Many volunteer programs at a national
or federal level are large. 200, 300, 400 or many more volunteers providing
much needed services. Volunteers come and go on a monthly basis, with
a frequency that makes it impossible for the coordinator or manager
of volunteers to find out why. Yet, not gathering information from departing
volunteers leaves a large information hole. The solution is the Exit
The Exit Interview Team is a highly trained
group of volunteers who contacts volunteers who leave and interviews
them about their experience. The interviews are confidential, need to
be standardized, need to be recorded and analyzed, with results shared
with the appropriate staff and volunteer leaders.
The target for these is the direct service
volunteer. Those volunteering with a group would not be included in
this type of evaluation. Other types of evaluations are used with groups.
Select experienced volunteers with a broad knowledge
of the program. This is a great job for someone who is not as
active as in the past, but is still interested in the program.
For those in Parks or outdoor programs, think of people who can
no longer build trails or clear roads, but could do phone or email
interviews with departing volunteers. Select people who will not
be argumentative or try to defend the program. The job of the
Exit Team is to be neutral and gather information. The best listeners
are the people who qualify for this post.
The team might also include a person whose sole
task is to receive information and prepare it in digestible forms
for the paid staff. This person need not work in the office, but
have a "virtual" volunteer job.
Exit Team members need to know the purpose of
the interviews, the various ways they are conducted, how to be
a good interviewer, how to submit the data to the compiler, and
how the data is used. The Team also needs to see what is done
with the information submitted, so give them data from previous
years, and reports on how that information has changed the organization
and management of volunteers.
Be sure to provide ample opportunity during
training to practice phone interviews and especially skills to
maintain neutrality and do follow-up questions.
In the electronic age there
is more than one way to solicit information from volunteers. The
face-to-face or phone interview is the most traditional. Keep it
short and ask the same questions of everyone. This type of interview
allows for follow-up questions that can dig deeper for information.
Other forms of follow-up:
FAX-contact the person by phone and ask if they would like
to do the "interview" via fax. Fax them the questions
and have them return to the person compiling the data.
Email-The "interview" could be done in a series
of questions on email. Test this method in advance. Too many
questions can be discouraging, where one or two at a time, or
an attached form might be easier.
Web survey-If the volunteer program has an easily accessible
Web site the "interview" could be placed there as
well, for departing volunteers to print and fax to the compiler
for the Exit Team. On more sophisticated sites the form can
be completed online and shipped to the compiler.
Face-to-Face Interviews-If a volunteer knows in advance they
are leaving, an Exit Team member can do a face-to-face interview.
Volunteers are given the option of the various
types of interviews and the compiler's duties includes seeing
there is a balance between the various types of programs and people.
If there is an imbalance, the interviewers can increase activities
to balance the sample. The sample should look like the actual
volunteer program, in order to be valid. For example, if the program
is 50% men and 50% women then the departing sample should look
the same way.
Be sure to include demographic information in
the questions to enhance validity of the interview results.
Gathering relevant information
does not need to be done for every volunteer. If the program has
600 volunteers and the attrition rate is 50% annually, then 150
volunteers interviewed in a year is more than enough. The timing
of interviews needs to be in different "seasons" of the
year for validity, and if volunteers do different things (position
descriptions) then those interviewed need to come from all those
various positions. For example, interviews are conducted in October
and April each year. Any method is open to the volunteer, but the
ones where follow-up questions can be asked are preferred. Volunteers
need to know how and why the study is being done and what is done
with the information.
While most managers of volunteers have their
own questions of departing people, there are some area of interest
not to be missed.
The volunteer role. Ask questions about how the person saw
his/her roles. Do they know things that should be passed on
to others related to the work done? What suggestions can be
made to enhance the role of this type of volunteer work?
Skills. Did the person feel prepared to do the work? What
more or less needs to be done in training? What tips or hints
would the person give to other volunteers to do the work efficiently?
The future. What does the volunteer see as future needs in
this area? What does the organization need to do related to
volunteers and this position to be effective five years from
Administration. Was supervision adequate? What recommendations
do you have to enhance or improve? Are there things you need
to stop doing? Things you need to do more of?
This important information from departing
volunteers can be used in recruiting, training, management, and
recognition. A small committee of 4 - 7 episodic volunteers can
likely do this for the volunteer program. The number you need
to survey depends on the total number of volunteers leaving annually.
Interested in more information? Check out our online
bookstore for: "Megatrends in Volunteerism," by Sue
Margaret 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.
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