LOVE PROJECT: The Café LOVE video was released in late July of 2013 to positive response. It’s up and running on Burning Man’s YouTube channel and our Participate Video Library where it has received over 22,500 hits in two months since it was added to the site. We are extremely proud of the Vol. Squad for spearheading and shepherding this project for the past three years.

There was some confusion during budget approval process about the ownership of LOVE Project, the purpose and duration of this project, all of which have been addressed. The experience made it clear that regular updates and reports to Communication Dept. and Executive Committee may be necessary in the future.

This year’s LOVE Project crew was unexpectedly and at the last minute reduced to a duo, one videographer and an editor. The two of us worked together on playa to cover two teams, the Airport and the DMV. We felt generously welcomed in both teams both before and during the event, and were accommodated despite the occasionally hectic conditions which affected availability of our interviewees. The workload was a little heavy with very little time to connect with VCs and participate with other teams. We hope to recruit two videographers for next year, one or two interviewer, and hopefully, a project coordinator.

Our videographer had some technical difficulty with the equipment that may have resulted in lesser quality video this year. We’re hoping that our editor may be able to correct the problem using his software or through clever editing.

The material from this year is going to be reviewed, transcribed, and edited. We’re hoping we can release the videos earlier than last year but it all depends on schedule and our editor’s availability.

VOLUNTEER FEEDBACK SURVEY: This will be the fourth year since the launch of Volunteer Feedback Survey. We continue to fine tune the questions for more accuracy and quality information that can help us understand the Burning Man volunteer experience better. The information from this survey is an additional source to the team-based feedback process that is conducted by each Burning Man team. We hope that this survey will include feedback from the greater Burner community who may be engaged with theme camps and art projects.

TRAINING MANUALS: The extreme makeover for our Volunteer Management manual has started. The information in this manual was put together years before the 10 Principles were written as our guiding principles and they reflect the same values. Our work ethic and philosophy around people management is very much rooted in this manual. So, the re-edit process involves careful breakdown of each section, each paragraph, and each sentence for evaluation, at length discussion before alternatives and new edits are considered.

The project is currently in its first draft stage. Ideally, we would like the updated version to be visually engaging as well as informative. The old manual has been a stapled handout, easy to forget and lose track of by VCs although, for us, easy to update and reprint. We would like to produce it as a booklet, in a format that allows for updates as needed but attractive, collectible, and practical to take with you when travelling. We hope to finish this project sometime before Global Leadership Conference in April, when we can share copies with Volunteer Coordinators to use and, the Regional Leadership as a sample.

THE LEARNING LIBRARY: With the office move to a open floor plan office environment, we are looking forward to merge training material and other books with other libraries i.e.: HR’s, in the new space. This will give more accessibility to the learning library and will make the material available to the greater community.

VC APPRECIATION PARTY: For many years Burning Man has held various appreciation parties for its volunteer leadership. In the past this party has been hosted by the Volunteer Resource team at First Camp. This year we celebrated at the V-Spot on the opening day of the event, and had a special toast to the Burning Man Volunteer Coordinators. As we look towards the future, we continue to discuss the best way to show our gratitude and the most meaningful ways to celebrate our Volunteer Coordinators and volunteer managers.

VC ONBOARDING AND EXIT PROCESS: This is an area of major needed improvement. The current protocols and practices are inconsistent, particularly when a Volunteer Coordinator leaves the role. Succession planning needs to be implemented more effectively by all our volunteer teams and a uniform protocol should be applied to assure our VCs are well acknowledged for their contribution and that proper procedures are followed for a successful exit. The Volunteer Squadron will be tackling this challenge as we set priorities for 2014.

AN UPDATED “PARTICIPATE” SECTION: The “Participate” section of Burning Man’s website is one of our most successful volunteer recruitment and acculturation tools, and it is in need of update. Suggestions and requests from Volunteer Squadron are being taken into consideration as the Communication and Tech departments discussions the possible redesign of the website as a whole.

ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS: Burning Man’s volunteer leadership look to these sessions as a great opportunity for peer-to-peer information sharing, discussion and a problem-solving mind meld. While we have experienced great success with the Roundtable Discussion held at the Global Leadership Conference in April, the number of sessions per year has dropped. Although the VC Roundtables have generally been well attended, more and more find it challenging to participate, especially VCs who reside outside the San Francisco Bay Area. These sessions are organized on an as-needed basis and recently there hasn’t been much expressed desire for more frequent roundtable sessions.

