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Contribution : "The volunteer, audience and actor" by Laureen Fuser

Not only are they an indispensable piece in the economic models of any festival, the volunteers incarnate a new way to experience and talk about a cultural event.

The last few years, the number of festivals has increased in France, roughly attaining 13,980 festivals in 2013. Such ‘festive and ephemeral’ (according to the Ministry of Culture) that are bringing back live performances are often based on peculiar structures. Indeed, festivals are mainly organized by associations and charities and thus managed by volunteers. In France, a survey by the IFOP cited by France Bénévolat registered 20,900,000 volunteers in 2013, compared to 17,300,000 in 2010, representing a 14% increase. With regards to occasional volunteering, an increase of 27% between 2010 and 2013 was observed, from 2,300,000 to 3,400,000 volunteers. According to Jarvis & Blank (2011), volunteers consider themselves all at once tourists, spectator and organizer. They thus act like the festival’s three economic actors.

Volunteers play a leading role in the organization of these events. Their skills are a crucial factor when evaluating festivals, and they also give festivals the legitimacy to request public funds by giving them a cultural and non-lucrative status that matches perfectly with local and cultural policies. But the most notable contribution of volunteers is the economic impact of their action. Indeed, they build and they buy. Just as a regular tourist, volunteer is an important customers. One can note three different economic aspects: the direct spent which is touristic spent made by volunteers, the indirect spent which is this made by organizers for the public and spent of the touristic actors thanks to their wages.

This specific status placed halfway between public and private organizer place volunteers into a separate marketing process. Indeed, most volunteers involved in organizing festivals have been requested by other volunteers. This virtual circle makes local communication easier. Volunteers are heavy weight in this economic model.

But what are the reasons behind this involvement? Volunteer is enjoys organizing festivals for many reasons. According to Goldberg and Glen’s (Motivation theories, 1991), one can find altruist motivations, volunteer is led by the desire to be useful. They also do it to meet other new people. As shown by the Maslow’s pyramid, the volunteer strongly craves for a sense of belonging to a group. Some of them even plan to continuer their careers in charities.

Volunteers’ identities vary, as their activities in festival organization.

Laureen FuserMaster 1 Publics de la culture et communication, Université d'Avignon

Photo legend: Echelon Festival 2012

Photo credit: Patrick Gallenmüller