First, let me start by saying this (as much as I would like to take credit for it) is not a novel idea. After having my Eureka moment about this last PDF, I quickly realized after doing some research that MANY burns do this. Preheat and Afterburn spend over $4,000 on “volunteer schwag” and volunteer banquet. So… there’s gotta be something to it. Right?
Let’s talk about participation. As a Principle, participation, like everything else is “by invitation”. As much as we would like for everyone to be willing to volunteer for altruistic reasons, people like incentive, and nobody has to volunteer. We have been making strides as an organization, and Participation Station prides itself on continuing to drive improvements and increase volunteerism. However, PDF has begun to fall into a habitual spiral that I think will be detrimental in the long run, and we’ve already begun to see the negative effects with volunteer attrition and leadership frustration… “Voluntelling”. I describe it as the process of shaming, berating, or even attacking participants into volunteering. I’m guilty of it, as are many of us. I’d like to take my grandmother’s advice before it is too late; “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
We, as many departments have found that tokens of appreciation, while not necessarily enough to convince people to volunteer in and of themselves, definitely raise morale and increase retention. Simply put: People like to get stuff and to be recognized or rewarded, and it our jobs as coordinators to make their volunteer experience seamless. This is why TTID literally has a “Volunteer Resource Team” and a commissary open to “ranked” volunteers. On the playa, food and drink are both huge motivators, as well as a source of distraction.
The proposed commissary is twofold.
1. A volunteer breakfast. This breakfast will be served by Participation Station Volunteers from 5am-9am (adjustable). The point is to encourage volunteering and turnout for these early shifts by providing incentive to rise early, as well as eliminating reasons for being late (volunteers coming off 2-5am shifts will be invited to eat as well). We currently lose any PS volunteers to fill shifts when people don’t show up anyway, so the volunteers on shift at this time will be supporting other volunteers at PS instead. We will open a shift and ensure a coordinator or reliable lead is on schedule.
2. Rockstar Banquet. Each department will be given 3-5 “gold stars”. These gold stars may be distributed as Coordinators see fit to volunteers they consider to be exceptional (that volunteer who did 4 shifts, or was clutch in a situation etc.). On Saturday (Pre burn), or Sunday afternoon, we will host a Rockstar Banquet where these volunteers will be treated to Playa Haut Cuisine for just being darn awesome.
* In the future, if this is successful, I would like us to consider investing in opening this up to ALL our volunteers and making it an "All Star Banquet" we could do the raffle there, have other prizes, ceremony and pomp etc…
The proposed cost to do this is minimal, the risk low, and the return on investment is priceless. It is not at all exclusionary, as anyone who volunteers for an early shift will receive breakfast. We will serve the daily allotment until we run out. As far as the process for selecting Superstar Volunteer Banquet attendees, as much as I would like to stipulate rules or guidelines for who receives these gold stars, I think it should be up to each Coordinator. What qualifies for a gold star as a Ranger is different than that of a Parking volunteer. Coordinators are obviously exempt; we take our reward in our jobs after all…
Actually, Coordinators will be invited to the banquet. The point of this is recognition, and I think it is important that in addition to eating, relaxing, and mingling with each other, volunteers have a chance to interact with their coordinators, hear why we value them etc.
I would say the only guideline for now would be to award these stars to the volunteers who truly go above and beyond just showing up and completing a shift. The benefit is more volunteers, and like the raffle, it is a fun reward to look forward to, and shows we care and appreciate the work our volunteers do.
The plan is to do this in the cheapest, simplest way possible. For breakfast, we can serve coffee, juice, eggs, bacon, bread, and vegetarian alternatives. We can use parchment paper and serve taco style to reduce MOOP. The banquet will be buffet style and feature simple, easy to make in bulk, but good foods (think pasta, potatoes, rice, greens, and meat). There will be things to learn from this, and the plan is to start small and simple, so we can gauge success, and come back to this for the Fall after evaluation.
I welcome suggestions, questions, meal ideas, etc.