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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.

~May 2014 ~


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Administrators of volunteer programs are urged to plan.  Planning starts with selecting a purpose.  One way to make purpose selection easy is to use one of the six standard purpose statements listed below.  Anything planned for or evaluated in a volunteer program is represented in the list of six types of purpose statements. 

wooden sign what is your purpose

Select the purpose statement that describes best what you are trying to do: create a new program, evaluate an existing program, try to determine the elements of a successful program, and more. The purpose should be what you hope to achieve. 

From that purpose statement comes the individual goal (s) for what is to be addressed or evaluated.  Never try to do two things in one over arching goal.  Better to have several goals that are needed to carry out what is listed in your purpose statement.  A rule of thumb---one goal with no more than three objectives per individual goal. Lots of action steps are ok. 

Action plans are always related to a specific objective.  See examples in the chart below.

Standard Purposes to Evaluate Programs and People

To Contributeal to Decisions about Program Installation  Evaluation of the initial concept, assessment of the frequency or intensity of needs, estimates of cost, operational feasibility, demand, and support all are important precursors to decisions about whether to implement a program and about size and scope of installation.

To develop a social media method to increase pet adoptions.

Objectives would be related to assessing what social media application lends itself to increasing pet adoption.

Action steps would be brainstorming ideas to increase pet adoptions by using individual social media applications—Facebook, Pinterest, MySpace,Twitter, etc.

2.  To Contribute to Decisions about Program Modification Periodically it is important to assess existing programs for modification.
It is important to note that if a program is cast in an unchangeable mold, you are wasting your time seeking information to help make it better.

To assess the need for hospital greeters.

Objectives would relate to assessing what this position is currently.  Needs to continue might be another objective.

Actions steps would include assessing number of volunteers required, ability to fill all “shifts,” difficulty in recruiting.  Determining the need for volunteers in various locations.

3.  To Contribute to Decisions about Program Continuation or Expansion: This goal is a summative. Investigations under this goal may involve some of the same components as investigations under the above goal.
After a program is operational, it is important to monitor the continuing need for the program (think job description).  Needs change or even go away.  It is important to assess costs as well as demand and support.  If it is becoming impossible to recruit volunteers to do a specific task, for example, a purpose and goals can tell why and lead to decisions to discontinue this volunteer engagement opportunity or drastically re-haul the volunteer recruiting efforts.  Results from such investigations need to be considered along with results of impact studies (focusing on both intended and unintended outcomes) when making decisions about program continuation or expansion.

To assess the overall quality of the park host position.

Objectives would be data on how many visitors, how many hosts, number of host-visitor contacts, quality and quantity of recruiting efforts, etc.

Action steps would include careful study of data on the overall program, interviews with visitors, hosts, and paid staff who supervise hosts.

4. To Obtain Evidence Favoring a Program to Rally Support, or Obtain Evidence Against a Program to Rally Opposition  hese two potential goals(for and against) are presented in recognition of the realities of program evaluation.  There are times when decision makers must rally opposition against a program in order to eliminate it so that funds, time, and other resources can be diverted to other more pressing things.  In addition, decision makers should be willing to entertain both negative and positive evidence about a program’s effectiveness.  Care should be taken to ensure that data represents the total state of affairs and not just a partial picture.

To obtain evidence why the “youth mentor” program should be retained.
[There will likely be a second goal about “rallying” after the evidence is obtained]

#1 Objective: To gather all evidence (good and bad) on the impact of the “youth mentor” program
#2 Objective: To organize evidence for distribution to appropriate paid staff and the school board.

Action Steps:  Review data on school performance of all mentees before participation in the mentor program and after a year in the program.
(There will be other action items.)

5.  To Contribute to the Understanding of Basic Processes Pursuing the goal of an evaluating the basic process can be helpful in any nonprofit or volunteer program.  Why does this specific program work?  (think theory).  It is important to remember that the central focus is always the program.  A search for understanding of basic processes can be a means to sharpen the focus of an entire evaluation process.

