A recent gift is a wire sculpture of a person
outside a box. Thinking and acting "outside the box"
is always a challenge. The same is true in designing new positions
for volunteers. It is easy to be consumed by recruiting for those
essential volunteer positions. Taking time to think outside the
box, design some new volunteer positions, has the long-term impact
of opening whole new groups of people to an organization. Here
are some ideas to get your thinking moving - outside the box.
1. The organization serves a vulnerable
population - homeless, poor, terminally ill, fragile elderly,
Recruit volunteers to provide flowers or plants to clients
or facilities serving clients on a regular basis. Could be through
local garden clubs, or just people who like working with greenery,
but not necessarily people.
Recruit volunteers to play music, of all types, once a year
for individuals or groups in their home or facilities. You could
also recruit people to make tapes for use in facilities.
2. The organization recruits adults to work
with youth in groups, clubs, troops, etc.
Recruit someone to oversee a large fund raising project that
occurs each year. They are not working with a group, but overseeing
the planning and implementation of a fund raising event or sale.
Recruit adults to "substitute" for a leader with
illness in family or work related conflicts. Guarantee this will
only happen once per year. Get a big list of subs.
3. Volunteers support the work of a hospital,
nursing home, long term care facility or the like.
Recruit volunteers to provide flowers or plants to clients
who are not receiving them. Could be through local garden clubs,
or just people who like working with greenery, but not necessarily
Organize a pet visitation program through groups set up to
4. Volunteers engage in outdoor work to
support a park or other outdoor site.
Recruit paper work volunteers. They chart or map progress
of the outdoor volunteers, or complete forms the outdoor volunteers
hate to complete.
Find volunteers to maintain equipment used by the volunteers;
sharpen chair saws or axes, clean and oil shovels, check the
safety of handles. This is good job for people who support the
park, but cannot do rigorous outdoor work.
5. Volunteers support
the work of a museum, orchestra, opera, choral group.
Recruit people to bring appropriate "treats" to
long rehearsals or concerts.
Develop a Volunteer Language Bank. Find people willing to
be on call who speak languages other than English. Use them with
visiting specialists or musicians or for special guests.
Interested in more
information? Check out our online
bookstore for: Designing Programs for the Volunteer Sector,
by Nancy Macduff and To Lead is to Serve, by Shar
The outpouring of
aid following the December 2004 Eastern Asian tsunami is only
a recent example of how people respond in the face of a catastrophe.
Whether it is a burned house, a local flood, or an event of the
scope of the tsunami, human beings "just show up."
And, increasingly people show up, just to help, and it is not
a catastrophe, just "business as usual." Here are some
tips for dealing with the "just show up" volunteer.
Enroll people. 3 x 5 cards can gather the essential
information, including who to contact in an emergency. You need
to know who these people are and if they are representing another
organization or group. If under 18, YOU MUST have some type of
parent release form that is signed and dated. If someone is driving
make sure they have a valid drivers license and insurance. And
check your own insurance for who is covered.
Tell them the rules. Every volunteer needs to know
what they can and cannot do. Get a one page sheet and review
with anyone who signs on to volunteer. This person is representing
the organization and can make you look bad, if they promise something
you are not prepared to deliver.
Keep jobs simple. Inexperienced volunteers need tasks
that do not require extensive knowledge; alphabetize files (of
the non-confidential variety), sort clothing or food, restock
brochure shelves, etc. The one time volunteer cannot do the work
of someone who has been trained and working for the organization
for a long period.
Get a partner. Match inexperienced people with those
with experience. The partner can help the novice learn the ropes
and avoid making mistakes.
Develop "quick" training materials. A short
video to spell out the rules, an audio tape (in case there is
not electricity) with the same information, handouts that are
laminated and can be used again and again, these are things that
can get people "trained" quickly.
Put people to work immediately. Simple jobs can be
tackled immediately if there is not time to get in the training.
It is a bad idea to have people sitting around doing nothing.
They are anxious to work and not likely to be happy while waiting
for you to get organized.
Monitor progress. Never leave novice volunteers alone
for long. The administrator of volunteers or a trusted experienced
volunteer should be checking on them with some regularity. In
disaster situations they can burnout rapidly and that needs to
For more information on dealing with the
spontaneous volunteer check out these sources.
Directions: Read the statements in the column
headed "behavior." If it is something you usually do
put an "X" beneath the 0 and "Usually" rating;
if it is something you do "occasionally" move more
toward the "Never" and 5 rating. When you have completed
the survey add up your score.
1. I do most of the talking
2. I ask for constant updates
on the progress of assigned tasks.
3. I have a hard time delegating
tasks or projects to others.
4. I am anxious when some suggests
a different way to tackle a project or task.
5. I go to extreme lengths to
prove to someone I am right.
6. I make all decisions, read
every letter, and monitor every penny.
Scoring: Add your ratings from all six questions.
If you scored 30 no one will ever call you a "control freak."
If you scored 12 or less, you have high control needs and that
can make it difficult for some people to work with you. You might
try some of these tactics to change your need to control.
Direct your energies toward specific projects. No one can
know everything about all the aspects of managing volunteers.
Concentrate in small areas, and encourage others to work on other
projects and just keep you informed periodically.
Find reasons to trust other staff and volunteers. Make a
list of times when those individuals really "came through"
and you did not need to control every aspect of their behavior.
When you are dying to control, go the "suggestion"
route. Offer ideas, but make it clear that you do not expect
people to do everything your way.
Set some goals to control less over the next six months.
Read up on how to release control to others. Check out your
local library or the Internet.
Interested in assessing volunteer and
staff relations in your program?
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.