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ENGAGING & MANAGING VOLUNTEERS

On this page are ideas to help you work more efficiently with volunteers. There are tips on recruiting, engaging, coordinating, and managing the work of volunteers.

~ September 2010 ~

woman

CHECKED YOUR POLICIES LATELY?


         One aspect of solid volunteer infrastructure is the presence of policies that guide the work of volunteers.  They are written and reviewed on a regular basis and widely available to paid staff and volunteers.  What is a policy?

  1. A policy is a statement of belief or value that applies to everyone connected to the organization.
  2. A policy is a plan of action or structure which include steps or procedures

The first type of policy is one usually written and approved by the board of directors or an advisory committee. 


Example:  XX organization does not permit discrimination against clients, paid staff, or volunteers based on race religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socio-economic background, or ethnicity. 


         The second type of policy for a volunteer program is usually drafted by the manager of volunteers in consultation with a volunteer advisory group.  It is largely procedural and relates specifically to work done by the volunteers.


Example:  Volunteers will not disengage or otherwise tamper with any safety mechanisms on any equipment entrusted to their use.


This last policy refers to the use of equipment by volunteers in the course of their volunteer assignment.  If a volunteer tampers with equipment it could provide the foundation to separate the volunteer from the organization.


Writing volunteers policies that are clear and concise are essential.  Linda Graff* recommends six criteria to use in constructing policies.

Criteria

Description

Be concise

Keep it short.  The longer and more convoluted in the policy manual the more intimidating.  Harder for volunteers to understand and apply.

Be clear

Avoid jargon, abbreviations, or technical language.  Be sure language is clear and conveys what is intended.  Reduce or eliminate blurred language.

Be Directive

A policy tells volunteers exactly what is expected.  The most important policies should be worded in the strongest possible language.

Round the edges

Policies related to volunteers, if too harshly worded, can drive prospects away.  Write the policy and then adjust the language to make it more palatable and understandable to the average person.

Emphasize the Positive

Be sure that policies are worded in the positive and include policies designed to motivate or inspire volunteers

Illustrate

Use charts, diagrams, photos to illustrate what is stated in the policy.  This can make a policy easy to read, too.

 

*From:  The Volunteer Management Handbook, Ed. Tracy Connors, “Policies for Volunteer Programs,” L. Graff, 1995

 


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FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND RECRUITING

If you need volunteers try the Twitter location, Twellow.com. Twellow is a directory of public Twitter accounts with categories and search features to find people who are likely to volunteer. There is a category for volunteering. Start by being friendly, introduce yourself to others. Be a friendly place to visit and share those volunteer opportunities.

Another option is FaceBook. One FaceBook page can be about the things volunteers do and the needs you have for volunteers. This allows people to "like" you and you can build a list to contact when volunteers are needed, especially for those short-term needs. It is an easy place to post pictures of volunteers doing a wide variety of activities to show the wide range of episodic and long term volunteer opportunities.

Another FaceBook page could be just for volunteers. A place to post messages, say thank you, post pictures of volunteers at work, announce meetings, post policies or schedules, and so much more.

Are you inexperienced with social media? Find a few volunteers who love it and use it. Ask them to lead the effort to use this powerful communication tool. Work closely with them to increase your skills and design a way to communicate with volunteers. More and more people start their search for volunteer opportunities online. Be sure the potential volunteer can find you.

Interested in learning how to effectively recruit volunteers? Check the Event page for local conferences and workshops. Sign up for online training course that leads to professional certification.

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