The heart of a non-commercial convention is the volunteers who contribute all the minute-by-minute labor. Volunteers process paperwork, hand out badges, move boxes and equipment, set up rooms, post signs, check badges, hang art, serve food and bheer, run errands, and generally make the convention happen. Recruiting people to do all these jobs often involves offering inducements of various kinds, but some people do it just because it's fun. Those are the twisted individuals you want on your concom.
Commercial conventions are run on a more business-like basis, and so are more likely to have a paid or compensated staff, though volunteers may be used in some places there as well.
Kinds of Volunteers
There are many ways of dividing up the kinds of volunteers that conventions use and need, but here's one set of thoughts:
- Staff (including committee): Assigned to particular areas, and doing specific tasks (programming team, processing registrations, updating the website,
- Gophers: General volunteers who are assigned individual tasks to perform (send out a mailing, find a list of hire car companies, get freebies from publishers etc.) on an ad hoc basis.
Some conventions are rigidly stratified on what is a "staff" job and what is a "volunteer/gopher" job, but there is little qualitative difference before the convention, aside perhaps from management/responsibility. So a "gopher" at a party might be left to refill glasses and make sure there are enough Oreos™ available, but won't be responsible for booking the suite or deciding how much beer to order in.
One way of dividing up volunteers at the con is as follows:
- Staff: scheduled to work in one area over the course of the convention. E.g. Ops rover, dealers room liaison, green room volunteer, tech crew etc.
- Gophers: assigned as required to any area to handle individual tasks (helping to move boxes at Registration, then over to Art Show to carry paintings to the Art Auction then back to the Consuite to help hand out pizza)
- Stewards/Badgers: Assigned to restrict access to certain areas (e.g. only convention members allowed into the Dealers Room, no one allowed into the Main Hall before the Masquerade). These jobs are sometimes done by Gophers, other times by Security (convention or professional).
Of course it is possible for an individual to both be Staff on Registration, and to do Gopher shifts or work in the Staff Lounge at other points.
Benefits for Gophers vary from convention to convention. Options include:
- Prizes for things like most hours volunteered
- Free memberships or membership reimbursement once a minimum number of hours (at least 6 -number varies) have been served
- Gopher Bucks that can be spent in the dealers room, con merchandise or for hotel concessions. Make sure no-one in a union thinks this is working below minimum wage.
- A pizza party, usually Saturday night at the con.
- A Gopher Hole where volunteers can sleep for free
- Access to the Green Room or a Staff Lounge
Reimbursements are sometimes made contingent on the convention's having made money. If the convention's in the black at the end of the weekend, the first thing it will do under that arrangement is reimburse the Gophers.