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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Parent volunteer woes


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Hey thanks! I wasn't sure if I could post the above.


By the way, I always find it fascinating when Diva Parents dont have Diva Kids! Not necessarily meaning that the kids arent talented because they often are but that the kids have not taken on their parents personalities and are actually quite nice!




But back to the original intent of the thread, including people can be quite difficult... it takes determination to get it done. I suggest a meeting or an anonymous questionaire to find out if there are any issues that are keeping these company parents from participating. You might be surprised at the answers!

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Well you have gotten some great guidelines -- here's a couple more ideas to throw in the pot. (o.k. 4)


1) yes, people like to be asked specifically.

2) wherever possible set up e-groups. I am one of only several employees in a hugely volunteer-based organization, and we have shifted over to this method of getting info out to groups and sub-groups and providing updates. People love being kept in the loop (if they have given permission for this communication). After that, you need to make note of who uses email as their primary communication and who is still a phone person. (There is no point in counting on email for someone who only checks every week or so). Still that is a LOT less phone calling. Also - do not use email to resolve problems. Or vent. Neither!

3) At this meeting coming up - you might want to NOT go in with the solution and the consequences, but go into with a clear definition of the problem - what wasn't handled well this year because of noncompliance; what the burden was on you and others -- be specific - some might not care, but many are clueless that you are running around like a mad hatter. Also, inform. People are clueless about cost of renting a hall, etc. etc. etc. that's why they can whine about ticket prices.

4) Be sure to offer dif alternatives and lots of support and clear instructions for volunteers (covered by others). For example - I am a collater, stickerer, and friendly and accurate ticket seller, and can be trusted with the moola.- But don't put me back stage with scary groups of children!! :wub::grinning:

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Thanks all. I think one of the main issues here is there is no one whose job is just to oversee organization. The company's operations manager is one of the lead dancers. She just can't handle operations while dancing. The board should be handling a lot of this, but only one board member is active in the day to day operations, and his people skills are zilch. I don't think anyone thinks the AD is getting rich from this. We're a not for profit and no one is raking in the bucks. I think getting some committees to organize the various aspects of the productions will improve things greatly. I know that I personally have never turned away anyone who wanted to work. Interestingly enough, most of the diva parents are open school parents - not company parents. They typically either come down to earth or leave all together once their kids join the company school.


I really appreciate all these ideas and comments. We're meeting soon to start planning for the spring production. Hopefully we can come up with a working plan to turn this thing around.

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Welcome AsleepAtTheWheel, yep I have seen 1,2 & 3 in times past.


hannahbeth, I benefit greatly from info on a website and by e-mail. They're more difficult to lose than papers or my mind.

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As a Mom that volunteers a lot, more when son was younger, but now mentor, do Junior Achievements and other committees I can tell you that the Ballet group was the hardest.


I did all the costumes for Nutcracker over 21/2 years with a lot of Mom help. The company had not done Nutcracker before that. The AD who had been over a professional company had left to run the pre-professional program and part of the school.


Where possible I did things in baggies. I would put directions, materials, time lines and the number of items expected back in the bag. Bags were signed out by the parents or given to them by the front desk people to work on while they were waiting for their kids. Think hundreds of ribbon flowers for head pieces and bodices. Before I stumbled on the baggie idea I had stuff going every where. We kept extra scissors, needles and thread behind the front desk.


We then expanded it to the other areas. During the pre-Nutcracker meeting each parent was given a large manila envelope or folder with a big Nutcracker sticker. The times the parents had signed up for, the leader for their group boutique, food, backstage as well as fund raising info, brunch info... and all the other people in that group were printed on the paper with contact phone numbers.


Information was given on dates and times for both rehearsals and performances in the same package.


It worked a lot better if we gave people the info in things that stood out, were easily found in a pile of papers and gave them all the info in one place.


The good part was once the format was done we just updated each year. The parents each got a folder at the beginning of Nutcracker season and it worked. We still had some slacker parents that felt entitled to just show up for the performance and not help in any way, but by being organized and getting the group leaders to organized the teams we had a pretty high participation rate.


