Theatre is an incredibly complex undertaking from just about every way you look at it. It isn’t really meant to be a thing someone does all alone, but we know from personal experience that teachers and directors often shoulder the burden of many different areas. We have found one of the wisest courses of action for a director to take is to start cultivating volunteer relationships by creating a volunteer network!
For most of our 52 years of ministry, we have relied on volunteers to help us minister through the arts. These are people that are willing to give of their time and talents to see something great done for the Lord, and there are countless names of individuals who have come alongside in a myriad of ways to help make a complex undertaking possible. Developing and maintaining these relationships with our volunteers is a real joy, and we want to share with you some of the ways we have been able to meaningfully partner with the people in our community to help bring success to every department!
Have you ever sat down and articulated why you do what you do? Why do you invest your time and energy into theatre? Here at The Academy of Arts, our mission is to reclaim the arts for Christ. We want to train young believers in all the tools of communication so they can use them to make an impact for the gospel. Even when you state that mission simply, it's an inspiring thought. And after years of pouring into young people, and seeing their lives transformed by the truth, the volunteers who step in and help us in our work understand that the goal is not only to produce excellent theatre, but to disciple our cast members, invest in the next generation, and present the light of God’s truth to every audience member.
Now, that is a cause worth investing in, and those who volunteer become a major part of that! If you want to cultivate a network of faithful people who are willing to work alongside you and help, one of the best ways to do that is by finding people who want to serve alongside you and who see the value of what you are doing!
PROVIDE CLARITY On a more practical level, whenever you work with volunteers, it is important to have a clearly organized plan and structure in place so you are not only able to utilize their willingness to help, but are also ensuring you are being respectful of the time they are giving. It can be frustrating for anyone to show up ready to help only to be put into a position where they feel unprepared and potentially even unnecessary. But if you have a clear plan in place for what needs to get done and how your volunteers can help get it done, you will make excellent progress and encourage your volunteers in their efforts.
Ensuring that your volunteers are well informed and prepared to fulfill their role is of the utmost importance in both their experience and the publics. For example, every time someone walks through the doors of The Logos Theatre to attend a performance, they are greeted by volunteers. These volunteers serve as ushers and concessions workers. Each one has specific assignments, and they meet before every performance to ensure each member of the volunteer team is prepared to greet the guests and help make the experience memorable for them! They are trained for each of their jobs and are prepared to do them! The beautiful thing about having clarity as you are working with volunteers is that when you cut through the confusion, the volunteers can see the truth: they are important. They are needed, and the work they do is a major part of the mission.
Another practical way to encourage a strong network of volunteers is by finding a way to offer them some tangible benefit(s). Every situation is different, and depending on the resources you have, you may have to be creative in finding ways to provide benefits to your volunteers.
At the Logos Theatre, volunteering for a certain number of performances will give each volunteer a complimentary ticket to use for their family and friends.
We have had many high school students volunteer in various departments, and as they are trained in different skills and assist with different projects, they are able to earn High School Credit for the hands-on training they receive while they are volunteering.
Something as simple as having a volunteer appreciation dinner or small brunch gathering where everyone can gather and take a look back on the ways the volunteers have impacted the work that year can serve as a reminder to them of their ministry and a small reward for their faithfulness.
That last point leads very naturally into our final tip. Express your gratitude. When God lays it on someone’s heart to help, they don’t usually do it to be thanked, but showing gratitude to those who have helped you along the way is nonetheless important. You can privately thank your volunteers, but also think about ways you can publicly recognize them, whether it be through special recognition in the playbill, or public recognition before performances. Maintaining this grateful attitude is good for you, them, and the public, as you never know who you will inspire along the way to think about joining the team!
TIPS FROM A PRO! Lynn Snow served as the first D.O.V.E for The Logos Theatre for many years, and was instrumental in establishing the system that continues to help the Logos welcome guests seamlessly for every production! Here are few pro-tips for cultivating volunteer relationships and managing volunteers well:
Communication: Communicate with volunteers via email and short (2-3 minute) videos about "insider" information. This would include things such as periodic progress updates for each department, internal happenings, introducing new staff, explaining staff roles & responsibilities, special blessings, customer testimonials, etc.
From the Top Down: Periodic, direct communication from top administration directly to the volunteers (an expansion of your Gratitude point above). Don't always delegate this task to an administrative assistant. Hearing directly from the Top Administration via email, written letter or video gives volunteers a sense that they are important.
Information: Especially important for Front-of-the-House volunteers. Leadership personnel in this area needs clear information about each show such as: aisles being used during certain scenes, loud noises, special effects, difficult scenes, etc. Discuss safety issues for guests with leadership personnel. This information is crucial to Front-of-the House to feel valued and empowered to fulfill their role in making the guest experience a positive one.
Handwritten Notes: Staff can periodically send a hand-written note card to a volunteer to tell them what they appreciate about them.
New Volunteers: Have a basic process for new volunteers. Give volunteers written communication that clearly spells out the mission of the organization, expectations for a volunteer, etc. This legitimizes your organization and sets a standard for everyone. Creating a volunteer packet or fun training video is a great way to start everyone off with success!
Want more tips on organizing a team, thinking outside the box, or creating from scratch? Join The Director's Guild for an immersive learning experience from the leaders in Christian Theatre Resources since 1971!