View Full Version : Hired Volunteers?

03-13-2007, 05:07 PM
We have thought about bringing people on as volunteers with the options of being paid if we met our quota of visitors for the year, that way if we don't meet quota then they will understand, but if we do meet quota then they will all receive checks when they were not expecting it. Do any of you think that could be something would work.

If we showed the "Volunteers" that the numbers are not as high as we need then maybe they would help advertise with word of mouth to help the numbers so they can potentially get a "bonus".

We have limited funds and are trying to find an area that could be potential cost savings. What do you all think?


03-13-2007, 06:02 PM

In Kelly's (Raycliff Manor) he talks about this exactly... I would post a little from the book, but I don't want to infringe on anything... I'll just leave that to Kelly.

But I will say that having stuff for your volunteers like soda, pizza/snacks, cough drops, it will make your crew feel like you appreciate them more than the average joe!

KELLY! -Tyler

Mr. Haunt
03-13-2007, 06:14 PM
I agree with Tyler on this 100%. However if all goes as planned for my haunt, I plan on going the same way that you are asking.

Jim Warfield
03-13-2007, 07:04 PM
When it comes to hired help you always hope that you get what you paid for..but then if you don't pay them at all? You still might be getting what you paid for!
I have had people working for me that had to be in certain places in the house for the patron's safety, yet they left in the middle of us being very busy and never told anyone that they were leaving!!!
Yes, this was a paid helper, paid pretty well too!
It has always amazed me how little I ask of many helpers here and yet they can't do it, can't do it for even short time periods.
So I thought the problem was that they were getting bored. So I made several stations and different jobs for them to trade off with one another, then I heard complaints it was too hard or they just didn't want to.
The best was a young girl my ex had hired , worked here three seasons, then was sorry to inform me that it got boring BUT she was going to move to Florida and work for her Grandmother in her business and "That will never get boring!"
"What will you be doing ?"
"Sorry to tell you this girl but almost anything that a human will ever find to do will eventually get boring" (if you let it!)
" Bookkeeping?"
Counting other people's money, no, that could never get tiresome.

03-14-2007, 04:57 AM
myself I wouldnt even mention money if you are going to hire them on as vollunteers. They will be expecting it and when they dont get it they will B!@#@ and complain so what I would do is at the end of the year hold a party. IF you made enough and you so feel to pay them then give it to them as a thankyou. Because the ones at the party are most likely to come back to you. Also you dont want to pay these actors that leave before your last night do you. That alone will suck up all the money. Divid it up between the remaining actors that show up to the party. That way every one that shows up will get a even share. Does this make sense?

Jim Warfield
03-14-2007, 06:14 AM
..and as their "employer" be sure to hint to several employees showing up to the "party" that you are expecting a nice, expensive gift from them all.
Think about it. If you have 25 of them at the party and everyone just pitches in $20 , that's $500.oo!! They can buy you something Really nice for $500.oo!
Expect good things in life and they will happen.
It's lonely at the top.
(Gee, I wonder why?)

03-14-2007, 09:45 AM

03-14-2007, 04:33 PM
Last year we had food and drinks (nonachol) and had tee shirts made for them. All their names were put into a drawing and gift cards were handed out, the largest being $150.00, everyone got something. We are going to do this again this year.

03-14-2007, 04:36 PM
^ That's sounds like a really cool idea... Hell, I'd volunteer! -Tyler

Raycliff Manor
03-14-2007, 05:07 PM
Payroll is now one of our highest financial "liabilities", but I hate to use the word liabilities because our greatest assets are our Fright Team members and they deserve every bit of the pay they get. When we started the haunted attraction venture, we actually got a group of people together and let them know that the compensation was going to be directly relative to the success of the business. We worked very hard that year to under promise and over deliver. This is a philosophy we live by. We were very fortunate in that everyone was actually able to be paid, including their bonuses, above minimum wage from year one! Jim is right when he says, "you get what you pay for". We only work with individuals 18 years or older and everyone is compensated financially and given a whole lot of added incentives, such as parties, prizes, trophies, t-shirts, snacks and beverages while operating, etc. We really have developed one big family. For our Spring Break event, we have almost 100 % return Fright Team members. Only 5 of the team members for this event are new.

