The greatest good for the greatest number... in the long run
How this relates to planning a festival
When talk of creating a new festival begins, planning committees will hear numerous variations of "I would to see more community events" or "There is never anything to do in this town" but very rarely does anyone actually offer up any suggestions or volunteer to spearhead a particular portion of the event. At this point, planning committees have to start making decisions on their own. Do we always know what we are doing? Absolutely not. It is very difficult to predict crowd turnouts, scheduling conflicts, or weather. Sometimes, it is even hard to predict whether or not your volunteers will even do what they agreed to.
How to deal with a lack of volunteers
Good question! I'm not sure there is a great solution for this problem. All I can say is if you coordinate events long enough, you learn how to cut corners on staffing... sometimes it is called: Committee members work until they drop. If you find yourself in this situation, you'll be telling yourself, "it's only for a weekend... it's only for a weekend." Then, you'll cringe when someone says... we should do this more often! You can probably guess how fun this option is... (it isn't!). Don't let it come to this. You will lose your motivation along with all of your volunteers.
Really though, how do you get volunteers?
ASK! You have to get good at reading people and their abilities. Study your community. Find people who are already leading civic organizations and events. Go to their meetings! These people are an asset to you and to the community. They have walked in your shoes. They have felt the pain of being overworked and underpaid (<--or in most cases, overworked and zero pay). I've come to like the phrase volun-told. Once someone figures out you want to help out your community, you don't necessary volunteer, someone volun-tells you that you are going to help. Make sure you are recruiting volunteers, not forcing people to be in charge of something they either don't have time for or have no interest in doing. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Don't talk someone into being in charge of an event they have no interest in just because you can't find anyone else to do it. Usually, this is a tell-tale sign that the community has little interest in the event.
Don't get too big too fast!
Slow and steady wins the race! Want to establish a festival? Let it grow over time. These things do not just pop up over night... and neither do volunteers! You have to have the patience to wait it out. So, your town festival isn't going to attract people in the tri-state area the 1st year... so what! Which would you prefer: a small, well-organized festival or a large, chaotic one? Be realistic. Don't let people talk you in to increasing your agenda before you have the foundation built.
Don't be shy when you ask people about their ideas for improvement. Write ideas down! Do an after-action report of your event summarizing the stations and what worked/what didn't. Write down brainstorms while they are still fresh in your head. If people are excited for next year because they enjoyed themselves, feed on their energy! Smiling faces might be the only payment you get, so soak it up! That is what community planning and involvement are all about. Ask yourself: if you don't do it, who will? Don't rely on others to live out your dreams.