From corn mazes to walk-through houses, zombie paintball to haunted hayrides, volunteers are the heart and soul of your haunted attraction. They work your ticket booths, they help manage the crowds, they scare your customers (in a good way).
Haunt season can be grueling. Those long, sometimes cold and rainy nights test even the most resilient haunters. Keep your team motivated with these low-cost (or even free!) strategies to combat mid-season slumps.
1. Free Access
Chances are, someone who’s donating their time to volunteer at your haunt is a huge fan of your work. Offering every volunteer a couple of free passes to experience your haunt on their night off costs you nothing but is a big perk for those of us who love a good haunt.
If they can’t take a night off to enjoy the attractions, offer them a pair of complimentary tickets so their friends or family can come to see them in action.
2. Free Food
Free food isn’t just about springing for pizza parties at the end of the season. You can fuel (literally) your volunteers with inexpensive throughout the season. The trick is to be thoughtful about what you provide. It doesn’t even have to be food, per se.
If you have a backstage area or office, set out a self-care station with throat lozenges, tissues, hand sanitizer, and other things your team might need at the end of their shift. Warm cider or tea can go a long way toward boosting team morale on chilly October nights, too.
3. Create Friendly Competition
Performing the same tasks night after night can get stale. Midway through the season, introduce a friendly competition to keep your volunteers engaged.
The details are up to you. I’ve seen haunts give out awards to anyone who can get the most screams in one night (or scare a guest so much they wet themselves). Challenge your front-gate team to see who can scan-in the most tickets in one night, or offer a prize to anyone with a perfect safety record or cleanest workstation.
TBH, it doesn’t even have to be performance related. Post a weekly trivia challenge backstage with questions like, “how many snakes can be found in the dungeon room?” or “what was [owner’s] nickname in high school?” Even if your volunteers don’t know all the answers, it will be a fun conversation starter.
4. Help Them Save Time
A lot of haunt volunteers are fully employed or in school full time. They don’t have time to get bogged down in reply-all emails or long text threads about their weekend gig.
Streamlining your team communications can not only help them stay organized, but it will minimize email fatigue. Start by establishing the communication channel(s) you’ll use throughout the season. If you’re using multiple channels (for example, email for regular updates, text for urgent matters), be clear with your team about when and how to use each one.
You can also help your volunteers save time by posting critical information (like shift schedules) online where it’s easy for them to access. We’re big fans of the Haunt Scheduler platform both for saving your team’s time and for your own sanity.
5. Team Spirit Swag
Like we said earlier, volunteers are likely fans of your haunt and probably fans of Halloween in general. Help them feel like they’re really special by offering exclusive hoodies, T-shirts or other swag that identify them as part of your team. Not the same merch your customers can buy. These can only be obtained by working at your haunt.
I love seeing haunts who go all out with patches that can be sewn onto jackets or bags commemorating specific milestones or achievements. Volunteers who return year after year can proudly display their accomplishments.
It will not only motivate your team to stand out during the season, but they’ll want to come back again next year for more.
6. Name an MVP at the End of Each Week
A little recognition goes a long way toward motivating volunteers to perform their best. This tactic offers continuous opportunities to motivate your team because they have a fresh start every week.
You don’t have to do all the work on this yourself: encourage volunteers to nominate each other for outstanding work or going above and beyond the call of duty. Then select one MVP at the end of each weekend. You can even read quotes from those nominations when you give out the award. A simple printed certificate and recognition in front of the whole team can go a long way.
Or, establish a community totem that gets passed around from MVP to MVP throughout the season. Think of it as your own version of the Stanley Cup. Design it around your haunt’s theme, and encourage MVPs to take photos with it during “their” weeks. You’ll get some bonus social media content out of the deal!
7. Say Thanks – in Writing
After the season ends, give each of your volunteers a letter of recognition thanking them for their service. These can be useful later when they’re applying for a new job, asking for a promotion, or applying to college.
Start with a boilerplate letter, then add small customizations for each volunteer as appropriate. Call out specific ways they had an impact on your business, skills they mastered, or awards they received during the season.
How do you keep your volunteers happy during haunt season? We’d love to hear your best ideas in the comments!