We've learned a lot over the past several years and we still have a long way to go. If there is some advice you should heed when considering operating a professional haunted attraction, consult with your CPA and get some legal counsel regarding the employment laws specific to your area. Advice on how to pay your actors, security and makeup artists, again is specific to your area and you need to make sure it really is professional advice. :wink:


03-14-2007, 05:40 PM
Great advice Kel! Now in a perfect world we would love a crew who helped us out each year just for the love of it, and on a small scale this has worked out fine. We have done the usual prizes, gifts and goodies, and we will always do these things. But we will be needing a much bigger crew in the future, so we will start paying our people w/ bonuses. I am a long time believer of, you get what you pay for, plus it makes it easier to fire them if they suck!

About your question Gallows, I think your people will take it different ways. Some will be fine without bonuses, and some will get pissed-off if they don't get any. I think this is something you will have to flesh out with your crew. If you have a willing crew, this should work great!


Kevin Dells
03-14-2007, 08:57 PM
Maybe i just work with a really kick butt crew, but payment is NOT an option for my team.

We have been together for five years now and every year we hand the checks right back to our owner and tell him to put it back into the haunt.

I just don't get it, why do people pay actors to play,because even though your exerting energy your essentially playing!

Especially with todays haunts, people should jump at the chance to work at a haunt of todays caliber. Man it drives me freagin nuts when i hear people pay thier people, Party's absolutley,t-shirts and prizes yes but a dollar per hour agrred on i think in my opinion is just wrong and all your doing is paying somebody to stand in a spot.

As a vollunteer though, your doing it for you and your pride, thats it! Not money! We design or own costumes and learn our own make up, yes we have costumes to grab off the rack and yes the noobies have somebody do thier make up for them. But i want my team to excell in every aspect and creating their own characters and executing the whole thing themselves is first off getting themselves ready for the night mentally and secondly when somebody complements them on that character they did it and get the 100% satisfaction of it.

Our owner does buy make up but if you ask anybody in the immediate team everybody has thier own make up case and some exceed hundreds of dollars worth all out of our own pocket. Why because this is what we do as great haunt actors. This is why were recognized by so many people in the indusrty, this is also why we have had so many great offers to guest act when we didn't open last season.

I have already had four offers for this year if we don't open some as far as Ohio and Pennsylvania, when i hear somebody say hey we want you next year, thats all pride, that makes me feel great inside and even better when i tell my crew! This motivates us even more!

Last year three haunts took us in and paid for our hotels, everything else came out of our pockets which did add up to be quite a bit especially for a very young crew that hardly carries jobs to begin with. But it was better than sitting at home!

We have joined up with Dream Reapers for three TW's now and one weekend last season, we wouldn't miss it for the world, we love acting for the owners it's our favorite time of year even over October. Thats why were so broken hearted their moving the show to vegas, we can't afford to pay for all the extra expenditures such as plane fare. Im sure other things will come our way and thats how were going to approach it,one door closes and others open.

But again all of this comes out of our pockets because we love doing it, and i will promise one thing put any of my crew in a room with a paid actor and that paid actor will quit, it's already happened many times we chew them up and spit them out they just can't keep up. Reason why is that guys doing it for a paycheck and were doing it for our own pleasure!

Heres the real kicker because im sure many of you are thinking yeah but that won't work on a 14 or 15 year old, all they want is money, they won't have the pride and they"ll wear out and give up due to little work ethic.

The kicker part,ready and im an idiot for saying it here but screw it the shows in vegas now right!