The only difference was we didn’t let any parent that was not one of the core parents help back stage. There was too much risk if a parent didn’t show up or stood and talked while the kids went wild. It was understood that the AD and his wife would pretty much go crazy if a backstage parent didn’t show.


I really like the idea of e-mail groups but that is because I live and die by my e-mail. It is essentially my task list at work and I do the same thing with other commitments. I tell people not to call me if they want me to do something just send me an e-mail and I’ll get it done! That way I can go back and read the e-mail if I have questions rather than having to try and call back with a question on what I thought I heard. I wish we'd thought of that one.

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In my experience, the parents who have fun volunteering want to help more. If, as leader, you can take a big breath, and even if a situation is stressful, laugh about it, your volunteers will relax and want to return. Consider it a team sport. The parents who return performance after performance comment that they had a good time. When I am not there, they also say they miss the laughter. My group does get in trouble with the AD for laughing to much! And then they laugh about that, and return to work with a smile on their faces. We get the job done and have a great time doing it!


Put yourself in the place of a first time parent. They, for the most part, do not want to be resposible for a major gaffe, and are usually tense about doing the "right thing." Encourage and nurture them. Let the "oldtimers" handle things for a few minutes while you massage tender egos.


Stop the "diva parents" immediately! We have this problem, and I personally refuse to work with them. They just don't understand that the rules apply to them too. When this happens it alientates the parents who don't break the rules, and those who allow them to break the rules lose volunteers FAST!


Be direct and blunt. "This is what I need and when I need it, can you do it?" People make mistakes, help them laugh it off!


I rarely have a problem getting volunteers. But others in our productions do have problems, and borrow my volunteers. Sometimes I lose great volunteers this way. Make sure, your volunteers feel comfortable with not only what they are doing, but who they are working with. Allow them to switch tasks rather than quit completely. I know that when I've felt walked on I walked out in the middle of a production to regroup. Rigidness and the inability to see another persons perspective or needs will turn a volunteer away. Make sure whoever is contacting your volunteers is a "people person," because that person is the volunteer's first impression. If they are turned off from the start, you are lost.


Most important, have chocolate available! :(

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The "suck-up" Moms as stated are a real problem.

We actually left 1 school & went to another (new) school & wouldn't

ya know...

there the were!

Dote! (Homer Simpson) :blushing:

Not only were they there but they seemingly had taken over before the school got started!

We're now back @ school #1, a better choice, as school #2 has a name co-AD & little else to offer.

As far as volunteering, us Dads have a real problem.

With fulltime (+) work schedules it is very hard to be there

when needed.

It also seems to me that Dads aren't asked much at least that I'm aware of.

Obviously Dads wouldn't be asked to help with make up, hair or in the dressing rooms but there must be something we could do!

Also, penalty tied to tuition sounds like a good idea, Dads might take this more seriously...I dunno :innocent:

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You've been given some GREAT advice here. Yes, one person to oversee production is a wonderful thing. And that person needs to have that job and that job only. They can then spend time dividing and delegating all the sub committees out to be done. From what you are saying, alot of the advance work was plainly just not done. If your dancers came to the show not knowing what their hair was supposed to be and how to do it, then that shows that even the simplest was not handled.


Not sure I can add much to those suggestions, however, I would definitely adhere to Tutumaker's advice. As well as Cmtaka's. The more fun the volunteers have doing their job, the more likely they will return. And the more respect they are given while doing the job or even when saying no to the job, the more likely they will do something next time. The easier the job is made for them, the more they will feel comfortable as in cm's baggie method......more flies with honey.....I can tell you that first hand as my DD's attend and perform in two different Nutz. One place is alot of fun and I love helping out there whatever I was asked to do, I would most likely do. The other place is a catfight, and I've resigned my volunteer positions that go with the show. I will still volunteer, just in a pre-show, do it yourself position.


A couple of devil's advocate issues:

:blink: You'll rarely get more than 25% of the parent base to volunteer, even with the fine. We have one and it's stiff. Some people pay it, some ignore it and a few more volunteer than would have because of it. But it still only works out to what statistics says is average for actual warm bodies doing jobs at the production. You should feel blessed if you have more and plan accordingly.


