Gifting Yourself to Burning Man

One reason Burning Man is what I call “the world turned on its head for seven days” is because of its gifting economy.  But the concept is a little hard to get for some people.  I frequently have to correct people who believe “gifting” means “bartering.”  But give doesn’t mean trade, and gifting means giving away whatever you have to offer.  Some people gift their skills to the community:  massage therapists, bicycle repairers, bartenders, for example.  Everyone gives their presence to Black Rock City as we all become members of the community.  And many of us give through volunteer work.

Judie and I take great delight in the opportunities that BRC provides for us to give back.  Within our camp, we volunteer to help in the kitchen and tend bar.  We also volunteer to be Greeters one night each year.  More about that in a minute.

We also volunteer as Temple Guardians one night each Burn, and we’ll publish more about Temple Guardians soon.  Our Lamplighters camp depends heavily on volunteers to put out the lamps every night.  In fact, it’s one of the Rites of Passage for Burners to take a turn as a Lamplighter at least once during each Burning Man.

Where’d that come from?  Art on the Playa

We take a turn as Greeters along with a group of our Lamplighter campmates, and what a great night that has turned out to be.  Greeters are the people who welcome you into Burning Man, provide some crucial information about life on the playa, and hand out the program booklet that tells pretty much everything going on during the week.  Greeters are not the ticket takers or the people who have to check your vehicle for contraband, we’re just the happy group that says “Welcome Home” when you arrive at the gate and – if you’re new to the Burn – get you to ring the virgin bell.

We always get festooned up in our best Burning Man costumes for our Greeters shift so that all arriving Burners get into the spirit as quickly as possible.  As Greeters, we meet people from all over the country and around the world.  We know we’re the “voice” of Burning Man when we do our Greeters shift so we try our best to reflect the fun and craziness that makes Burning Man what it is.  I can’t recommend highly enough taking a Greeters shift at least once.  It’s an exhausting, exhilarating fun ride.  If you’re interested, contact for more information.

Giving back is a concept that most people in our age group understand very well.  We’ve lived long enough to have seen both the importance of volunteering for our communities, and felt the personal value that accrues to us as volunteers.

Burning Man makes it easy to find and sign-up for volunteer opportunities.  At the Burn itself, the Playa Info tent is the place to go.  But there are plenty of opportunities listed on the Burning Man website ( or via eplaya, the electronic bulletin board of the Burning Man community.

For in-depth answers to your questions about volunteering at Burning Man, go to the Volunteer FAQ at

We welcome your ideas and anecdotes about volunteering at Burning Man.  In the near future we’ll be publishing pieces on some of the many possibilities for you to participate as volunteers at Burning Man.  Stay tuned.


4 thoughts on “Gifting Yourself to Burning Man

  1. I definitely feel that one is not truly a part of the Burning Man community unless they do something to truly be involved. While I hold many of these traditional org-sponsored positions closed to my heart, there are tons of interesting and less structured ways to make yourself a part of things.

  2. I too have been a volunteer at BM for the last 10 years (since I retired), and some times working at 2 different jobs. But it looks like the new ticket structure is going to keep me out of BM from now on. I have always bought my own ticket and never asked for a gift ticket. I can’t justify paying $400 to go to BM and still spend 100 or more hours working there, or spending 16 days there setting up and taking down, like I have done several years in a row. I have seen several older guys and gals there both before, during and after the event and I wonder how many pay there own way or work for a gift ticket. Could it be that the new ticket structure will exclude some of the most dedicated volunteers?

    • I am curious why you don’t ask one of your department managers to get you a staff priced ticket, if you desire not to take a gift ticket, a staff ticket is a fixed and predictable cost. Seems silly to let a change in the way that ticket selling works stop you from doing something you enjoy.

      Then again, maybe you just want a vacation from all that work! 🙂

  3. I totally agree about volunteering with Greeters! I am 54 and volunteered with Greeters for the first time in 2011. Wow. It opened my heart. People drove up to Greeters’ station laughing, suspicious, or in happy tears. No matter what, these people all touched me and moved me in a way I was unprepared for. I thought after 7 burns I had “done” it all. Not so. I am volunteering with Greeters in 2012. Can’t wait to see you all!! love, Kitty Dingo

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