Go Deeper

Volunteering: A Primer

Posted June 1st, 2010

Without the 175+ ushers, ticket sellers, fire exit monitors, house managers, and general helpers that we round up each year, the Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe would not exist. How do we get an army of such hardworking folks without cash bribery?

Students from Drexel’s Entertainment & Arts Management program visited the Live Arts/Fringe office for a quick tutorial on volunteer management, hosted by Community Outreach All-Stars Molly and Sudi and featuring managing director Carolyn Schlecker and former volunteer manager Karina Kacala (now with First Person Arts).

We thought we’d share some of the day’s tips in case you want to muster a group of volunteers for your company. For fun, we recommend copying the following onto flashcards.

TIP #1 People with volunteer management talent come from all types of backgrounds. Before joining Live Arts/Philly Fringe, Carolyn worked as a lawyer, and Karina was an opera singer. Who knew?

TIP #2 Ditto for the volunteers. Some of our workers are artists, but many don’t have any performance experience at all, and this is their way to be a part of something creative.

TIP #3 A volunteer organizer should be charismatic and extremely organized. When she interviews for the position, Carolyn tries to scare people a little: “They can’t fall apart on us!”

TIP #4 Have a plan. Volunteers shouldn’t feel like they’ve been plopped into the midst of chaos. Before you get the people, know exactly what the people need to do.

TIP #5 Your volunteers should have fun! It’s a great way to make friends, so make it easy for them. Parties are good–think welcome parties, thank you parties, and training sessions masquerading as training parties. For long-term success, a volunteer corps needs to feel socially connected.

TIP #6 Give your volunteers real world recognition. When we feature super-special volunteers on our Live Arts/Fringe blog, for example, their friends, neighbors, and grandmas can read it, and appreciate how cool they are.

TIP #7 Don’t lie, or make a job out to be something it isn’t. If someone has to sit alone and watch a fire exit until 3 in the morning, they probably want to know that before they sign up.

TIP #8 Know the reasons why someone would want to be associated with your organization. Our Festival fans are a passionate bunch, but if your organization doesn’t have an obvious attraction, figure out ways to make joining your club appealing.

TIP #9 Most important: Say thank you. Sounds obvious, but many organizations forget to thank those who work for free.

We always say thank you! So wanna volunteer with us? Get in touch with Molly Weingart ( and she’ll hook you up!

–Mara Miller

Photos by Sudi Green