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Visit this page for ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

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~ August 2004 ~ Topics

What Is It That Constitutes A Professional Volunteer Program? Part Two

Organizing the volunteer program to gain professional respect and ease of managing requires a systematic completion of activities that lead to an end. Decades of research and experience by managers of volunteers provides an outline of what must exist in order to consider a volunteer program truly professional. In a three part series "Volunteer Today" lists the elements of such programs and the benchmarks that demonstrate the element is in place. Review this list and see how your program is doing.

Part Two

1. Recruiting efforts are planned and carried out by a volunteer recruiting team.
  • Former and current volunteers make up a recruiting team to plan recruiting activities for the program.
  • Volunteers are the primary recruiters for the program.
  • Recruiting activities are planned to target the identified needs of the organization and its volunteer program.
  • Advertising and promotional strategies for recruiting are diverse and aimed at different community populations, rather than generic.
2. There is a standard screening process appropriate to the position the volunteer has and the time they are donating.
  • Screening is different for long term and episodic volunteers.
  • There is a paper (or electronic) trail of information from the screening process.
  • The screening process includes such things as applications, interviews, reference checks, and criminal record background checks.
  • Volunteers are trained to conduct screening.
  • Risk management is always a factor in screening activities.
3. Volunteers are trained in a way appropriate to the position and the time donated.
  • There is a training plan for categories of volunteer positions (high risk, close client contact, administrative, temporary fund raising event, etc.).
  • Training is interactive, using principles of effective adult education.
  • Volunteers and paid staff are involved in the delivery of training.
  • Orientation for volunteers varies, based on the position and time donated.

September issue brings Part Three of the Elements of Effective Volunteer Programs.

Managing Generation Y. Are You Prepared?

Generation Y are those individuals born after 1977, the oldest of whom are now 27. In a survey of college students these were things listed as being desireable in a work environment. Certainly some can be applied to the volunteer "work" experience.

  • Fun work environment
  • Growth opportunities
  • Wide range of projects
  • Opportunity to learn and develop new skills - provided by the organization
  • Travel opportunities
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Training that might lead to another position
  • Responsibility for projects
  • Regular feedback
  • Access to different types of information, in different formats (web, email, print, etc.)

Writing the Recommendation Letter for a Volunteer

Managers of volunteer programs are often asked to write recommendation letters for volunteers; high school students applying to college, college students applying to graduate school, students seeking job references, employed volunteers making a job change, etc. The first place to start is deciding if you can write a letter of whole-hearted support. If you cannot, diplomatically tell the person you are not the best person to write a letter. You can suggest that someone who has seen more specific skills related to what they are applying for is likely to be more appropriate as a recommendation writer. If you decide to write the letter here are some tips to help make it an effective letter.

  • Introduce the applicant. Start the letter by saying you are writing the letter on behalf of José Estrada and you recommend him without reservation for the position, opportunity, or program.
  • A short introduction of your relationship to the person. Tell who you are, what you do, and how you are connected to the person. You can briefly explain what the person did while volunteering. "José volunteered to update and streamline our volunteer database, bring the records of hundreds of volunteers into one system."
  • Provide details on performance. At this step provide details of the specifics of your observations of the individual's competence, ability to work with others, ability to complete tasks on time. Include "personal or social" skills information. If the individual worked well with a diverse team of paid staff and other volunteers, say that.
  • Summarize your support. End with paragraph that is short, but summarizes your support. And include contact information, should someone want to talk to you about the candidate.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for: The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions by Mary Kay Hood and Volunteer Recruiting & Retention, A Marketing Approach, by author and managing editor Nancy Macduff. For more information, check out these books and more at our online bookstore.

One Minute Answer Book Recruiting & Retention Book Image


The Points of Light Foundation has forms available to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future. The award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like nomination forms, call 202-729-8000.


By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center.
This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.

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