Thursday, June 23, 2011

What Makes a Great Volunteer?

I recently shared a few ways to help my fellow geeks afford comic cons.  One of my moolah-saving suggestions was volunteering at events.  Personally, I have volunteered and managed volunteers at a lot of different events over the past few years.  In that time, I have worked with some really dedicated, caring people that believe in the event they are working.  If you want to volunteer, make sure that you are committing fully because the effort will be worth it. 

Despite my experience, I went to someone that works with geek volunteers for a living to tell you how to be the best con volunteer possible. I got to email the person with all of the answers, Kristin Heise, the Community Manager of ReedPOP.  She manages all of the volunteers for some of the biggest geek gatherings in the country, including New York Comic Con.

What are the driving factors for someone to volunteer?
I am sure the factor(s) vary by person, but below are a couple reasons I have heard more than once from a volunteer use as their primary motivation:

 ·To give back to the community they love. The positive energy at any well-run show is infectious, and we usually attract individuals who want to contribute and promote that sort of atmosphere at New York Comic Con. Ironically, by gathering a group of passionate individuals together to support a common goal, they in-turn create their OWN niche community of fellow crew and staff members—a welcome bonus to hard work!

· The volunteer program lets fans 'peek behind the curtain'. It's a great way for recent graduates and professionals alike to gain more experience while they observe key aspects of event planning and execution.

Do volunteers need to have any specials 
Besides impeccable hygiene and never-ending enthusiasm? Nope! (Author's note: Impeccable hygiene is also a must for every attendee.)

However, we do ask volunteer applicants to tell us about their skills and interests so we can assign them to an area in which they feel comfortable and excited to help.

What are the top characteristics you want in a volunteer?
The typical laundry list that makes any person awesome: proactive, resourceful, patient, friendly, understanding, engaging and, above all else, willing to help.

What are some of the things that volunteers never expect to do, good or bad?
ReedPOP staff members always balance working hard with having fun. Likewise, we encourage volunteers to not only enjoy the convention on down-time, but to OWN their role. In other words: Laggards need not apply!  (Author's note: I totally agree!  Nothing is worse than having to cover for another volunteer!)

How early should someone try to volunteer to make sure that they get in?
We released the application mid-May and will begin accepting volunteers on a rolling admissions basis beginning the end of June through September 16. However, we may fill up slots before September, so the best rule of thumb is to submit an application as early as possible.

A final note is the time WHEN one signs up matters less than WHAT they can bring to the table as a potential volunteer. We aim to recruit helpful, great people to run a fantastic event for our fans—if that sounds like you, give the program a shot!

If volunteering still sounds like a fun idea to you (it really is), then start applying now!

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