federal or central government volunteer programs are actually located
in a community and pull volunteers from the surrounding geographic area
for the US Forest Service, National Park Service, federal Bureau of
Prisons, IRS VITA and many more. One key to building a strong volunteer
corps for the program is in establishing ongoing partnerships.
with a local entity can provide a steady stream of potential volunteers.
As paid staff change - move up and around in the department or division
- there is "institutional memory" with the partners about
the way projects or events are carried out. Partners are also effective
supporters of federal programs at the local level. Here are some tips
to make those important connections.
cares about what your program does? Any of the outdoor or
recreation programs have natural constituencies in local groups;
Ducks Unlimited, Steelheaders (salmon), Audubon Society, and
the like. Reach beyond those groups - groups who care about
children and might use a park or recreation area, travel and
tourism organizations who wish to promote activities including
those in the outdoor or recreation areas are also potential
partners. Broaden your definition of who might be a partner,
it is only limited by your imagination of who can help you accomplish
your organizational objectives.
can you get connected? Take a look at your current volunteers.
Who might be a member of the organization with whom you wish
to partner? The person might be a member or former member of
that group. Ask the individual to help you get connected to
the decision-makers in the group. If you are running a program
where faith-based organizations might have an interest in volunteering,
this could be a member of a specific congregation. For example,
in a prison program you might have a variety of Christian denominations
represented in volunteer activities, but would like to have
volunteers from other faith groups. Ask the clergy who volunteer
now if they know people from the Jewish community, or a Buddhist
leader. Usually he/she can arrange an introduction.
what you want. Suppose you are looking to up-date your
recruiting material and you want to establish a partnership
with a local organization that does design work for flyers,
brochures and the like (and, naturally, you have no money
to pay for these services). You have the name of the company
president, and an introduction from a current volunteer. What
are you going to ask for? Have a written outline of what your
exact needs are. Be sure to have a nice copy to leave behind.
Be sure to list specifics and about how long it will take
to do this. Time is money in the for-profit world.
hint: Start simple. A short, easily accomplished task
is the ideal place to start. You want the partner to have
a wonderful experience and be anxious to say, "yes"
to the next request. Each request is a bit more of a commitment
on the part of the partner. This is not "fund-raising,"
is in it for the partner? Be sure to tell the partner what
they will get from the experience. There is always the satisfaction
of working to make a better community, but think of others -
civic involvement with a business and a federal government program,
publicity in local and national publications about the work
of the partnerships (if that is true), working with other community
volunteers who might also have an interest in the organization
and its mission. Think hard of what could be a benefit, and
they might not all be intangible. For example, a national park
staff person might explore the availability of free passes to
National Parks for a year for the organization. The partner
might receive five of these, for example.
records of community partners. Make a partners notebook
for your successor. Record the name of the organization, any
projects they have done and the dates, contact person, phone
and email numbers, mailing address, and number of volunteers
and/or hours contributed.
a recognition program exclusively for community partners.
Do something to recognize anyone with whom you partnered in
the last year. Make an award for the most outstanding partner.
Say thank you to everyone, at least once per year. Make sure
those partners are mentioned prominently in the volunteer annual
report. Send the partners a copy. Let your supervisor and other
staff know who is partnering with the organization. Make a partner
bulletin board outside your office.
Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration in Ontario, Canada has an excellent
information page for those working with volunteers. This example of
a government partnership (see above) with the nonprofit sector is a
model that could be replicated in federal programs throughout the world.
The Ministry's Web page has a site location exclusively for volunteerism.
It includes information on awards given annually, statistics on volunteering
in Canada, connections to a partnership with an IT organization to help
volunteer programs, there is a public relations kit that is downloadable,
and links to the federal government sites that help individuals apply
to form a nonprofit corporation. Check out this lovely marriage of government
and volunteerism, available in English and French, at http://www.gov.on.ca/mczcr/english/citdiv/voluntar.
a Burning Question on Federal volunteer Program Management?
you burning with a question about your volunteer program? There is
a place exclusively for managers of volunteer programs that are based
in government. Others are screened out. It is the GOV-VPM listserv.
It is not an overly busy service - not gobs of unwanted emails, in
other words. But, when a good question is asked there are lots of
responses from people who actually do what you do. Very nice! To sign
up contact Points of Light at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then type in "subscribe (your name) gov-vpm." You will get
an automated response and be signed up. Then ask your question.
in more information? Check out our online
bookstore for: "Megatrends in Volunteerism," by Sue
Styles has returned to school and is no longer writing for Volunteer Today.
We wish her the best of luck! Nancy Macduff, managing editor and author
of several Volunteer Today pages, is this month's author of the Federal
Government Volunteer Programs page.Return