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The Recruitment and Organization of Volunteers page and the Management & Supervision page have been merged into one new page. Everything from ideas to help you work more efficiently to the latest in research on keeping volunteers happy and productive, as well as ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

~ October 2007 ~ Topics

How's Your Infrastructure?

How's Your Infrastructure?

Yet another study tells managers of volunteer programs that people are not thrilled about volunteering for organizations because of the types of work expected or the inability of the organization to tap into their particular skills. (Great Expectations: Boomers and the Future of Volunteering, VolunteerMatch, 2007). It is all infrastructure.


  • Riverside Websters says-"An underlying base or foundation; the basic facilities needed for the functioning of a system."
  • Infrastructure-the system according to which a company, organization, or other body is organized at the most basic level, according to Encarta® World English Dictionary.
  • Infrastructure-a set of interconnected structural elements that provide the framework supporting an entire structure, according to Wikipedia.

No matter how you slice it, having a framework, a structure, is essential to an organization, a program, or an event. It applies to the city of St. Louis, and the volunteer program at the St. Louis Zoo equally. And what volunteers are telling us in the new VolunteerMatch study and in numerous studies of volunteers is that the infrastructure for volunteer service is woefully lacking. How so?

Volunteers are treated in a casual haphazard way when they arrive to serve. Staff are openly dismissive of their efforts. There is no flexiblity in how the person can serve. Tasks assigned are mind numbing busy work. The most serious indictment is that a person calls or emails to volunteer and no one responds. Surely that does not happen in your program! How do you know?

A volunteer manager can check on their program's recruiting infrastructure by getting a friend or relative to try to become a volunteer. It can help identify "holes" in the recruiting infrastructure. This should be done at least once a year.

To understand how people are treated by others in the organization the manager of volunteers needs to make a special effort to get away from his/her desk and visit with those working in the organization. A volunteer manager reported recently that once each month she works an evening shift and one Saturday or Sunday per month. This is because volunteers are working at those times. Wise woman, she is checking the infrastructure.

So what is the infrastructure related to recruiting that needs to be in place? In this issue of Volunteer Today we tackle recruiting. Subsequent issues of the newsletter will give you the opportunity to check your infrastructure.

Recruiting Volunteers Infrastructure

Recruiting is not simply the act of asking someone to volunteer or putting flyers at a local library. It is a multi-step process that builds to engagement. Here are the most elemental parts of the structure.

1. Know the needs and what exists now.
  • Maintain a database of current volunteers that includes contact information, demographic data, and service history.
  • Volunteers and staff are asked about the need for volunteers.
  • Volunteers can design their own opportunities for service.
2. There is a plan.
  • There are measurable goals for recruitment each year.
  • The manager (and his/her staff) have annual objectives and work plans.
3. Activities for volunteers are planned.
  • Tasks, jobs, services of volunteers are tied to needs of the organization.
  • Volunteer skills and interests are always considered when designing things for them to do.
  • A cost/benefit analysis is used whenever it is decided to engage volunteers in a particular activity.
  • There are volunteer jobs, services, tasks for a wide variety of volunteering styles.
4. There are descriptions of volunteer duties.
  • There are standard position descriptions for traditional volunteer positions.
  • Episodic volunteers receive short descriptions of tasks or duties.
  • Volunteers who supervise other volunteers know what is to be done.
  • Position or service descriptions are reviewed regularly.
  • Services and tasks are designed to attract a variety of volunteering styles.
5. We know our service community.
  • The volunteer office maintains information on the demographic profiles of the potential volunteer pool.
  • Recruiting is targeted to specific groups-by tasks, service, job; by length of service needed; by demographic group.
  • Demographic research is used in planning a recruiting campaign.
6. Advertising and Promotion
  • Recruiting efforts are personal and global to find potential volunteers.
  • All types of media are used to recruit.
  • Various volunteer positions are listed on Web sites designed to recruit online.
  • The organization prominently displays volunteer opportunities on the homepage of its Web site.
  • Current and former volunteers are engaged in the recruiting effort.
7. Volunteer Recruiting Teams
  • The recruiting effort for different styles of volunteers is guided by a volunteer recruiting team, staffed by the manager of volunteers or designee.
  • Volunteer office staff views their role as working with the volunteer recruiting team members as partners, not just people they tell what to do.
  • There is a budget for recruiting volunteers.

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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.

Details for Episodic Volunteering Book Details for One Minute Answer Book


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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