The roundtable at GLC was designed and conducted in collaboration by three Vol Squad members, which made for a much richer content and experience. It was a loaded program and conducted more as a seminar than a roundtable discussion, as necessary to share as much information as possible within a short amount of time. Although still very successful as an informative presentation, as we consider future sessions, we will be sure to format and categorize it correctly.

VC AND VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT TRAINING: As Burning Man teams grow, we continue to train a steady stream of new VCs, many of whom are not local to the Bay Area. It is important for us to develop tools that make remote training more practical, as a single individual conducts all the trainings. This year also saw a surge of new VCs who needed training at the 11th hour, July and early August, as managers tried to catch up with delegation of tasks and prepararation before the event.

VOLUNTEERISM MANAGEMENT TOOL: A new scheduling tool was launched in 2012 and some teams, more enthusiastically than others, have incorporated it in their recruitment process. Adopting the new tool has been a slow process for many teams as it involves a three step process of creating a Burner Profile, filling out a Volunteer Questionnaire, and signing on to the team’s schedule. Motivating veteran volunteers to resubmit a form has been a challenge and, in many cases, volunteers found the instructions difficult to follow and the process too lengthy. Assigning a tech person dedicated to VCs transition into the new system has been tremendous help however, it may take quite some time before we have a robust database, as it requires buy-in from all participants.

This new tool currently is mainly designed for scheduling, and the people management side is yet to be developed to fit the needs of Burning Man team managers. We look forward to exploring the potential for this tool for archiving and record keeping of teams and volunteer history.

Volunteer Resource Team

The Volunteer Resource team had one of our busiest and best years ever on the Playa in 2013. Our amazing team was a strong mix of returning veterans and rock star rookies. Together, the team created a fun, inviting and efficient space for Burners to visit and find ways to participate. Now in our third year of occupying our own participant-facing space, the V-Spot has become a festive hang out to welcoming curious participants and watch the wacky Burner world of wonder roll on by. While the pre-event flow of volunteers was expectedly slow, once the event started, we had more visitors to the V-Spot than ever before. In 2013, the V-Spot was visited by 1741 curious Burners, looking to see how they can participate and plug in to the community. A nice surprise this year was a greater number of art projects and theme camps who came to us for a helping hand. Their addition created a much welcomed increase in variety to the opportunities available to our eager volunteers. We placed 902 new volunteers to 42 different departments, art projects and theme camps across the playa. This was the largest number of volunteers placed to the the largest number of projects ever.

Newbie Orientation & Participation Faire
The newbie orientation at the Participation Faire was hugely popular. It was standing room only with probably 150 in attendance.

Multiple departments were in attendance to recruit for their teams. Unfortunately, the turn out of prospective volunteers was a bit lighter than expected. There appears to be difficulty having the orientation in the morning and the Faire in the afternoon. The location of multiple floors only added to the challenges. We are looking forward to the possibility of having the event at the new BMHQ in 2014.

Global Leadership Conference Mixer

The Mixer at the 2013 Global Leadership Conference brought dedicated Burners from around the world together to share ideas, laugh and get their wiggle on. We were fortunate enough to have access to the American Steel gallery and warehouse. American Steel, home to a multitude of Burning Man artists, was filled with all forms of art. Participatory art, art cars and a fire pit provided a creative outdoor experience. Gorgeous metal art pieces welcomed the attendants into American Steel, while live bands played on the famed Front Porch. Inside the Gallery, a bouncing dance floor and bustling bar were surrounded by a gallery packed with art from our Burning Man community. Many strategic alliances were formed, soulful connections were created and a grand time was had by all.

Volunteer Picnic
With the weather on our side this year, the VRT produced a very successful picnic. With multiple departments and theme camps in attendance, Burning Man virgins were introduced to the Burning Man community. There were DJs, live bands, BBQ, and everything you would expect from a group of crazy Burners having a day in the park. This annual event has turned into a extremely fun day for all who participate and is a great introduction to our community for those who are attempting to dip their toe into the burning waters.

Holiday Spark

We are looking forward to a celebrating the holidays and all of our volunteers this year at our annual holiday party.

Submitted by,

Termeh Yeghiazarian and Jocko