The last three years we have performed at Dream Reapers and toured TW 75% of the kids in all the pictures i have posted, so many of the charcaters you guys have come to know and love are under 18 years old.
We have made at least 15 fake ID's just to get them in the door at TW and to be part of that awesome weekend. We hold our breath as we all line up at the door to get our badges. Now we know this is wrong and last year i even called the guy that runs TW and asked and pleaded to let them in but the answer was no. I told him this is also my entire production crew, they design sets and help build them all year long they need to see whats available.

I do make all the parents aware that there are scantily dressed people at the show but have yet to have one parent turn me down due to this.The parents actually love that we do this for their kids and give our time with not just the haunt and the convention but with life questions as well.We help them with homework, we answer questions their not sure their parents will understand and almost everytime they see they were looking at an issue incorrectly. This is what makes a very tight team,this is why were the very best of freinds!

Every year these same kids take every last dime out of their pockets to buy contacts,make up, and this year at the Dental Distortions booth they bought well over a dozen sets of teeth. Contacts, ha we are their best buyer. This year i believe they bought well over forty sets of contacts between a dozen of them. If the ladies looked a little thin on saturday at the contact booth thats because we got there on friday!

Again, this is what we dedicate ourselves to 150% because we LOVE to do it, it has nothing to do with the Benjamins so keep your money, buy them pizza and show them something really special. How to make themselves awesome characters and actors, they will love you forever!

03-14-2007, 09:39 PM
In a perfect world Ken, we would clone you and your crew! I bet most of the haunt owners out there reading your post, is wishing they had a crew with your enthusiasm and dedication!

I think we all have a core group of actors that are on your level, but when you need large numbers of people to run the show, your core group can only do so many roles. So paying them becomes the solution.


Kevin Dells
03-14-2007, 09:54 PM
In a perfect world Ken, we would clone you and your crew! I bet most of the haunt owners out there reading your post, is wishing they had a crew with your enthusiasm and dedication!

I think we all have a core group of actors that are on your level, but when you need large numbers of people to run the show, your core group can only do so many roles. So paying them becomes the solution.


Cluster i think you directed this at me but wrote Ken instead.
Just to let you know we ran with 100 plus actors at a very large haunt, my immediate crew is all we had the cahoonies to get in the doors at TW! But i get emails and myspace comments from all the others everyday saying how much they missed not haunting last season and when are we going to get another building.
My reply is when one of you kills the building inspector!

So yes i was speaking of a very large crew and it is possible. Look at it this way they could be on the street corner smoking crack instead but give people an ultimadum and they will partake.

Don't get me wrong here we do go through a lot of new people every year but if you show them how to do make up and design and build haunts they show up in force every night of the year wondering what needs to be done. Their learning something which to anybody is intrigueing and they want to learn more.
If you build a haunt by yourself and then put them into a spot with your costumes and just anbody to put some make up on them they loose interest.

We used to have our building year round and 50 plus people would show up in a snowstorm to help build until midnight,personally i was thinking they didn't have homes for awhile! I guess it's a good thing and i thank you for your compliment i know im blessed with my crew!!

03-14-2007, 10:24 PM
As one of the haunt owners that had the pleasure of having Kevins gang, let me say that as an owner, I would give my right fang to have any of them on my crew. They rocked my place and I have told Kevin that I hope he considers my haunt as their third home. They have a passion for haunting that is almost insane

RJ Productions
03-15-2007, 02:13 AM
We started with volunteers, went to a paid staff, and then returned to volunteers! We have had a better and more dedicated crew as volunteers than we ever did as a paid staff! Volunteers are not there "just for the dollar" but for the love of it.

We take a lot of steps to provide incentive for our volunteers. We do several cast parties; one closing night, one right after the attraction returns to storage, then at regular intervals. They are cool places like a GameWorks, a go-kart place, etc. We do T-shirts and other give-aways. During the run we do pizza or other food and drink. We never do it on a set day. If you always do pizza on Friday night you get kids that only show up on Fridays! We do spontaneous things like take the tear down crew out to a buffet and the premier of a new horror movie.

