Nazanin Shoja, OAC’s Ontario Culture Days Animator/Coordinator, interviewed Gina Rim, Volunteer Coordinator Reel Asian International Film Festival, about how to recruit, train and show appreciation for your Culture Days volunteers. The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival is Canada’s Premier Pan-Asian International Film Festival. The 15th Anniversary Edition takes place November 8-13 in Toronto and November 18-19 in Richmond Hill. Check out their 2011 Culture Days event “Meet the Festival.”
Nazanin Shoja – How far in advance do you post a call for volunteers? Where do you advertise?
Gina Rim – Since the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Reel Asian) holds year round events, I post monthly calls through our volunteer e-bulletin. For the film festival in November, I post a call for volunteers in September by inviting them to our Culture Days event, ‘Meet the Festival’. It’s a great way for all our potential volunteers to meet the entire staff, learn what happens behind-the-scenes, and hear about the roles they will be playing during the festival. I also advertise volunteer postings through our various social media, such as Facebook, and I spread the word through local community and student groups as well.
NS – What incentives do you give?
GR – We offer free volunteer t-shirts, vouchers for any of the films at our festival, and a letter detailing their contributions.
NS – What draws volunteers to the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival in particular?
GR – Volunteering at Reel Asian is a great way to interact with film and the industry, as well as a great opportunity to meet people. Every staff member at Reel Asian including myself, is a previous volunteer for the festival so we treat all of our volunteers like family.
NS – What is involved with training to become a volunteer?
GR – Training varies depending on their volunteer roles but our general training sessions are done at the theatres that we use during the festival. Chris Chin, our Operations Manager, did a walk-through of the venues with the volunteers, gave them an overview of the night, examples of questions that may be asked, and what to do in certain situations. We try to train all our volunteers with as much information as possible so that they feel confident in what they do and have fun while they volunteer with us!
NS – What role do the volunteers play at your festival? What tasks are involved?
GR – Like any other film festival, Reel Asian relies on the help of dedicated volunteers for various tasks – from office help to ushers and front of house support, industry series and special events hospitality.
NS – How do you communicate with your volunteers and determine scheduling?
GR – I have a one-on-one scheduling session with each and every volunteer. This allows me to get to know my volunteers better, what their background and interests are, and see if what we have available for them suits their schedule.
NS – How do you ensure their commitment?
GR – During our volunteer orientation and the one-on-one scheduling session, we make sure that the volunteers clearly understand that they play a very important part in our festival and that they are the ones who puts into action the months of work and planning.
NS – How do you show your appreciation to volunteers? How are they recognized?
GR – We have a volunteers appreciation party with food, drink, music and some great prize giveaways a week after the November festival. This year, Reel Asian will also have a screening just for the volunteers before the party as well. We realized that last year, a lot of our volunteers didn’t have time to watch many of the films because they were volunteering instead. To appreciate such participation from our volunteers, we decided to have a screening of one of the festival selections just for them as our way of saying thank you.
NS – How do you ensure that your volunteers return year after year?
GR – The most important thing is for the volunteers to have a positive experience with us. If the volunteers enjoyed their experience and had fun during their previous shifts, they are more likely to return to volunteer with us again this year. We already have a few volunteers from last year who volunteered with us on our pre-festival screenings this year!