2015 Changes to Volunteer Compensation

2015 Changes to Volunteer Compensation

I’d like to have an open discussion with the community on how we compensate volunteers, and get feedback on a couple changes we’re planning on making this year. (These proposed changes are for 2015 and beyond, and are not retroactive.)

We’ve never given credits worth a full registration to Staff because CFT has much higher marginal (per-person) costs than other types of conventions and we felt it was important to make it clear that Staff are volunteers too.

We also had this idea that it would be better to give some compensation to a large number of people than to give more compensation to a smaller number of people, but that hasn’t worked out as we hoped in a couple ways, under the current scheme:

  • We haven’t been able to get enough volunteers for key areas like the kitchen and construction.
  • Those who do volunteer for that harder work haven’t been compensated for going above and beyond what other volunteers are doing.

Therefore, we’re planning on introducing the concept of a “priority job” when determining whether someone qualifies as a volunteer, and what they qualify for.

Priority Jobs

A “priority job” a smaller amount of harder and/or more critical work that we want to give special recognition to and encourage more people to help out with.

At this time, these are what we consider to be a “priority job”:

  • Working from prep through clean-up for any single meal service in the kitchen (counting each day separately)
  • 3 hours of construction work during set-up (Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning)
  • 3 hours of construction tear-down during take-down (Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning)

Tier 1 (half the cost of a basic “Attendee” registration)

You can earn a Tier 1 credit (toward your next year’s registration) by:

  • Working a total of two “priority jobs” OR
  • Working a total of 7 hours doing any volunteer work OR
  • Being on Staff

If you do only one “priority job” plus a few hours of other stuff, that’s totally fine.

Tier 2 (the full cost of a basic “Attendee” registration)

If you work two or more “priority jobs” in addition to what you did to qualify for a Tier 1 credit, you will earn a credit worth the full cost of a basic “Attendee” registration, instead of only half the cost. (You can only earn this by working “priority jobs” and not by doubling one of the other Tier 1 criteria. Also, order doesn’t matter—we’ll always interpret the totality of what you did in your favor when it comes to determining which tier of credit you quality for.)


The criteria was chosen based on reasoning about the following scenarios:

  • Someone who helps out with a meal every day deserves a free registration.
  • Someone who helps with just a couple meal services still deserves something.
  • Someone who does 3 hours of set-up and 3 hours of tear-down but doesn’t volunteer at all during the event still deserves something.

There are no higher tiers because we don’t want people burning out.


To put the above in perspective, here’s what Staff get:

  • An automatic Tier 1 credit on the basis of work done throughout the year, in preparation for the event. (If someone is a member of Staff before they register to attend, they get this credit up front instead of it being for the next year.)
  • One “Staff” t-shirt and the option to buy additional “Staff” shirts at cost. (If we want one that isn’t staff-colored or has our name on it, we have to pay for the upgrade to a Sponsor or Patron registration.)
  • Gratitude.

That’s it. Our Staff have always been volunteers, and we don’t intend to ever change that.

Staff who do “priority jobs” at camp are eligible to earn the extra credit, which puts the maximum (registration credit) compensation staff can earn in line with what they could earn if they were non-staff volunteers.

This is brilliant and I’ll do what I can to help keep track of it all. Possibly have a log book in the reg tent or have each department lead keep notes like we’ve already done. :clap:t5::clap:t5::clap:t5:

So, I was reading over BLFC’s volunteer compensation, and one thing that jumped out at me that I think we really should do is somehow let hours carry over from year to year. (This falls under the general goal of never disincentivizing anyone from helping out unless they’ve already done a lot/too much.)

Actually doing that would completely mess up the plan I posted at the top of this thread, though. The reason for “priority jobs” over something simpler like “x is double time” is that we really, really, really want people to help out in the kitchen (yes, YOU!), and making the full-credit reward unobtainable except by doing that (or construction) seemed like a good (and/or non-terrible) idea to me.

Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea how to reconcile hour roll-over with having a tier of compensation reserved for kitchen/construction help. :pensive:

If anybody has any ideas or feedback, please do speak up!

The first idea is great. Let’s do that and keep it simple. I feel that campers are already understanding that it’s easier to just dig in and volunteer as much as they can during the event so they’re secured a credit. I don’t think we’ll really have issues with people trying to do a little here and there and I don’t think that’ll discourage them. If anything, it just makes things 1. harder for us to keep track of and 2. minimizes the want one might feel to volunteer a substantial amount.

