Festival Volunteer Management System: Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)


By many measures, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is the largest and one of the best attended film festivals in North America.

Taking place over three weeks in late May and early June, SIFF shows more than 400 feature films and documentaries at a wide variety of venues throughout the city. SIFF also operates a year-round venue, and coordinates and hosts numerous events throughout the year.

The Challenge

It takes well over 700 active volunteers and at least 100 paid/regular, contract, and hourly staff to run festival operations each year. Like most festivals and seasonal events, many SIFF volunteers are new and need to be brought on-board quickly but in a productive manner. With such a steep volunteer ramp-up prior to each event, online scheduling and recruiting tools that require minimal training are critical.

For example, in order to host over 400 films across multiple screening venues, and also to stage numerous industry parties, special events, and other activities, SIFF requires at least 4,500 positions to be scheduled and reliably filled by qualified volunteers and staff members. Such roles include: usher, box office, theater operations, special events and hospitality, office/clerical, promotions, and dozens of others.

Shiftboard Event Scheduling Software

Shiftboard hosted software system provides SIFF round-the-clock scheduling and communications for the festival. SIFF is one of Shiftboard earliest not-for-profit customers, having used the system for event scheduling since 2005.

siff - Month View
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Designed and updated for the unique, ever changing SIFF look and feel, the system includes:

  • Web registrations, group communications, and complete access to online scheduling 24 hours a day, seven days a week — from any web browser
  • Color-coded schedule views, sign in sheets, email reminders and confirmation for upcoming shifts
  • Ability to view, print and report entire schedules from a single source

Monica Hinckley, SIFF’s volunteer coordinator for two consecutive years, says that scheduling continues to get easier. “Getting people on the system went exceptionally well this year. Everyone within the SIFF organization uses Shiftboard, our paid workers and volunteers. Being user friendly and flexible, everyone, including our most loyal retirees and senior citizens say to me, ‘Shiftboard is great!’”

Hinckley also says that Shiftboard has made a huge difference compared to what the volunteer coordinator’s job has traditionally been. “Typically, managers had to ask the volunteer coordinator to schedule shifts for them,” she explained, “but now we have at least 10 team managers on our Shiftboard site, each of whom can schedule and communicate directly with their volunteers any time of day.”

Hinckley uses Shiftboard reporting and signin sheets every day. “I use the visual charts to see where and when I need people and also to compare my current coverage expectations to any previous years results.”