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The Major Misconception on Volunteering for Events

group of people standing inside room
Photo by Matheus Bertelli on

The current state of pop culture events in the country has brought to everyone’s attention the quality of events which are being managed as of late. This has also affected the mood of those who frequent such events, and we understand that the mood is not great.

Some on social media understand that volunteering in an event is equivalent to working for free. We understand that some people are affected by the current economic situation, thus expressing their take on volunteering for events as shared online; but we also understand that volunteerism equivalent to free labor is rather a misconception.

What Event Volunteers Usually Do

Events open their doors to volunteers whenever they can, and their purpose is to support the event’s operations. Being a volunteer may involve doing the following:

  • Small tasks such as monitoring the booths and/or queues within their specific portion of the area,
  • Assisting visitors who need to go to a specific location inside the event,
  • Escorting VIPs and other important guests to the stage, etc.
  • Supporting the safety and security protocols and staff of the event.

Those who are familiar with the field of hospitality need this experience during their schooling. Some who are interested in holding their own events can also volunteer for other events to gain experience, provided there is no conflict of interest.

Are Event Volunteers Compensated?

In the case of pop culture events, they give food, transportation allowance, and t-shirts to volunteer staff in exchange for helping the organizers with their operations. The volunteer and organization have an agreement beforehand.

Some even give tokens in the form of event-exclusive posters or small gift items. They can be assigned a small task that may involve a guest artist or a VIP, and they will treat it as if they have met the person themselves. Best of all, they can ask for selfies whenever appropriate. More importantly, they receive training and support.

These, in exchange for taking the responsibility of assisting an event to its success. If they are applying for work, they can put these experiences in their resume. They are also free to decide if they want to continue volunteering for an event simply because they love it. They want to make a positive impact in their communities.

Are Volunteers Being Exploited for Their Labor?

No, volunteerism is not a form of labor exploitation, but it can be exploited. Even outside of the events industry, volunteers for non-profit causes understand that they are working a little and earning little to none, but it’s the feeling that it’s for a good cause that drives them. Volunteers can be compensated, but this depends on a case-to-case basis.

Exploitation happens when individuals are forced to work against their will, under duress, or under threat, a blatant violation of human rights. In contrast, volunteerism is a form of unpaid work freely chosen by an individual who wants to contribute to an organization or a cause.

The moment you are given larger tasks and responsibilities to handle than the rest of your fellows—especially taking care of critical tasks which should be left to experts—is a sign that you have the right to ask for additional compensation. Organizations must ensure that volunteers are treated fairly, not exploited, or even put in dangerous situations.

However, when volunteerism is properly managed and regulated, it can be valuable and rewarding for its participants. Not only do they learn problem-solving skills in the field, but they can also contribute out-of-the-box ideas that can help the organization.

The Philippines even has its own regulation on volunteerism: In the case of the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency—attached under the National Economic and Development Authority—Republic Act 9418 (Volunteer Act of 2007) was enacted toward providing a conducive and enabling environment for volunteering in the country.