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I started preliminary planning for the backyard haunt for next year. It's a Halloween night-only, backyard haunt. Last year was our first year, and despite low turn-out, I would consider it a success. I had a blast! Of course, I want to do better next year.

One thing I want to do is organize my volunteers earlier and more effectively. I asked as many people as I could last year, and ended up with a small handful of people. I would love at least 10 volunteers from family and friends. After I chatted about how much fun it was last year, a number of people said to give them more notice and they would really enjoy volunteering.

I got to thinking, how do you all manage/organize volunteers? How intensely do you work with actors to play their part? Do you feed them? Do you give them any gifts as a thank you? I provided costumes, but do you allow/encourage volunteers to bring their own if they want to?

Last year everything was very rushed, especially the eating part. I put my husband in charge of ordering pizza, and instead of calling like a regular person, he had to order it with his fancy new Iphone app. Of course, it went wrong and nobody ate until just before the ToT's came. I would love the idea of actually cooking a Halloween meal (baked pumpkin, perhaps) and having everybody sit down, but that seems like more work that I don't need.

So, what do you do? What are some ways to keep the volunteers coming back every year? Thanks friends! :D
 

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We get very few ToT's, so our Halloween party is our main thing. I'd love to have help from a few live actors, but I wouldn't want to ask any of my friends to work during a party. If I was more urban, I could probably find local teens who'd like to earn a few bucks at an acting job.
But to address your situation-- you could make a nice meal in a Dutch oven or crock pot well ahead of time, and freeze it so that it wasn't so much last-minute work.
 

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Facebook is a great way to get more volunteers. People will start to share it with others who they think will be interested.
Yes, I feed my actors, usually, I buy things for them to make sandwiches, and one or two other people bring a little side dish. I always have to factor in what each actor is wearing in case of spills etc. For me, sitting down to eat is impossible. I schedule actors to come about 3 at a time every 15 minutes for approx. 2-3 hours prior to opening. Everyone eats as they get there. I love oojen's idea of a crock pot meal!
Regarding costumes, I provide all the costumes because if a person decides not to show up and it's a main character they were supposed to play, I can always figure out someone else to put in the costume. If it belongs to the person, I have no actor and no costume and no show.
Last year, the first year of my pro haunt, I did actor training and a run through with all the actors. Previously when I was doing the yard scare we didn't even practice. I usually ran around and gave them tips on the fly. :)
It is so hectic no matter what you do, I suggest keep it as simple as possible so you can still have fun!
 

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We've tried to do the dinner thing, but my motto is "Halloween is to be survived on candy and enthusiasm". There's just not time for a real meal. We've done snacky food things the last few years, basically stuff that you can lay out on the table (inside) and have out there all night. I might grab something right before (if I'm not too busy) or after it's all done but sitting down after about 1 PM is just not gonna happen. But, I'll emphasize that this all depends on your setup and if you're not doing a good bit on the day of then your time might be less chaotic than mine.

Also, if your people are like my people they'll make platitudes, say nice things, promise...and then just not show up. Or be useless when they do. Manage expectations on volunteer labor. Reward the good ones.
 

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Caretaker of Eerie Manor
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For the past several years, we have relied on no fewer than 10 volunteers to man our walk through. Last year he had twelve. Most of them are friends of our own sons. As they have grown up and moved on, the next one in line recruits his buddies to help out. I can say that we have never been short of help and sometimes have to turn down offers because we have too many. We find that the best incentive/motivation to get/keep helpers coming back is to have people who really love Halloween! Many of our actors. past and present tell us how much they love helping out and just having fun scaring people. I have a couple volunteers who have been with us for close to 8 years now and each year they leave the house saying "can't wait until next Halloween." We also try to engage them in the building/construction/detailing of the haunt, as much as we can. I set up a facebook page for our haunt and keep volunteers in the loop about plans, potential themes. prop needs etc. We post links to tutorials on costumes, makeup, sound effects, scare acting, etc.. and encourage them to come up with their own costumes that fit what we're doing. We meet at least once before Halloween night to go through the plans, and assign scare zones so everyone knows what they're doing before the big night and were not scrambling around. Last year we did a dress rehearsal the night before and had everyone show up in costume. We invited about 50 people to come over and go through it to give us their impressions and also give us a chance to tweak anything that might not have worked the way we wanted. We had close to 100 people come by through word of mouth and we essentially got to "practice" for a good hour and a half. Halloween night came off perfectly! Of course we feed everyone before hand. We normally have everyone show up a couple hours early. Pizza and wings is the standard Halloween day meal. No time to fuss. We then go out and get everyone in costumes/make-up. We have everyone in their places about 20 minutes before TOT hours start as that's when they start lining up, then it's two hours of screams, scares and hilarity. Afterwards, we hang out for a bit and just laugh at the best scares each actor got. We're planning another two night deal this year with Halloween being on a Saturday. The Friday night dress rehearsal should be a blast. I think if you get helpers that really like what they're doing they'll want to come back over and over. No need for gifts or compensation, just folks who will let their imaginations run wild for a couple hours one night a year and who will want to have fun scaring people.
Our crew from last year


















