Burning Man volunteers build, run, and clean Black Rock City. In 2002, over 3,000 volunteers were inspired to participate in the creation of Black Rock City. Wow! · Bringing the event to fruition is a year-long endeavor that requires hard work and dedication from dozens of Volunteer Coordinators, project managers, and team leads. The Volunteer Team supports all Volunteer Coordinators throughout the organization. Members of this team plan events and trainings, and they provide one-on-one assistance to prepare Volunteer Coordinators for their role. A Volunteer Coordinator helps a group within the organization by responding to all incoming volunteers and helping direct them to opportunities with the group. In 2002, over 75 Volunteer Coordinators worked on and off the playa.

Volunteering on the Playa

Most volunteering happens on the playa. Thousands of volunteers participate to run the city-sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for days at a time. During the event, the Volunteer Team staffs a Volunteer Desk at Playa Info. This year, we directed hundreds of participants into walk-up volunteering opportunities. The Volunteer Team stays in contact with dozens of volunteer managers throughout Black Rock City in order to route walk-up volunteers to fill specific needs.

Volunteering off the Playa

Hundreds of volunteers participate by volunteering behind the scenes and off the playa. These folks work in the office, plan events throughout the year, and run the website, extranet, and other technical operations of Burning Man’s infrastructure. Off-playa volunteers also prepare for all on-playa city services.

Volunteer Events

The Volunteer Team arranged assorted events during the year to thank our local volunteers. We held our first volunteer barbecue in Golden Gate Park. This well-attended event was marked by a special Bubble Show at the end! We organized the Town Hall Volunteer Recruitment Meeting at SOMArts, which also included a barbecue, that attracted hundreds of prospective volunteers looking for ways to support the organization.

Volunteer Database

In 2002, the Volunteer Team worked with technical experts to rebuild the database that holds volunteer information. Security and community connectivity were our highest priorities. We now have a much enhanced tool to serve the community and all the Volunteer Coordinators. About 1,300 new people volunteered via the online questionnaire in 2002.

Continuing an annual ritual, the Volunteer Team also worked with all the Volunteer Coordinators to update content and descriptions of their teams for the Burning Man website. Getting to know such a large number of volunteers in a short amount of time is a challenge, and answering the thousands of emails we receive is a time-consuming task. In the future, the team wants to expand, to improve the use of data in the database, and to continue to organize fun events to recruit and reward volunteers. Training will be the largest push in the next year, so we can provide every person working with volunteers all the skills and support they need to accomplish their goals. Questions, comments, suggestions, pleas for help, etc. can be sent at any time to members of the Volunteer Team.

Submitted by,
Molly Tirpak-Sterkel