Many nonprofit programs and government volunteer services make heavy use of people who volunteer only for the summer months. Volunteer Today hopes things are going well. Here are some tips to evaluate your efforts or to fix things for 2008.
Identify the Needs - Some summer positions can be filled through word-of-mouth with current volunteers. This is especially true for time limited positions and when only a handful of people are needed. Do not launch a huge recruiting campaign when you only need a small number of volunteers.
Look Inside - Some volunteer jobs heat up in the summer and others are lighter. Could you cross train current volunteers to fill the summer slots? That preparation could begin in the spring. Another strategy is to create an internal recruiting campaign for summer only tasks.
Start Early - Recruiting efforts for summer positions should start no later than St. Patrick's Day (March 17). Even if you only need people in August, start when others are recruiting to get the best candidates.
Long Term - Think about the long term. Can you attract people to return every summer. School teachers have been volunteering in National Parks in the US for decades, as an example. By keeping the same people coming back each year, you save time on training and start up errors.
Benefits - What do you have for that short term volunteer in the way of incentives. Gasoline coupons, coffee shop cards are two ideas to help provide the volunteer with a "thank you" and incentive to keep coming.
Screening Counts - If volunteers are working with vulnerable populations, the screening should be the same as for those who give service in September. Just because the person volunteers for 4 weeks in the summer does not mean you abandon your standards.
Volunteering styles are changing (check out the reprint on Multiparadigm Volunteering). Some volunteers are anxious to make change and get results; others are happy to help, but with their own agenda and frequently their own timetable. And the traditional volunteer wants the things the organization has been doing for years and years. This challenge leaves the manager of volunteers wondering what will motivate everyone. The answer is no one thing appeals to everyone, but it is clear that today's volunteer is more interested in tangible results than ever before. Here are some tips to keep people in the "know" and enhance motivation for many.
Have a purpose or strategy for the team of volunteers and make it known publicly. A poster would be nice and make the purpose measurable.
Tell volunteers how the work they do impacts the mission or "big picture" of the organization.
Help volunteers understand each working unit in the organization. This can head off misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
Explain the decision-making processes of management to volunteers.
Report frequently on hard and soft measures of results or activities for the organization.
Explain reasons for changes in policies and procedures, even when it does not directly impact volunteers, but might impact the client or area of service for the organization.
Have a clear method for volunteers to make suggestions for improvements.
Be transparent with volunteers about how the work they do is utilized by other departments or areas of the organization.
Keep volunteers at the front edge of knowledge about how changes in the environment will impact the organization and its constituencies.
Share numbers that report results to volunteers. Help them understand the statistics and numbers that are the "meat and potatoes" of most of today's organizations. This means you must understand them to explain them. Get an internal tutor, if necessary.
Be clear and honest (tactful) about the performance of individualvolunteers. Most people volunteer to do a good job and expect some type of feedback.
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.