That's one happy bunch of zombies!
 

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Caretaker of Eerie Manor
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NICE photos, there. You hire those done, or are they yours/a staffer?
Thanks! My son (also a staffer) took them. We wanted to get more but there was so much going on we posed these after TOT hours ended
 

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When we do our haunt event at night at the country park (all staff, no volunteers) we have a fish and chip meal beforehand. It's just a nice break after the daytime prep and prior to the madness starting!
 

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Rutherford Manor Haunt
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Like so many home haunters finding dedicated volunteers can be difficult to secure. Our focus is having a full accompaniment of actors for Halloween night as it is the main event (we are open 3-4 evenings). We had 17 actors last season; a few are good friends that have been scare actors for us the last 4 seasons, others are friends of our teenage kids, and some were co-workers. I prepared scare actor training handouts which I gave to the new actors. The week before I had a 1 hour training session for safety, rules, etc. We provide dinner as well, this year we were fortunate to have two restaurants donate catering for 2 of the 4 evenings were were open. Get out there in your local community and ask, also hit your community FB page and post the event on there. Ask for support from local restaurants, photographers, grocery stores etc. We did this and the response from local businesses was very surprising and generous. As far as meal planning, keep it simple our house is crazy Halloween day, there are costumes, make up, and people everywhere. Pizza works, if you want to cook try hobo meals they work well. Last season was the best year we have had for volunteers, we even had 3 volunteers for project construction and set up (none for tear down though :( gotta work on that one)! We also give small gifts, movie passes, Starbucks/iTunes cards, things like that. Almost everyone wants to participate again this season, and because of their testimonials to friends we are gaining more interest each year.
 

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Last year, I made up some Grim Reaper trinkets that I gave the volunteers. I hope it reminds them of the fun that they had and to remember me again this year.

ReapersGifts.jpg
 

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I have five volunteers. They are my wife, my daughter, my daughters boyfriend and two friends from down the street. All will dress up in what ever the theme might be for that year and I serve them pizza and "haunt punch". The later into the night we go the crazier they get. Lots of fun for all !
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Wow, I'm so glad you all shared your experiences with me. I'm very grateful! I'm constantly thankful for all of the help I get here. You're all amazing!
 

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Our Home Haunt continues to grow every year and that includes people volunteering. Volunteers probably under the age of about 18 are pretty undependable because they get caught up in all the hype of Halloween parties. We've been very lucky and due to our haunt just being a free TOT stop our neighbor who caters really good BBQ donates that to us as a meal while we're getting ready. After our haunt is closed up and partially broken down we also take everyone out for late night food at a local restaurant to celebrate and share the laughs of scaring people since we don't really get to interact during haunt time. As for a reward for the haunters who have been along for the ride for longer than two years they get a custom headstone done for either their character or their real names( as well as any date and writing they want on it, whether it makes sense or not) placed where they want in one of our cemeteries. It has helped people have a goal to continue to help

20141004_135701.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Mindlesscreation88 I love the idea of the tombstones! How clever! And what a fun way to personalize and expand your cemetery at the same time! I might have to steal this!
 

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Mindlesscreation88 I love the idea of the tombstones! How clever! And what a fun way to personalize and expand your cemetery at the same time! I might have to steal this!
Feel free to do so! It's unique and sometimes if they take them it is the start of another home haunt!
 
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