volunteers go out.
Closely related is the subject of perks. Each scenario will vary, but, when perks are offered, take what’s given and not more.
If you want a good reference on your resume in the field that you are volunteering in, WORK. Don’t expect to chill on the sidelines all day and then get a stellar referral.
While in the midst of grinding on a project, if you find there is a lull, show initiative. Often times there is more work, however, since volunteers are onsite for a limited amount of time, everyone is not familiar with your skill set. If you see a need, offer to fill it. You are after all, there to help.
Don’t hand out your business card or resume. Ask for an email address if you don’t already have it and then follow up AFTER you have put in the work. Let them know your skill set and that you are eager to help whenever possible.
On a gig I worked a few weeks ago I had my both my best and my worst volunteer encounter:
WORST VOLUNTEER ENCOUNTER
As I walked past the Founder of the event, I was told that a member of an artists entourage arrived a day ahead of schedule and was onsite. I was asked if I would give them a personal escort to retrieve something from their vehicle and then bring them back into the venue as their credentials were not available until the next day.
I STOPPED what I was doing and walked the “member of the artist entourage” to his vehicle. As he questioned why he couldn’t be credentialed a day early, I got suspicious. If you’re doing this for a living, you KNOW the drill.
As God would have it (yup, he’s with me at work, too!), the head of volunteers walked past me and asked if I had all the staff I needed. Upon hearing me address him by name, the “member of the artist entourage” introduced himself to the volunteer staffing head. I was then informed that the “member of the artist entourage” was in fact, a volunteer scheduled to begin work for me the next day.
I very discreetly, albeit in uncertain terms, let it be known that this volunteer was to come no where near my area or have access to VIP’s at ANY time. He was assigned to a parking lot as far away from the venue as possible.
The next day, to my shock, who did I find in one of our backstage areas? As I approached, he walked right up to me and informed me that the artists needed more water.
Note to liars: Remember who you lied to and the lies you told. I have a memory the size of an elephant.
I reprimanded him and sent him back to his parking area and informed the stage manager that they should be aware of who has access to backstage and to make sure someone was checking credential levels.
Later, guess who was backstage again?
Here’s the thing. There is ALWAYS someone who volunteers at entertainment events who are just fans. They don’t want to work. They want to get as close to their favorite artist as possible. Don’t volunteer on my watch. You will get ejected from the venue.
BEST VOLUNTEER ENCOUNTER
A young lady and her boyfriend worked FEVERISHLY, always asking if they could do MORE. They had already PAID to attend the event. Nothing was too large or too small and the minute ANYONE asked who wanted to help them with something, they were OFF AND RUNNING.
After they finished their volunteer duties, they enjoyed the event and during a break, the FOUND ME and asked if there was anything else they could do! After I saw their work ethic the first day – I got them bumped up to VIP status at the event.
I needed volunteers for a hotel launch I worked on shortly after. Guess who I called first?
P. S. I had NO IDEA until the event was over that the young lady has Lyme Disease.