:D Remember that your company level parents have "been there, done that". That is not an excuse for their not helping since any parent who has a child dancing should do something to help. However, some compassion for them might be in order. For example, this is my 10th Nutz as a parent, I have always volunteered and will continue to. However, it took me 8 years before I ever saw my kids from a theatre seat. Since I am a costumer, I was always backstage and still could be, but I've finally said enough, let some younger parents do it for one show....if that's the show that the wigs fall off then so be it!!! :D


Good luck and keep us posted.



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It also seems to me that Dads aren't asked much at least that I'm aware of.

Obviously Dads wouldn't be asked to help with make up, hair or in the dressing rooms but there must be something we could do!

knock knock


It's true that dads aren't much help for costuming and makeup for a mostly-girl army, but where I go, the Dads are absolutely essential for set work (moving it in, laying the floor, striking the set, taking up the floor) and are also quite welcome as ushers, ticket-takers, etc. etc. Of course, some also get drafted to be dads in the Party Scene...


Conveniently, a lot of the heavy lifting-type work occurs on weekends...

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Since our school is part of a professional company Union people handle all the prop and set chores. But, Dads check in children at the stage door, walk children out to waiting cars, help in the boys room and escort children from dressing rooms to stage and door. Dads in the boys room do help with costumes and make-up. We had one Dad who developed a method for perfect "party-girl ringlets" that is still used by many, even though he and his daughter are no longer with the school.

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I think with any group of volunteers it is important that they are just that volunteers. There is the group that is highly dedicated and will cover their responsibilities plus anyone else's if need be. There is the group that will do what is expected of them and nothing more. There is the group that will do what is expected as long as it is a "pleasant" job and convenient and finally the group of parents that either have the attitude that someone else will cover for them or don't have any feeling of responsibility at all.

In my years of active PTA involvement and involvement with my daughter's studio, I've learned that no amount of guilt, pleading or threatening can motivate a parent who just doesn't want to do a job. However, it is important to be inviting, helpful, incredibly grateful to those who do volunteer, especially the "newbies" who may find working backstage, ushering, sewing etc. a bit intimidating the first time.

When I was President of my children's PTA and was trying desperately to get more parents involved, I sent out a flyer with the following poem. I'm sure most have read it but I think it's a good one...


Everybody, Somebody, Nobody & Anybody


Once upon a time, there were four people;

Their names were Everybody, Somebody, Nobody and Anybody.


Whenever there was an important job to be done, Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.


Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.


When Nobody did it, Everybody got angry because it was Everybody's job.


Everybody thought that Somebody would do it, but Nobody realized that Nobody would do it.


So consequently Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done in the first place.


I believe it says it all.

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One thing I believe essential for full-scale production by civic and volunteer groups is the one person who makes sure that people have jobs, and that they know how to do them. It may even be necessary to go outside the company group and get a professional to do it, and make it a paying position. This of course would depend upon your company's situation. If you have a Stage Manager (Supreme Commander once the house has opened), then you can have a Production Services Manager who is sort of like a Quartermaster General during the whole period from pre-rehearsal to post-run debriefing.

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I'd be interested in seeing what hiearchy of jobs are used by other studios. I think we actually had too many people this year and still ran somewhat inefficiently. It would be my goal to run more efficiently on fewer volunteers in order to give more people the chance to sit in seats. Our studio has very enthusiastic volunteers, and yet it's not uncommon for people to block off time, show up and have nothing to do. It sort of resulted in mild power struggles this year. It was mild, but still, avoidable I think.


We had a Production Director, 2 Back Stage Managers, coordinators for all sales areas (gifts, flowers, concessions, etc.), a costume committee, plus lots of backstage volunteers to manage children, props and sets. Once the show got going, I thought it was complete overkill to have the Production director behind the scenes with 2 Back Stage Managers and all the other people.


It felt like we needed a lot of people to manage the boys, and yet we didn't manage them any better with more people rather than less. They were just a handful. The parents agreed that next year the children need a lesson on how Victorian children behave and then be expected to stay in character on and off the stage for the duration...

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