Your Most Important House Concert Volunteers
1. Door Person
2. Food/Drinks Person
3. Furniture/Set-Up Person
4. Parking Person
Every house concert is different, and every host brings their own set of skills to the process of putting on an event. If there’s one thing that holds back the success of most house concerts, it’s the failure to recruit (ask for) volunteers.
Many of us are resigned to grit out the work. We do the dishes, the laundry, the taxes, the yard, and so on because it’s easier in the short run to grit it out instead of training, coaxing or paying someone else to do it well enough. Lucky for you, music and house concerts are inspiring! Why else would you be reading this?
Don’t miss the opportunity to inspire volunteers who can help you make your house concerts easier and more enjoyable for everyone. You might even offer perks like reserved seats, come early for dinner, or welcome their input when selecting future acts for your concerts.
For most hosts (asked at ConcertsInYourHome.com) the most important volunteer is the person at the door. 99% of artists would agree.
One of the biggest challenges when starting a house concert series is getting everyone to make the suggested donation. Paying money to enter a home is a new thing for most people, and it requires diligence on the part of the host to make no one is surprised by the “suggested donation” principle when they arrive.
We’ve found it’s best to have a suggested donation with an actual amount, even a range, and an encouragement to be generous if possible.
$15-20 per person.
Be generous if you can - all donations go to the performers.
This information should be in all invitations and emails about the show. In addition, that sign should be on a BIG GLASS JAR, next to a printout of your guest list, and all of this should be on a table by the entrance so that no one can miss it.
How the Door Volunteer Helps
If there’s a good-sized crowd, it can be nearly impossible for a host to watch the door and be a gracious host for the artists and guests.
When guests enter the home, there are several ways they can become distracted and miss the donation jar. They might recognize someone they know and immediately get pulled into a conversation and drift away. They might walk in with wine, food, or snacks and decide to go unload in the kitchen, and never make it back to the suggested donation. Finally, despite many reminders by the host “If you haven’t made your donation yet…” they might (wrongly) decide to buy a CD instead of making the donation. CDs are extra… and you don’t want to allow guests to take advantage of your artists this way.
All of these behaviors can be prevented by a door volunteer.
Your door-person greets guests, and asks them to cross their names off the guest list and make their suggested donation. If there’s a dish, the volunteer can bring it to the kitchen for them and quickly resume their post.
“Hello! Welcome to the house concert. Please cross your names off the guest list and make your suggested donation - be generous if you can. Here, let me take that dish to the counter for you.” [Or “here, let me hold that dish for you.”]
What is an acceptable “no-pay” percentage?
The easy answer is “0.” If all guests have been invited properly, with the suggested donation clearly stated, then all guests are expected to pay something, even if it’s not in the suggested range. That said, we rarely expect the hosts to pay (unless they are covering a guarantee or making up for a few non-paying guests (usually family.)
Since you are operating with a suggested donation, and asking people to be generous if they can, those who underpay may be offset by those who give a little more. While it’s not the end of the world if a couple of people don’t pay, it sets a bad example going forward… do they get to NOT pay every time? How many people get this privilege?
Volunteers are expected to pay if possible. Try to reward them in some other way (preferred seats, pre-show dinner, etc.) unless you are happy to contribute for them. If you have a large number of attendees it may be OK to have a few volunteers not pay.
Your door person is there to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to pay, but the host should also make an announcement before and after the first set if it seems like there may have been a few who missed. If your door person does their job well, you can make a better pitch (talking less) for the purchase of CDs and souvenirs.
It’s rare that artists will make a fuss, but if the donations clearly don’t match the number of attendees, they will be disappointed. Remember, you aren’t asking people to volunteer to mow your lawn. This is a fun thing. Ask for help. People love to feel valued, and your volunteers can be the most effective promoters of your concerts.
I’ll cover the next most critical volunteer in the next post.