Infrastructure: An Essential to Surviving in Uncertain Times
An underlying base or foundation
The basic facilities needed for the functioning of a system
Riverside Webster’s II Dictionary
PLANNING IN VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
Over the last two months I have done several training sessions for managers of volunteer programs. Each group had an opportunity to assess its infrastructure. In each session the managers’ of the volunteers stated that planning was lacking in their overall program. It occurred to me that planning is treated as a luxury—when I have time—rather than an essential element of volunteer management that can aid in productive use of time [Every 15 minutes spent in planning saves one hour of work time]. Here are reasons why planning is important as it relates to volunteer engagement.
Planning is . . . . . . .
1. . . a means of exercising self-control
Many managers of volunteers wear other “hats.” Those other responsibilities can derail and interfere with effective volunteer management strategies. A written and approved planning process to enhance the program for volunteers helps fend off extra assignments and can be used to focus work place planning.
2. . . using an orderly process that accomplishes change and maintains the mission/purpose of the organization
Good planning for a volunteer program starts with knowing the plans of the overall organization as is related to its goals and/or mission. It is from the organizational strategic plan that the volunteer plan needs to flow. Goals should be related to overall target goals for the entire organization.
3. . . a process of obtaining and providing information necessary for decision making
Plans are not written on stone. The plan for the volunteer program must be flexible. Frequently managers of volunteers are confronted with circumstances requiring adaptability. Having a plan can aid in the decision making about human and financial resources.
4. . . . a process that helps one cope with, and adapt to, the present and the future
Volunteers should be engaged in the planning process. An advisory group might have this as its primary function. It could, also, be an ad hoc committee devoted to producing a plan. Engaging volunteers in planning means that the paid staff person or volunteer leader can leave, but there is a plan and work can go forward to keep the program healthy. It is thinking about the future. It is an aid to the new manager of volunteers, as well.
5. . . . thinking things through before acting
Lack of planning means a person is working on whatever happens in the office today. Planning allows the manager of volunteers to organize work flow with volunteer’s who are in administrative positions or chair committees. It is thinking before acting.
6. . . . designing a system that enables redesign and renewal
A planning process can be replicated. From year to year to year volunteers and staff may come and go, but if a planning process has been in place, it is likely to be replicated. Volunteers, staff, and administrators come to expect the plan. Sharing the plan with volunteers is a way to generate excitement about the future of volunteers in the organization. Ditto for paid staff!
7. . . . fostering a learning process for groups and individuals
Many volunteers provide service in more than one area. Engaging in a planning process in one organization can lead to the transfer of that process to another organization. Planning requires research, too, and the learning for the volunteers and/or paid staff can help build institutional wisdom.
Interested in assessing your Volunteer program?
Use One of the Volunteer program Evaluation Series Assessments
Traditional volunteer positions engage volunteers quite often in long term continuous service. Sometimes this service is of a sensitive nature. Providing assistance to staff in a hospital, serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, visiting a person in the final stages of life are examples. Volunteers in these position want and need to know if their performance is helpful to the organization and to the individual or individuals he/she is assigned to help. It is essential for these sensitive long term positions that a volunteer participate in a performance appraisal. Here are some tips to make that a productive experience for manager of volunteers and the volunteer.
Review the position description. Any evaluation is based on a written document that outlines the role and responsibilities of volunteers (duties). If such a document does not exist it is unfair to assess a volunteer. Be sure position descriptions are up-dated regularly and conveyed to all volunteers.
Create a performance appraisal form. Using the position description create a form that outlines the “duties,” intangibles, such as working with others, etc. The form should provide a continuum type evaluation. For example, the form rates the volunteer from Excellent to Needs Work. It should include a category for Does Not Apply.
Make sure the items on the form are measurable. This is a place to assess end results. It is about tangible and intangible measures.
Ask the volunteer to assess his/her service using the form. This facilitates involvement and incorporates their ideas into the process.
The manager or coordinator also completes the form. Working separately from the volunteer, the manager of volunteers completes the same form.
Compare the volunteer’s ideas to your own. Arrange a meeting with the volunteer to share appraisals. Set aside 30-45 minutes to discuss the form and plan for the coming year.
Include other staff and/or volunteers in the process, if appropriate.
Keep a “personnel” file on the volunteer. Create a file system, either on paper or electronically, for annual appraisals and plans. Refer to them from year to year to note progress.
Questions to ask when writing an appraisal for a volunteer
How does this individual support the goals and mission of the organization
What do you expect the person to have accomplished at the end of service?
Why is each item on the appraisal important to the health of the organizatio