To study the activities of “youth mentors” where the student has made marked improvement.

#1 Objective:  Recruit an intern college student to design an observation process to assess specific mentors.
#2 Objective: Carry out an assessment of all mentors including demographic information, and those with the best returns in terms of student achievement.

Action Steps:  Contact Professor Jones in the Education Dept. to obtain a student intern who is interested in developing an evaluation process of mentors.
(There will be other action steps.)

6.  To assess the efficacy of individuals working in a volunteer program.  Evaluation of volunteers or paid staff working with volunteers is a healthy measure of a program.  The people doing the work for the member, client, or entity (a park, museum) need to have the same scrutiny as the overall program.  The evaluation of individuals is always focused on enhancing the health of the overall program by building skills and capabilities in the volunteers doing the work.

To develop an individual evaluation  process for volunteers working in the volunteer docent program.

Objective: Create a committee of paid staff in Collection Department and volunteer docents with range of time served to develop a process to evaluate docent volunteers.

(There will be other objectives.)

Action Step: Ask your supervisor to discuss allowing 2-3 staff to sit on Docent Evaluation Committee. Provide suggested names.

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In the day and age of multi-media; newspapers, radio, Twitter, TV, Instagram, billboards, etc it is essential to have a plan to attract specific audiences to volunteering.  Reaching teenagers is more than putting up a poster at the local high school.  Here are some tips.
Begin by having jobs that are meaningful and fun. This generation of teenagers wants to have fun, same as earlier generations.  However, the millennial generation of teens wants work that is meaningful with impact to better the world.
Show how teens can use skills they already have.  Many teens have skills; computer, programming, data entry, online research, and more.  Be sure to help teens identify skills so their placement in the organization utilizes what they know, while the teen has a chance to learn new things.
Show pictures of teens having fun.  Make sure the Web site has a specific location for teen volunteers.  Get a photo release form, signed by parent, when volunteers register and get a teen to take lots of pictures.  Change out the photos on a regular basis.  Teens, like their grown-up generational counterparts, want to see pictures of people their own age doing the tasks the organization has in mind.
Connect the volunteer job to practical school, career or college requirements.  Get a group of teen volunteers to work with you to identify how volunteering is related to school assignments, job experience, or college applications.  Have a teen turn it into a flyer to include in recruiting packets and on your Facebook or MySpace page.  Colorful is good!
List altruistic reasoning for volunteering.  Altruism is a key motivator for today’s youth.  They are volunteering in droves, forming their own nonprofit organizations to address serious issues, and are more knowledgeable about world wide social problems than any generation in history.  Be sure to include information related to your mission in any recruiting information.
Don't be too frivolous. Teens like to be taken seriously.  They frequently know more than their elders on serious social issues.  Never patronize.  Be quick to share information about the organization’s mission and how volunteers are trying to address needs (human, animal, or arts).  Kids are less interested in “make-work” volunteering than in making a substantial contribution.
Stress individual values (Uniqueness.) Teens, like their adult counterparts, have a wide range of motivations for volunteering—achievement, influence, socialization, responsibility, school credit and so much more.  In talking with teens find out what he/she is interested in and portray the job in those terms.  This goes for wording on the Web site and Facebook page, too.
Not all jobs are suitable for teen volunteers.  There are some tasks in the organization that are not suitable for teens.  All jobs need to be analyzed for appropriateness for a teenager.  Jobs can be created where a teen is an aide to more seasoned volunteer.  Teens need to understand that their stay is short and some jobs require hours of training and seasoning.  Remember this teen grows up to be an adult who might want to volunteer


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Get a tip on some aspect of volunteer administration daily on Twitter.

You do not need a twitter account. Just visit the site on the Web. Paste this address into your browser and you can pick up new ideas. Book mark the page for ease of revisiting.



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