Volunteerism in the Arts

By: Kaela Altman, Executive Director – Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, Chicago IL (@BoHo_K)

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According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, in 2008 26.4% of the population, or 61.8 million people volunteered their time to national and community service causes. It was the highest rate of volunteerism to date. Volunteerism, especially pertaining to the arts and culture sectors of our communities, is still seemingly an untapped resource, and one many take for granted.

This same study previously cited reflects the differences between non-volunteers, and volunteers. Non-volunteers view active volunteers as people who are retired, single, living without children in their homes, with access to extensive leisure time. Non-volunteers also added they are more likely to volunteer for a project or organization if invited by a friend. Building on this idea, how can we, as arts managers, engage our friends in order to bring them into the arts community by becoming a patron, as well as lending their talents as volunteers to strengthen our selves as arts producers?

What motivates us to volunteer? And more importantly, what holds us back from offering our time and talents to organizations in need of support?

Chicago is home to hundreds of storefront theater companies, many of which operate purely on the talents and commitments of volunteers who are passionate about the performing arts. With the help of #ArtsMgtChat, we will be exploring different types of volunteers within various arts organizations across the country, paying particular attention to motivations behind volunteerism, and how non-profit arts organizations work to foster continue engagement, and implementation of benefits to keep their volunteers involved.


  1. How many participants today have volunteered, either for an arts organization or other?
  2. What motivated you to volunteer? What prevents you from volunteering?
  3. What percentage (estimate) of your organization is comprised of Volunteers?
  4. What programs does your organization offer to on-board and train Volunteers?
  5. How does your organization work to foster engagement among your Volunteers? How do you keep them involved?
  6. On a scale of 1-10, how do you rank volunteer engagement at your organization?

Kaela Altman is the current Executive Director for the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble in Chicago, IL. Having received a B.F.A. in Acting from SUNY Fredonia in 2006, she will be completing a Master’s degree in Arts Management from Skidmore College later this year. A relationship manager at her core, Kaela is delighted to moderate this weeks #artsmgtchat to focus on the importance of Volunteerism in the arts community. Connect with Kaela on LinkedIn and Twitter.


  • Tune in on Friday, October 19 at 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern (6:00 p.m. GMT) to participate in #artsmgtchat.
  • Follow (@BoHo_K) for questions. You can use TweetChat to follow the discussion. Make sure you use the hashtag  #artsmgtchat  to be included in the discussion.
  • If you are new to our Twitter chat, please check out our Twitter Chat 101 guide.
  • Bring a colleague to this Friday’s #artsmgtchat.
  • Tweet this post and share with friends on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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