Frequent recognition of the efforts of volunteers is
one key to success in managing volunteers. Most managers are fine with
the "big" stuffcertificates, National Volunteer Day celebrations,
the luncheon, the picnic, or big potluck supper. It is the day-to-day
recognition however, that is most often cited by volunteers as being the
most meaningful. Here are a few tips to add to your bag of recognition
Put 5 pennies in a pocket each day. As you offer
recognition on a personal level, transfer those pennies to another
pocket or to a jar on your desk. It seems like a corny notion, but
doing it regularly might provide some extra $ for the next vacation
or shopping trip. And it is a tangible reminder of your efforts at
At the end of the day when the brain cells are
struggling to make sense of anything write short appreciate notes
to volunteers or paid staff who are especially effective working with
On any trip to a bookstore or place like Target
or Wal-Mart, look for postcards that are on sale. Use them for the
special thank you notes. Not expensive, cute pictures, and loved by
those who receive them.
Do you make a weekly or daily to do list? Put those
people who deserve recognition on that list. Cross off names as you
praise or acknowledge their work.
Stuck in traffic often? Use your cell phone to
give thank IOUs to volunteers. Keep a phone list in the car and call
their work number, so when they arrive at work the next day, the first
message heard is one thanking them for being a volunteer.
Episodic volunteers come in different varieties, like
pears and peaches. Some arrive once and never return, some come for a
short stintslike an intern, but leave at the end of three months,
others come back for one activity or event that occurs annually. . .but
not anything else. So how can you motivate these people who interact with
your organization infrequently? Here are some ideas to help you.
Offer flexible schedules. No matter the type of
episodic volunteer the idea of flexibility in scheduling is mighty
appealing. The person's life situation likely does not allow for a
"regular" schedule of anything. Your willingness to take
the person as he/she is will be appreciated (and likely repeated to
friends and familyalways good publicity). For the potential
returnee episodic volunteer this flexibility means a great deal and
might help you keep the person for several years.
Build a team. Involving and training experienced
traditional volunteers (the regulars) to work with episodic volunteers
can be a big motivator. Being made to feel welcome when you are only
at an organization for a few hours is a good motivational tool. It
also gives the experienced volunteer a sense of connection with the
new short time volunteers, rather than hard feelings. But, the experienced
traditional volunteers needs training on such things as how to train
in a hurry, how to praise, how to correct, and how not to coerce people
to sign on as a full time volunteer. The person was recruited for
short-term service and should be acknowledged for that and not badgered
to sign on for more hours.
Mix the workload. Short term volunteers often get
the "grunt" or "no-brainer" tasks while the more
experienced volunteer who knows the ropes gets the fun tasks. Work
hard to mix duties for short-term volunteers. If the volunteer is
willing, provide several different tasks during their stay. The person
can do something "new" during his/her experience with the
organization. Boring, repetitious work can be demoralizing. Better
the episodic volunteer should leave an interesting experience and
something to share with friends and family.
Create a mentor corps. Not all shortterm
or episodic volunteers need mentors, but a cadre of experienced traditional
volunteers could be trained to serve as mentors to several volunteers
simultaneously. If episodic volunteers are used for a big event, one
trained mentor can likely keep tabs on 20-30 episodic volunteers during
the course of the day. The mentor's role is to be a welcomer, coach,
friend, and make the person feel part of the team. The mentor is a
person who needs to be open to "stupid questions" and a
pal when something goes awry. Mentors should not be the volunteer's
Orientation is key. Volunteers of all types are
put off by not knowing what is to be done. Episodic volunteers are
particularly susceptible to feelings of inadequacies, unless he/she
is properly trained. Bring a team of experienced volunteers together
with the challenge of planning a 15-minute orientation for episodic
volunteers. It might include pre-information online, through email
or a website, or be face-to-face at the work site. It should include
things like the location of bathrooms, where to put personal belongings
that is safe, rules about phone calls, forms to fill out, purpose
of work, and a million other things. But, 15 minutes is the limit.
Trained part-time volunteers are happy volunteers.
The periodical American Demographics typically uses
1976 to demarcate the start of Generation Y, the demographers Howe and
Strauss have consistently used "the High School class of 2000,"
or those born in 1982 as their demarcation. Howe and Strauss call them
Millennia's and the term Net Generation is also used.
While many possible years are used as the endpoint of
Generation Y, the term is almost never applied to current infants, who
are part of a possibly as yet unnamed generation. Due to the flexible
nature of such demographic terms, two people of the same birth year can
identify as either Generation X, Y, or something that follows Y, such
as the New Silent Generation and neither is wrong.
If the years 1978-2000 are used, as is common in market
research, then the size of Generation Y in the United States is approximately
Whatever you call them, this group is volunteering during
their formative school years and some are entering the work force. Here
are some things shown to attract these people to work and play.
What do you have available in your organization to attract this new volunteer
Fun in the working environment
Opportunity to grow and learn
Wide range of activities
Some benefits to volunteering
Opportunity to learn new skills while volunteering
Chance to travel and/or experience new environments
Adapted from "Understand Y: Learn How to Recruit
Generation Y Workers and to Make them Stay," by Christine Luporter,
on the WomenConnect Web site.
Interested in more information? Check out our online
bookstore for: Episodic Volunteering: Organizing and Managing the
Short-Term Volunteer Program, (now available in downloadable PDF format)
by Nancy Macduff and The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management
Questions, by Mary Kay Hood.
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.