If you do things in a non-scheduled non-expected format it is appreciated more. It is also more useful as an incentive. “Gee you should have been here Wednesday; they brought in Arby’s for everyone!!!”
Look for unusual incentives. Rocky Point closes this year. We are taking crew members up for the Scream Break. Everyone with perfect attendance gets all expenses paid!! Free transportation, room and entry to the haunt!!

We make it FUN to be at the haunt! They can be home watching TV so we make sure they are appreciated. Just making sure to go around and thank people goes along way. Our Haunt is very “Actor Oriented”, it is designed that way. We try and give actors multiple scares. If an actor is stuck in one stagnant position and only get one repetitious scare, maybe it would be better to put an animation there!

No one system works for everyone. Some use paid staff and are extremely happy. We tried both and a volunteer staff works for us.

03-15-2007, 07:27 AM
When I lived in Denver I volunteered at the Reinke Brothers Haunted Mansion. They did some cool stuff on down time like hide something in the haunt and who ever found it got a prize at the end of the night. And they hide it good it would take days to find it OMG. So I am a believer that Voluteers can work.


Mr. Haunt
03-15-2007, 09:50 AM
It takes a lot of good will to pull off a haunt and not pay your crew. I agree that if we could all find a crew like that we would be in haunt paradise. It's a shame there is an age limit for TW. I know some things sold there are graphic, but if the have a spouce that agree's to let there underaged child to go, it should be OK. Its not like TW is X-RATED. Haunting for most of the pro's come from the heart. It's somthing that you all love to do, and I think it takes the love from your crew, no matter the age, to be one of the best haunts. We all know that there are children in horror movies!!!! So I do not agree with the age restriction at TW. Maybe I could see it if the kids were under 14 or 15.

Duke of Darkness
03-15-2007, 04:42 PM
Be aware that there may be some legal implications to taking people who are volunteers and making them employees at the end of the season. Overtime requirements, social security and income tax withholding, W2/1099 forms, and more. If someone gets injured during the season, are they entitled to workers compensation? Do you have to pay the insurance?

In my opinion you are much better off starting with actors as either employees or volunteers. If you have a great financial season, give your actors a stipend to help cover their expenses like fuel, makeup, etc.

I can't really give you detailed legal advice on how to handle the situation since it varies from state to state (and I can't give legal advice in an online forum anyway), bit I would highly advise you to research this carefully before making any decisions.


RJ Productions
03-15-2007, 04:59 PM
I agree Dave, you may open a whole "can of worms" by "converting" a person to an employee. I would say stay with a volunteer staff. If you have people that made an outstanding contribution to your event and you do make some money there is nothing wrong with giving that volunteer a "gift". You are thanking them for going above and beyond what the volunteer is asked to do and you appreciate the help!

But as several have said it is always best to check out your own local situation. Just because something works is Ohio doesn't mean you can do it California!

Kevin Dells
03-15-2007, 07:15 PM
Well heres a thought i am going to throw out to the wind and see how you guys respond. At first i thought the idea was absolutley insane until i approached our crew with it and they agreed because of all the legality's they have seen us go through due to a few younger actors that tried to demand payment for the whole season and they really only worked a few days.

The labor board was called on us twice and both times we had to hire a lawyer to sort it out,in the end we were correct and they got Nada but we paid for the lawyer fees anyhow.

The plan!

Each season a ten dollar fee is collected for each actor if they want to work for the haunt.

For that ten dollars we would bring in or do a lot on our own seminars.

Teach them characterization and make up skills so it would be considered a school,therefore we wouldn't owe them anything but would reimburse them their ten dollars at seasons end. As part of the schooling working their charcater at the haunt would be part of the schooling as well.

Therefore their paying you to work at your haunt and being considered a school or a class that they want to attend would totally nulify any employment obligations what so ever.

They are taking home very valuable knowledge that in almost all cases would otherwise cost them a fortune to attend at an actual make up school such as Tom Savini's. Is it going to be the same quality,no but hey were only charging ten bucks. Toms charging thousands!

And of course we have insurance, who would be crazy enough not to!