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Unpaid admissions to concerts

I am on the board of directors for a community youth choir. Since we most frequently perform in church venues (as opposed to professional venues), we rely on the help of parent and other volunteers for ticket collection, chaperoning the kids backstage, running the bake sale or other fund-raising event held before, after, and during the intermission, etc. While we have been very clear in the membership handbook and other communications that these volunteers must also purchase tickets to the concert for which they volunteer, after each concert as we reconcile the income and expenses, we realize that many of them did not pay, or at least that the number of people in the total headcount does not reflect the amount of ticket revenue. 
One board member has proposed that we issue paper wristbands rather than tickets as a way to stop the loss of revenue--obviously with a small choir, every $ counts! Other board members, however, feel this may be perceived as overkill, or taking ourselves too seriously, etc. So I would like to get a sense of what other choirs do to ensure that at least most people pay to attend concerts. My questions are these:
1) Do you expect your volunteers to purchase tickets to the events at which they volunteer? If so, how do you ensure that they do?
2) Does anyone have experience with wristbands or other means for ensuring no one "sneaks" in? If yes, how do you enforce the policy?
Thanks for your help with this matter.
on June 12, 2014 3:36am
Hi Debbie -
If people are volunteering to help with tickets, crowd control or supervision, they are not getting the same concert experience that a civilian member of the audience is getting. Build it into your budget and give those workers free admission. Even in professional theaters (like the Guthrie in Minneapolis) the volunteer ushers receive a free admission. I'm with your volunteers on this one.
Best wishes,
Applauded by an audience of 16
on June 12, 2014 6:02am
People will usually do what they can afford, especially when it is for a cause they care about that concerns their children.  Current economy makes this challenging.... for them, and you/your chorus.
I recommend a savvy person at one door, where all volunteers must check in, and are given a pin-on ribbon (like the cheerleader "spirit robbons").  with their name added in ink.   These are collected later by the same "Savvy-at-the table" person.  Call them "thank-you" ribbons; - {more gracious than 'hospital-ish" ID bracelets} can be announced/appreciated at intermission/end of concert.  Audiences can easily see who volunteers are, and their names.  This is also an easy way to identify ushers, so new audiences know who to see for programs, directions to rest room, etc.  Or vidoegraphers, etc....anyone they may wish to ask about something.  You may get more contributions!
"Savvy" has a grid-list of all your parents - even the non-volunteers, in case of last-minute substitutions.   Anyone on pre-approved hardship/scholarship already has a check in the "ticket purchased" column.  Everyone else must buy ticket.  You/your board may also wish to let your volunteers buy tickets at a small discount.  ($10 tickets become $8 for volunteers...$25 tickets become $20 for volunteers.).  Parents wth several children, private lesson fees, school play/concert trip fees, can run up quite a bill.  (We had to pay $900 one semester when our daughter was in 9th grade - and she was not even in a private school, community chorus, or taking lessons that semester!)  This  might give them pause when signing for next year.
You say your policy states the ticket-deal clearly.  Do you also publish a budget-summary, so that they see all/ most of your expenses, like venue rent, instrumentalist fee (can be lumped with your salary), sheet music, program, mail-outs,  etc. ?  If that is on their radar-screen, they might feel differently.
Best Wishes!
on June 12, 2014 6:52am
I'm with Mike on this one - build it into your budget and give them free admission.  That's how I do it and it has worked out well.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on June 12, 2014 9:17am
Our volunteers do not also admission. Theiir's is a valuable job and the reward of free admission seems little in comparison to some of the things they may be asked to do, or situations they may face.  In any case, to have them there to collect admissions is certainly valuable to the organization.  Many times, our volunteers at the box office and as ushers come from a city-wide pool of such volunteers and the "carrot" for them is free admission to our concerts.  
I think it is a bit severe to also ask them to pay for the concert ticket, and I'm sure that would be rarely done, no matter what the venue  or type of concert or event it is.  I would re-think your policy.
Nan Beth Walton
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 12, 2014 10:05am
Of course circumstances vary, but I agree with Mike, too.  In the big picture, it's a small price for an organization to pay to have willing and happy volunteers helping to improve the experience for the paying audience.  A free ticket for a volunteer is a no-cost issue unless you know he/she would buy a ticket if he/she was not volunteering.  And, as Mike points out, volunteers are not getting the same concert experience.  But, I guess if your audience is large and established enough to afford to force your volunteers to pay, then go for it.
on June 12, 2014 10:11am
I have to say it feels a bit churlish to ask for volunteers to pay to help. We rely heavily on volunteers, cake bakers, raffle organisers, door people etc. I think you have to think about how much you value the volunteer's time - is it more than the few pounds on an admission ticket. We have really terrible audience numbers at times but we couldn't put concerts on without volunteers.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 13, 2014 2:49am
Agree with everybody here. I wouldn't dream of having the volunteers pay for the tickets. Feels really stingy to expect the invaluable help to pay.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 13, 2014 5:52am
Thank you all for your enlightening responses. I am not quite sure when the "volunteers pay" policy came into effect, but I am very happy to share your well-considered opinions with the other board members.
