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STATE GOVERNMENT VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS

This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs run by state agencies, including information for parks, natural resources and social and health programs.

 

 


~October 2003~ Topic

Local Government Page
Federal Government Page
Military Government Page

Editors Note: This month's State Government page is up late this month due to the author's involvement in hurricane Isabel relief efforts.

Right Hand ImageManaging Volunteers from a Distance:
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind
Left Hand Imageup somewhere else and you might not like it there

Long distance management of staff and volunteers is common for government agencies with statewide responsibilities. My agency, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, manages 6 million acres of trust and recreation land with 1200 staff and more than 2000 volunteers. Many volunteers serve in remote areas several hours drive from an office. They may only meet with their supervisor once or twice a year. What makes them successful?

Elements for Effective Long Distance Management

Meaningful roles

Volunteers want their work to be a “value added” to the agency they serve. In our agency, volunteers are carefully matched to roles that fulfill both the volunteer’s personal goals and the agency’s purpose.

Clearly defined goals

Volunteers want a sense of accomplishment. With clearly defined, written goals, we all know where we’re headed and we play from the same sheet of music.

Appropriate training

Like in a good cookbook, the directions for a recipe for success must be thorough and detailed. Even if you know the goal, if you don’t know how to achieve it, you’ll wind up with a different result than you hoped for.

Open communication

As more volunteers get “linked up” on the Internet, reporting and technical assistance is being streamlined in our agency. Many volunteers rely on email to ask for assistance and give each other support. Occasional phone calls fill in the gaps. Planning for on-site training and visits is done with a tap of the keyboard.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? How many of us have worked, or volunteered for organizations where one or all of those elements were missing? Perhaps, if we remember to use the four elements, our long distance management efforts will be successful.


The Volunteer Program of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) includes 2000 volunteers who help the agency protect and enhance our state’s natural resources. Volunteers build and maintain trail and recreation sites, monitor and conduct research on natural area preserves, act as ambassadors in Forest Watch Patrols and a myriad of other tasks. Washington State law provides medical industrial insurance and tort claim liability coverage for volunteers in state agencies. For additional information about the Washington State Department of Natural Resources check the website http://www.dnr.wa.gov. If you have questions about DNR’s volunteer program contact Susan Emley at susan.emley@wadnr.gov.
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