Acquiring a weekend pass for an event can sometimes be the most expensive part of the entire weekend. While paying over $100 just to get in the door may initially seem steep, it is important to remember that event directors are spending a lot of money to put on their event, and are lucky to break even after paying for the venue, teachers, judges, DJs, and so much more. Still, it is understandable if the price of the weekend pass is a bank-breaker for you. Luckily when it comes to putting on a killer event, organizers have a need for more than just money to make it happen, they’re also in need of many extra pairs of hands! Offering some of your time to volunteer for an event is a great option that allows you to save money while also contributing to the production of the event.
What Does a Volunteer Do?
Generally, signing up as a volunteer requires you to contribute 8-12 hours of your time over the course of the weekend. Duties may include setup and teardown, working the registration desk, selling merchandise, watching the door, or helping with tech/lighting.
Volunteer coordinators want to ensure that their volunteer team is willing and able to show up at the times they are scheduled, so typically a questionnaire will be sent out prior to making the volunteer schedule, to ensure that everyone is only assigned shifts during times when they are available. This way, no one is scheduled to work at the same time as their competitions, or assigned to work setup on Thursday when they won’t be getting to the event until Friday. Some volunteer coordinators also allow you to request certain times of the day you prefer to work, or allow you to pick certain workshops you would like to attend over the weekend, and will make sure you won’t need to work during those times. Other events create a Google Doc that gets shared with the entire volunteer team, so that everyone gets to choose their own time slots. Every event does things a little bit differently, but in my experience, most of them want to give you a schedule that is convenient for you.
When to Volunteer
Something else I have learned is to plan ahead and be mindful of which events I choose to volunteer my time at. If I’m going to an event where I’ll be seeing a lot of friends I don’t normally get to see, I might opt not to volunteer that weekend so I can use my spare time to catch up with them. Another factor to consider is event location. Some events are held in cities I would like to explore while I’m there. If hanging around an extra day after the event isn’t an option, I want to make sure I allow myself the time to sight see over the course of the weekend.
Personally, the events I choose to volunteer at are usually ones held closest to my hometown, and I do this because events closer to home usually consist of friends I see often, and are typically held in locations I have already visited many times.
Why to Volunteer
The most obvious benefit to volunteering is the fact that you don’t have to pay for your weekend pass. This is a great way to attend many events on a small budget—especially for people aiming to compete a lot or make attending West Coast Swing events regularly part of their lifestyle. It’s economical and truly not much of a sacrifice at all (especially since it can allow you to attend MORE events). A few hours per day over the course of the weekend is a small price to “pay” to save over a hundred dollars.
The second-but-still-very-important benefit is friends! Through volunteering I have crossed paths with so many people that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have met, and have actually become quite close with some of them. Personally I’m on the quieter side, and am not typically one to go out and spark a conversation with everyone I see. When I’m volunteering, people are constantly approaching me for one reason or another, and it makes it much easier to meet and chat with people.
Whether your goal is to save money, make friends, or both, volunteering is always a wonderful option and is greatly appreciated by event directors and volunteer coordinators. Events need volunteers who are reliable and will deliver as promised—this is crucial for the event to run smoothly. If you’re going to volunteer, make sure you’re serious about it and can do what is required of you. Sometimes it can be a little tough to get into volunteering until you’ve had some experience and are known to be reliable. Asking your instructor or a friend who’s been in the West Coast Swing scene longer and knows more people to vouch for you or get you in touch with the volunteer coordinator can sometimes be helpful to get you started.
If you are interested in volunteering for an event, check their website for a “volunteer” link, or email the event director or volunteer coordinator directly and ask if they’re in need of volunteers. The earlier the better as volunteer schedules can fill up!
Thanks for reading and happy triple-stepping!