Over 3,000 volunteers build, run, and clean up after Black Rock City each year. These dedicated participants help to keep the web site up to date, decorate Center Camp, clean moop from the playa, and much, much more. For many participants, Burning Man is a once-a-year event, but for over 100 Volunteer Coordinators, project managers, and team leaders, Burning Man is a fun, rewarding, year-long commitment.

Each department or team, for example DPW or the café decor team, includes a coordinator who manages volunteers placed with that group. The Volunteer team supports all of these Volunteer Coordinators throughout the organization, with special focus on placing new volunteers with teams, recruiting during the event, and other event coordination, including volunteer-appreciation events.

Throughout the year, volunteers meet at local bars and other venues in San Francisco for monthly Spark Club volunteer appreciation nights. In 2003 our Spark Clubs were well attended. We tried new venues and new types of gatherings. A highlight was our BM video pajama party at our office. In 2004 we are adding more variety to the mix with a SF walk, a bowling night and whatever other recommendations we receive. Each spring the Volunteer team hosts a Town Hall meeting for all participants, where representatives from many volunteer teams share information about what they do with the community and recruit new team members. This fall we also hosted a Town Meeting focusing on communication and sharing of ideas for the future. Participants were encouraged to ask questions of the senior staff and Board and they in turn, took time to educate attendees on many topics including our hopes to increase the “bike culture” and decrease the unlicensed and unsafe driving at our event. In July, the Volunteer team hosts a family style barbecue in Golden Gate Park. We hope to increase our attendance of this event this year and add some more organized events like it.

This year, our long-time manager sailed off to London after working for many years on developing this team. The systems she created continued to run smoothly in her absence, and her duties were distributed among several staff members and remaining members of the Volunteer team.

In 2003, we found that most teams recruited enough volunteers before the event to be self-sufficient during the week, especially late in the week. A new gate policy allowed entry before the official opening on Monday only for people working on set-up crews pre-cleared on an early arrivals list. This rule impacted our ability to recruit volunteers on the spot in the days before the event officially began.

Plans for 2004 include upgrading the volunteer database to allow access through the Extranet, hosting more family-friendly volunteer-appreciation events and events in cities outside San Francisco, and assessing the organization’s current volunteer training and support needs. On-playa volunteer recruitment efforts will involve more outreach to camps and departmental shift leaders, in addition to the volunteer information desk and whiteboards at Playa Info.

For more information check out our Volunteer page on the Burning Man web site.

Submitted by,
Kelly Saturno and Tulip