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.