Event Staff: Should You Hire or Use Volunteers?

Event Staff: Should You Hire or Use Volunteers?

When planning for your next event, one of the most crucial components is event staff. Having enough people to facilitate everything from ticketing and registration to concessions and security is vital for a smooth event. 

However, when trying to find new staff, do you use volunteers or paid employees? Both options have pros and cons, so let’s break them down into different categories.  

Paid vs. Volunteer Staff (what is better)

a-woman-serving-drinks-at-an-event

Accountability

The bare minimum for event staff is for them to show up and work. As a rule, paid workers are far more accountable because they have a stake in the event’s success. If they don’t work, they don’t earn any money. 

By comparison, it may not motivate volunteers to show up or work hard.

That said, the type of event you’re producing can influence your staff’s accountability. For example, if you’re hosting a charitable event, volunteers may be passionate about helping out. In those cases, volunteers might be more reliable than paid workers who are only there to get a paycheck. 

 

Professionalism and experience

Just because you have enough staff members doesn’t mean that they’ll be good at their jobs. Some positions require training and expertise, while others may just need warm bodies to perform simple tasks. 

If you use paid workers, you can pay extra for high-quality personnel. For example, security officers for big events should get paid well so that they’re more motivated to enforce health and safety rules. Otherwise, volunteer security staff may not do the job correctly. 

Volunteers are ideal for low-skilled positions that don’t require technical experience or training. However, sometimes, volunteers can be taught to perform an array of tasks if they’re motivated enough. For example, if they can use the experience as job training, they might be more willing to work hard for free. 

 

Budget

Here is where volunteers are ideal. If you’re on a tight budget for your event, paying for staff members can be pricey, especially if you have a larger event. 

That said, some positions may have to be paid, and you should also consider any training time or supplies necessary for your staff members. For example, will workers need to wear shirts that say “staff” or use any equipment like walkie-talkies or mobile phones? If you’re using volunteers, you may need to be careful about providing expensive materials, as they may not handle them with care. 

 

Training

Depending on the event you have, there are quite a few trained positions to fill.

Some examples include: 

  • Ticket Taker/Registration

  • Security Officer

  • Concession Cashier

  • Clean-up/Janitorial

  • Guest Services

  • Entertainment Manager/Stage Manager

 

As the event coordinator, ensure that all these positions work cohesively for a smooth and profitable event. When looking for paid employees, you can usually find individuals with sufficient experience in each of these fields.

For volunteers, you’ll have to provide some on-site training to most of them. 

Again, volunteers are suitable for low-skill positions that require little expertise. Everyone’s skill level will be different, so it’s hard to know what individuals can handle. 

 

Availability

Sometimes, volunteers may be more available than paid workers. Most times, volunteers are retirees, college students, and other people who have extra free time on their hands. So, working at an event is a fun and exciting way to spend their day or weekend. 

On the flip side, finding paid event staff can be challenging, particularly for one-off events. In those situations, you may have to use a staffing service or recruited to find skilled workers. Posting a job online can yield some results, but it’s hard to find motivated people to work one or two nights. 

If you’re hosting a multi-day or multi-week event, it’s easier to find paid staff than volunteers. Paid workers are more willing to stay on site for a couple of weeks because it will be a full-time job until the event finishes.

Since volunteers are unpaid, they probably won’t be able to commit to the entire duration. The other issue with that is training new batches of volunteers since the turnover rate will be high. 

 

Bottom line: Get the right staff for your event

As you can see, many variables can influence the quality of the staff you can recruit for your event. Sometimes, volunteers will be the best option, while paid workers are better in other instances. On some occasions, you might do best by using both types of staff, depending on the jobs and positions available. 

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