7 Delegation Tips for Festivals


This takes organization + trust

This takes organization + trust

I’ve been to quite a few festivals this summer guys – Chicago, Detroit, Phoenix….there are some amazing things happening in the improv world!  I’m struck by how big these events are, and the successes and challenges they have in executing a great festival.  It takes a village guys.  Even if it’s a small village, it takes a village, to get things done on a large scale.

Most festivals have a team of volunteers (and if you don’t have a team of volunteers – tweet @xoticdonkeymeat to talk) and the most effective tool in your belt to get massive amounts of things done is the D word – yup – Delegation – to these volunteers.  Lots of folks struggle with delegation, but practice makes perfect!  Here are 7 steps to effective delegation to your volunteers.


1.  Ask for volunteers before you’re ready, when you first meet to discuss your next festival/event

People who volunteer before you’ve even got things written down truly want to help and are happy to be directed to do work.  When you ask (in an email blast, or a sign up sheet), also include a space for them to note what they can help with – they may bring something up you didn’t even think of.  Keep this list.

2. Know what you have to get done – specifically – in writing 

Of course you know everything that has to get done!  But it’s all in your head.  Write it down in Google Apps/Evernote/Whatever Mac users use to share things.  You can’t effectively delegate if you don’t know the specific tasks that you need to share.  Write down all the things you need help with, the type of work you need and when it’s due.  For example:

  • Ticket sales – good attitude & chatty, best in 4 hour increments – Days of Festival
  • Clean up – doesn’t mind working late – 2 hours/day – days of festival
  • Hosting – should have prior host experience – days of festival
  • Marketing – Printing, tweeting, facebooking – 4 months before festival
  • PR – sponsorship packets, business solicitation

Writing them down will help you a) organize your thoughts and b) realize how much help you actually need.  Which brings me to…

3.  Pick people that are gonna help

I have a saying when it comes to project teams – you play cards with the hand you’re dealt.  Every person is very valuable when you pair them with the right task.  Look at your list of volunteers (which you totally have shared with the other people who are making your things happen, yes?) and your list of tasks.  Tap the people on the shoulder who are best suited for certain tasks and ask them personally – it will make them feel more excited and involved than if they enter their name in a slot on a spreadsheet.

4. Now that you know what you need to get done, ask for volunteers again

This time, be specific in the requests that you have for your volunteers.  Note the days and times of volunteer requirements, if applicable (like ticket and clean up) or the goals of what you’re trying to accomplish for larger tasks (looking for 2 businesses to sponsor festival).

5.  Set yourselves up for success – the do’s & dont’s

  • Don’t leave open-ended task assignments
  • Do make everything ‘accomplishable’ – ‘I’d like to have 400 copies of this delivered to HQ by Tuesday night’ or ‘Can we review the sponsor copy by noon on Wednesday?’ – set clear expectations and a deadline
  • Don’t assign a task and assume it’s taken care of
  • Do assign tasks to your team of volunteers and check in on them at least weekly, and as you move closer to your festival date, check on them bi-daily
  • Don’t assume people ‘don’t want to help’
  • Do assume everyone wants to help but might need more direction – sometimes, you just need to ask an un-assuming “was I not clear enough in my instructions?  Were they confusing?”  Everyone is learning, and the opportunity to be a better leader will make delegation even easier in the future

6.  Keep it fun and thank your volunteers

Keep the entire experience engaging and fun and full of honest thank yous for your volunteers.  They are there for free, and they’re happy to see your event successful, so thank them, with the full ‘Thank you’ as they help you out during the event.  And if they have a great time, they’ll ask others to join them in the future and you can grow your team of volunteers.

7. Be open to feedback

Your volunteers are helping because they want to see the festival successful.  Volunteers leave if they are overworked or if they are frustrated that their voice isn’t being heard.  Send feedback surveys specific to the volunteer work, and ask if there was anything that frustrating about the job they were assigned.  Everyone just wants the festival successful, and a fired up volunteer might be able to help with that.


Don’t wait until big events to recruit volunteers.  Always be looking for ways to include new people and follow tip 4 to assure that your volunteers feel valuable, so they’ll be ready for bigger tasks like….volunteer coordination!

Pyramid // mrwynd

Kate is a contributing member of National Improv Network and works in product, customer and business development.   She blogs about getting things done at unicornwrangler.com and tweets @xoticdonkeymeat.  

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