Best regards,
Deborah Bradley
Applauded by an audience of 3
on June 14, 2014 4:53am
Hello, Debbie. We are a Church youth choir. We have an interesting take on this--but the short answer is our chaperones and ushers to do not need tickets. They are all identifiable by either choir or church lanyards. We are a large urban parish, and so I feel this is essential for the children so that they know which adults are there to help them. Mike is right about not having the same concert experience, in our case, since chaperones are often taking kids to the bathroom, staying with them in their holding area, etc. while the concert continues. Sometimes, there is not even a seat in the house for our chaperones.
Here's our take, if you care to read on while I digress slightly: At least 1 of our Christmas concerts (we do 2 of the same program) sells out. Despite postal mailings and e-mails sent as soon as tickets go on sale, and several reminders thereafter, we always have parents who ask to chaperone/usher because they did not get a ticket before it sold out, and either they do not want to/cannot attend the other performance, or they want to be at both shows to support their child. I put the chaperone list up at our parent night, which is held at the beginning of October, so there is ample, early opportunity to both buy tickets, and to sign up as chaperone. So, for many parents, the admission is the motivation to chaperone that concert (not even necessarily the fact that it's free for them). Last year, since another music staffer handles the ushers, he agreed to use the parents that were not needed as chaperones (you can have too many chaperones in this case), although he did not actually need any more ushers. This year we are going to hold the parents to getting their tickets or having to attend the other performance, or in the case of not being able to afford them, letting us know that they cannot afford the tickets in a timely manner. Sounds good in theory!
With regard to the "sneaking", we have an interesting story there as well. Our head usher has told me that a few parents--on the night of the performance for which they did NOT have a ticket--will arrive early (during the concert) to "pick up their child", and expect to be allowed into the Church during the concert. He has loads of experience with security at our Church, so he has this under control  :)  If you can manage to have someone who is reliable be a consistent house manager or head usher, this will go miles to ease your mind and make things run more smoothly during performances. Good luck to you!
on June 14, 2014 9:04am
Indeed perhaps some of those who omit the ticket purchase may be relating to their experience as volunteers with other volunteer situations.  Whether intentional or unwitting they may be trying to give the message "enough is enough".
I'll take it one step further than the other advice you have received.  None of the three choruses I sing with these days will turn someone away at the door if they cannot pay.  We may miss a dollar or few, but we gain friends and respect.  That policy has been recognized by benefactors and served us well.  
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 14, 2014 11:07am
Gosh, I think you'd lose much more than you would gain. With most groups, including some pro groups, ushers and other volunteers get to see the show; it's one of the perks of volunteeering. In your case, those volunteers are likely also the ones schlepping the kids to rehearsals and concerts, as well as already being donors to your program. The amount of ill will generated would outwiegh the small increase in revenue.
Same with the "sneaking;" in my experience, most people at a youth choir concert are there because they want you to succeed. It's a big-picture, what-message-are-we-sending thing. Maybe the Board could decide to provide a number of need-based free admissions, as a kind of outreach. You would then look magnanimous, and helpful to the community -- and your stress level would go down.  Dan, in San Diego
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 14, 2014 3:23pm
It's pretty universal that volunteers at a concert do not have to pay to attend.
The only exception is board members who should be expected to purchase season subscriptions and tickets, even if they end up working the house.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 15, 2014 8:57pm
Our choir provides free admission to volunteers and has a
Low Income Pay-What-You-Can admission option.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 17, 2014 3:35am
Without wishing to prolong this already long-ish thread (ahem!), and having been on BOTH sides of the issue, it's pretty clear to me that the LEAST we owe our volunteers is a basically cost-free admisison to concerts.  One group for which I worked very hard as a volunteer demanded I buy a ticket to every concert. I felt unappreciated and insulted — they haven't seen me since!    I have served in almost every position from program «hander-outer» to Centre/Chapter executive offices in the RCCO and AGO and the consistent policy was that volunteer workers were NEVER asked to pay.  That said, those of us who were ABLE to pay often did so and some Board members «sponsored» groups of tickets for those we knew were NOT ABLE to pay.  The small «loss» from «free» tickets always paid many times its cost in good will, HAPPY volunteers, and PR!
Applauded by an audience of 1
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