Like many cultural organizations, volunteers play a vital role in the success of the Luminato Festival. Each year a diverse team of between 400-500 dedicated volunteers generously contribute their time, skills and enthusiasm, lending onsite support, working with our staff, and enhancing the experience for Festival artists, guests and stakeholders.
Like many organizations, attraction and retention of top volunteer talent can be a real challenge, especially with so many competing demands on people’s time. Like any organizational asset, volunteers need to be invested in and prioritized. The Luminato Festival’s approach to creating value for our volunteers is focused around learning and enriching opportunities.
The following are a few examples of how we have designed our Volunteer Programs to tap into different needs and different communities.
1. The Volunteer Program can be seen as the Luminato Festival’s largest community engagement initiative. One of our most successful initiatives is a specialized volunteer program for newcomers to Canada. Created in partnership with CultureLink Settlement Services, newcomers work with experienced mentors through an intensive pre-Festival training curriculum. During the Festival they also work together with their mentors in small groups on shift as multilingual ambassadors. Volunteering with the Luminato Festival provides them with valuable Canadian experience, the opportunity to practice their language skills, and helps them feel a stronger connection to their new city. This highly engaged group of volunteers also participated in additional professional development workshops, in areas such as public speaking and social media. As a side benefit of this program, Luminato Festival is able to offer its audiences assistance in over 20 languages.
2. Our volunteers are often passionate about the arts, and so we leverage the expertise of our festival staff to offer other specialized educational and professional development programs to support and engage our diverse volunteer teams. The Luminato Talk series grew out of volunteer feedback-requests for additional learning opportunities outside the ten days of the Festival. It was reinforced by the Festival’s need for a special team of highly skilled and trained volunteers to take on more responsibility around marketing, PR, and market research. This series began in 2012 and we received such positive response that we expanded it in 2013. Volunteers had the opportunity to attend sessions with our Artistic Director, our CEO, and other leaders to learn about PR, sponsorship, arts marketing and fundraising. Guest speakers shared about their experiences working in the Arts, challenges they overcame and tips for success. One of the most popular aspects of these sessions was the opportunity to network with Festival staff, partners, and other volunteers from across the city.
3. Since 2010, we have offered a Youth Volunteer Photography Program, a unique learning opportunity where young people under 19 participate in photography workshops prior to the Luminato Festival, led by professional photography instructors and mentors. During the Festival, these youth photographers gain valuable experience working their volunteer shifts with their mentors, documenting Luminato Festival events and audience engagement at the Festival Hub and other Festival venues. In 2013, Lomography Canada was integrated as a corporate supporter and enhanced the program with special Lomography workshops and access to their unique analog cameras. After the Festival, selected students’ photos were exhibited at the Lomography store on Queen Street West.
We have a responsibility to provide our volunteers with reciprocal benefits and resources in exchange for their hard work, commitment and contribution to the Festival. Providing meaningful learning and professional development opportunities for our volunteers not only offers unique, qualitative benefits, but also cultivates more dynamic connections with our dedicated volunteers, and contributes to building a strong culture of community engagement.
A special thank you to Luminato Festival’s Volunteer Program presenting partner, Manulife Financial.
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