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

~ February 2005 ~ Topics

Volunteer Positions - Outside the Box

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.

Organizational Mission Volunteer Positions
1. The organization serves a vulnerable population - homeless, poor, terminally ill, fragile elderly, etc.
  • 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 people.
  • Organize a pet visitation program through groups set up to do this.
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 McBee.

Details for Designing Programs Book Details for To Lead Book

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Volunteers Who Just Show Up

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 be avoided!

For more information on dealing with the spontaneous volunteer check out these sources.

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Delegating Means Giving Up The Need to Control

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.

Behavior 5
4 3 2 1 0
1. I do most of the talking during meetings.            
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.


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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