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VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com


~ July 2005 ~ Topics

Dear Connie:

I am a Volunteer Coordinator and have never held a position like this before. I need the very first steps in how to go about recruiting volunteers. I am finding the hardest time to obtain volunteers is during the week during the day. We are always in need of volunteers here in the office and I can't seem to find anyone who doesn't work to come into the office. What is the first thing I should do in order to recruit, not only dedicated volunteers but also enthusiastic and mature volunteers?


Dear HB:

Since you're new to the volunteer management profession, I'm going to hop up on my soapbox for a few minutes! (grin!) Your best recruiting tool is your volunteer program and you want it to be as "attractive" as possible to potential volunteers. Before you begin your recruitment campaign, I suggest you ask yourself a few questions:

Do I have a mission/values/vision statement that makes it clear where the volunteer program fits into the entire organization?

Do I have current and accurate policies and procedures for involving volunteers?

Are my volunteer task descriptions current and flexible and do they give meaningful tasks to volunteers?

Do I have a process to evaluate volunteers on a periodic basis?

Do I have a volunteer (and staff) recognition plan for formal and informal expressions of appreciation?

Two valuable resources that I recommend are "Volunteer Recruiting and Retention: A Marketing Approach," by Nancy Macduff and available for sale on this site's bookstore and "The Volunteer Recruitment Book," by Susan Ellis, available at http://www.energizeinc.com. Susan's web site also has an article that appeared in her column in The Nonprofit Times entitled "Finding Daytime Volunteers" that I know you will find helpful. Just do a site search for the title.

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Dear Connie:

I am a new Volunteer Coordinator and need advice for setting up a volunteer recognition system. Is it best to recognize volunteers based upon the number of hours worked, the length of service or a combination of both?


Dear Tee:

When you're considering recognition criteria (number of hours, length of service, or both) -- it's really up to you AND your volunteers. Some VPMs make the mistake of thinking that they are the only one who knows what "their" volunteers will like. I suggest that you ask the people who know best – the volunteers who participate in your program. The easiest way to do that is to convene 8-12 volunteers who represent diverse experiences (new volunteer, long-term volunteer, young, senior, male, female, etc.) and involve them in identifying what will be most meaningful to all volunteers.

Once you know the best recognition criteria, you're set to create your annual recognition plan. It can be an elaborate printed document or a simple handwritten memo to the file. The important thing is that you plan in advance the formal and informal recognition activities for the coming year. The plan is also a good tool to use in your annual budgeting process so you'll know exactly how much to budget for recognition. For example, a few elements in your recognition plan might be:

send birthday cards to every volunteer
hold summer and winter holiday parties
write one personal thank you note every month
hold recognition event during National Volunteer Week (April 23-27, 2006)
set up database to track hours/years and award pins at annual event
create standing column in monthly newsletter to introduce new volunteers

Finally, if you're not already a member of the Association for Volunteer Administration, I encourage you to go to their website (http://www.avaintl.org) and join immediately! AVA is your professional service organization that provides information, training, an annual conference, and networking for volunteer program managers. I've been a member of AVA for more than 15 years and it continues to be an indispensable resource. Good luck!

Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
10103 Edward Avenue * Bethesda, MD 20814 * VOICE: 301-530-8233 * FAX: 301-530-8299

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