I agree with Beau, simple is better for everyone.

I think the system outlined above is good, personally, and fits CFT well. If I may make a couple of unsolicited suggestions:

Rolling over hours might not be that bad to implement if you only consider non-priority hours (just general volunteering).

I noticed that two priority jobs is 6 hours, and regular work gets a credit at the 7 hour mark. This doesn’t prioritize the priority jobs very much. Maybe consider increasing the 7 to 8 or 9.

This is the most important one: I would very happily donate extra money into an optional “volunteer reward” fund, and I bet a lot of other people would also chip in as well. But no one will really think to chip in unless solicited. This may also be a way to keep CFT more affordable for those who are on a tight budget (and of course, those people on a really tight budget can always volunteer)! I understand that volunteer labor is more valuable to a con than money (boy do I ever understand this), but still, there are always people who will never volunteer because they want to have a vacation, but do have money to spare. If you need a way to ensure that the extra donated money always goes towards rewarding volunteers, I have some ideas on how to do that accounting.

Also, not a suggestion, but a comment: Having a maximum reward tier is a brilliant way to ensure people don’t burn out, and I’d like to adopt that for BLFC as well, with your permission (as in, expressly declare that a maximum is in place to prevent people from burning themselves out).

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I would agree that rolling over volunteer hours potentially discourages people from volunteering enough hours to make a dent in the workload. In fact, we’ve already seen this exact behavior with BLFC. There is one benefit, however: now that those people have a partial volunteer credit, they are more apt to return in future years (buying another registration), and also to volunteer again to complete the credit.

That is a very good point! If there’s an easy way of keeping track, then I’m onboard.

I like all of this! I would love to link this info in my volunteer ■■■■■■■■■■. @ me when it’s available, please!

:confused: Um, link to this thread?

My current thinking is that I want the half-registration tier to be relatively easy to obtain, and that reserving the full-credit tier for kitchen and construction help might be enough to accomplish the encouragement we’re looking for.

Go right ahead! :smile:

I really like your “volunteer reward” idea, Tyco! Perhaps volunteers could also earn some prizes while at the event? Either bought with the reward funds, or like-new donated items. I’ve long felt that volunteers could really use some swag, and having a reward fund like this would make that possible.

One idea: let each volunteer pick one prize at the end of each day they worked 3+ hours
Prizes could be lots of things:
-CFT t-shirts, extra patron/sponsor gifts from this or previous years
-camp/desert gear: flashlights, coffee mugs, water bottles, mess kits, bandanas/shemaghs, goggles, sun hats, mini fans, etc.
-fun stuff: glowy toys, hats, costumes, frisbees, squirt guns, water/inflatable toys, bottles of booze for the 21+ crowd, etc.
-if any bigger or more expensive items get donated (mp3 players, camelbacks, nice plush toys, whatever) then perhaps raffle them to all staff+volunteers at the end?

Also, something like these:
http://www.shopforawards.com/volunteer_ribbons.htm (like what FurCon gets)
…to make volunteers highly visible might also encourage more individuals to volunteer, just by seeing how many other people are doing it! The good kind of peer pressure! (PATRON, SPONSOR and STAFF ribbons would be neat for similar reasons, plus easy IDing at meals)

It can seem silly, but offering some small but nice prizes/recognition can be a HUGE motivator for some people… especially people already at the event, who may not have even thought of volunteering otherwise, or now just REALLY want that glowy toy or t-shirt or whatever. Or just realizing that volunteering is even needed - remember that not everyone reads the forums, word also needs to get out far and wide -at- CFT that volunteers are needed, appreciated and rewarded! Also bribery helps. XD

Maybe if doing any sort of raffle, that the number of raffle entries directly reflects the number of hours volunteered?
(Up to the previously-discussed maximum, to discourage people from burning themselves out).

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Is the compensation for next year or this year? I’m really confused with how the whole process of volunteering/ getting compensated works, can someone please help me out? >…<

Volunteer credits are after the fact. If you volunteer this year, you get a credit the following year.

Last year’s volunteers already have their credits for this year. This change is for how credits are earned this year, for next year.

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Thanks n…n That clears up a lot of the confusion XP