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  #1  
Old 4 Weeks Ago
felurian felurian is offline
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Default Haunt Volunteers - Where are they hiding?

Hi everyone,

New to the board. Joined because it's the fifth year our park has put on a Haunted Trail and there are huge logistical issues that we need to look to other haunters to help solve.

Here's one I'm currently working.

The Haunted trail takes guests down a dark trail through Florida brush - there's little lighting as there's no electricity. So everything on the trail has to be set up outside, and a majority of the trail relies on actors. Many actors.

In years past, we've had a LOT of eagerness from the youth in the community to help out. BUT they wander from their spots. They improvise. I've found them on their phones. They lose their phones and then spend the night finding that instead. They have to leave early.

It's really an unprofessional and poorly put together crew. This year, I want to find only adult volunteers, but I'm hesitant to simply do something like put out a Craigslist ad - you never know who you might get!

What are some ways or places you've found volunteers to help with your haunts?
OR what are some ways you've reduced the need for volunteers?

Any advice helps!
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  #2  
Old 4 Weeks Ago
fontgeek fontgeek is offline
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GOOD volunteers are few and far between, while, as you have already found out, there are lots of good intentions, finding volunteers who will actually show up and do their duty can be a real challenge.
Put yourself in their shoes, and make the task appealing to them. Often, having a common goal or cause can work best, such as a charity to which they are already or easily committed to who will benefit from the haunt. Make the whole experience worth it from their point of view, possibly with a pay off for those who follow through. Maybe a pizza party or something AFTER the haunt is done for those who participated?
Maybe shirts or something?
More often than not, I've found that adequate training well ahead of time helps to keep them focussed on the job at hand, but realistically, if you are talking about teenagers, chances are that you will have issues with no shows, or those who lose interest once their friends show up at the haunt as guests.
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Having spent years doing a haunt that wanders through the (North) Florida brush, I feel ya!

The easy part--lighting. We do a *lot* of our lighting with those cheap LED flashlights--the ones that are a metal tube about an inch across and 4 inches long (usually 2 for $3). You can make a holder with a bit of PVC pipe and an elbow joint--use this for a spotlight on a prop. If that's the only light, people's eyes go to it and they don't see your scarers.

And they're the hard part. We've been doing this long enough that we have a core of about a dozen people that show up every year, and that really helps. Then we have to find about 20 more. With apologies to anyone in the university Greek culture--do *not* turn to fraternities/sororities. In our experience, they're worse than teenagers.

OK--you said you've been doing this for a few years. Hopefully you kept records (if not, start if you're going to keep doing this). Contact the people who have done it previous years and stayed the whole night. (Start early--maybe August). See if they can recommend friends.

I second the idea of partnering with someone. You didn't say if you charged for your haunt--but part of the proceeds could be donated. (If you don't charge, then you could request donations for your cause). Something like the Humane Society--and you could tap into their volunteers. How about Fallen Officers--that might get you some policemen (and women). We've had cops on our trail and they *love* a chance to scare people. Or the local volunteer fire fighters.

We've always tried to have scenes that can stand without actors to build anticipation (and so we can yank them out to put into other areas if people have walked off). Blaircrows (you can find them on a search here) lining the path are good. We usually have a area that has baby dolls (the more the better) hanging from the trees and bushes and piled on the ground.

Hope that helps.
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fontgeek fontgeek is offline
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Commercial haunts, like Knott's Scary Farm, start their haunt work IN May. This has many benefits, it lets them see who's serious, and gives them more time to weed out or cull out the problem boils and ghouls. Granted this is a commercial haunt, so they have some money to spend, But the training aspect helps teach you and the "scarers" what is expected of them, and what it will take on both your parts, it also lets you find some natural leaders, who often know of others who might work for you too.
Again, put yourself in your "Scarer's" shoes, and make the whole thing attractive enough to that demographic/group.
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I'd make an 18+ rule for your volunteers, not just because of the way some of them behave but also because if they get hurt or lost, you'll have some fuming parents. I wouldn't hire anyone under 18 for liability reasons, but also because you would feel awful if anything happened to a kid working at your haunt. Sure they have fun and like to help, but you can't be there watching all of your volunteers when there's so many of them, so if you're responsible for a bunch of minors running around in the dark brush without any parents... I'm breaking into a cold sweat just thinking about it, LOL. Also for your lighting issue (especially if you're hiring kids under 18) you should definitely look for battery powered lighting. It's unsafe for your guests and volunteers to be running around a poorly lit trail, there's gotta be a billion things they can trip on or run into out there. I also avoid poor lighting because if a guest strikes one of our volunteers, we need to be able to see who it was so that they can quickly be removed.
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Fallen Empires Fallen Empires is offline
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Just to add an additional set of info to what Felurian said.

We charge money for the entrance to this haunt. $15 per head is what I believe the new price is. Younger kids get in for free.

This haunt goes from 8PM - 10 PM (on paper. In reality it runs until 12PM)

Part of the money for this haunt does go to a local fire department and a local chamber of commerce.

We average 2,400 people per night over 2 nights. Friday and Saturday.

The last 4 years we have done groups of 15 on a guided trip down the trail and will be moving to a free flow plan this year.

We are looking at printing 400 T-shirts for our volunteers with a custom event logo on the front and some local sponsors on the back of the shirt.

Both Felurian and I appreciate the feedback and will be reviewing it at our next event meeting.
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fontgeek fontgeek is offline
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Ask the fire department to help, if they can, they can also help spread the word about the haunt, in general, and also about the search for volunteers.
As to the cause...
I can see helping the fire department, especially if it's a volunteer department, but unless the chamber of commerce is actually doing something for you, I'd skip them getting the funds, and either put the money back into the haunt (props, food, etc. for the volunteers, etc) or find another good charity to help (Habitat for Humanity, The Heffer Project, etc.).
Chambers already take money from the local businesses, and aren't a business themselves, so pouring more money into them, unless they are actually helping you, is a waste of your time, money, and efforts.
Drop me a PM if you need help on the artwork side (shirts, flyers, Facebook, etc.
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Fallen Empires Fallen Empires is offline
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Will do Frontgeek!

Also the Chamber does take a portion of the money in return for hosting the the smaller kids portion of our event. It's simply a mini non-spooky trail for younger kids to trick or treat at and for the chamber to see some business recognition as well.

The local volunteer fire department uses this as a source of fund raising for them and as such puts on an amazing haunted house at the end of our trail. I'm not sure currently how much advertising they do solo beyond the fliers we hand them but we will inquire with the fire chief about that.

I will make sure Felurian and I go over these suggestions at our next sit down and then we can bring them to our primary meeting with all the involved parties. Thank you again folks for the help!
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felurian felurian is offline
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Hey thanks for these responses! There's some really helpful stuff I can take away from this fontgeek, I may PM you with artwork stuff. I've got a mascot drawing I'm trying to get drawn digitally and seeing if my friend might be willing.

We're definitely going to do 18+ volunteers this year, and start trying to get them now. In years past we always wait until the week of to do a brief meeting, but if we can get everyone together and meet and train earlier, I think they'll be better invested in the event. We've also got cool tshirts in the works for the first time ever for them.
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fontgeek fontgeek is offline
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Maybe offer haunt shirts and a pizza party or something after the end of the haunt nights?
Getting local businesses involved can help you too. By trading advertisement They get put into your flyers, etc., and you get financial help and advertisement from them and their business(es). Their name and logo can be put on banners, flyers, shirts, etc., This can help you in many ways, if they are a restaurant or something that caters to your desired demographic, they can help attract the attention of the kinds of people you want, and they may help by supplying food and or labor at the haunt. If you have a local screen printer, you may be able tow swing a deal with them for shirts and such. Shirts for the labor and for the sponsors (businesses that are helping) give encouragement to your desired demographic, not just for the short term, but also for years to come. Getting the community involved can help a great deal, for all involved.

If you need help with the digitizing, I can do that too. Actually, it's what I do for a living.
When you design and digitize it, look at the worst case scenario, the smallest, simplest version you will need. (probably a small enough, one color version you can use for flyers, tickets, business cards, etc.) and design with that in mind. It's easy to make bigger more elaborate versions for larger things like posters, banners, etc, but trying to go the other way, from big designs that are dependent on lots of colors, exotic textures and details, and trying to shrink that down to the tiny version for tickets and such is almost always a nightmare, and not the good kind!

Last edited by fontgeek; 4 Weeks Ago at 02:47 PM.
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