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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.

~June & July 2014 ~


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        Many nonprofit and volunteer programs are grappling with the loss of “wisdom” from its elders.  Retirement looms for many with deep experience and knowledge.  The volunteer corps in many organizations will lose not baby boomers, but those in their early and mid-80s.  The knowledge about launching annual events, knowing where the extra chairs are stored, and having connections with businesses in the community will be lost. 
         The younger generations are “job” hoppers and so their level of knowledge might be good for the short run and for innovative projects, but cannot be relied on for depth of experience.  How to bridge the knowledge gap is the challenge.
         Activities and communication is different for older people from their ‘messaging’ grandchildren.  Here are some hints on how to pass along significant information and share the secrets.  Begin by knowing the difference in communication from generation to generation.

  • Those born from 1925-1945 and 1946-1964 are most comfortable in a formal communication and printed texts.  They are more verbal than visual in their communication style.
  • The Gen X generation born between 1965 – 1979 prefer informal communication, but can manage the formal classroom.  They are very action oriented, wanting to focus on real solutions to problems.  This first computer generation is more visual than verbal.
  • The 1980-1997 generation (Gen Y or the Millennial's) is a product of the computer age.  They enjoy working in a team process and through networks.  They prefer doing things their own way, rather than being told how to do them.

There are ways to transfer information from one generation to the next.  Here are some tips:

  • Acknowledge that the transfer of information from one generation to another is more complex than ever.
  • Younger volunteers may prefer to communicate through ‘messaging,’ rather than attending a meeting.
  • Set up blogs for younger volunteers to share their “wisdom.”  Encourage older computer savvy volunteers to use these sites to share what they know.
  • Consider a pod cast on the details of volunteer duties.
  • Communicate in three different ways that is appropriate to each of the generational groups.

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            Recruiting is not simply the act of asking someone to volunteer or putting flyers at a local library or creating a new Web site or Pinterest page.  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
    1. Maintain a database of current volunteers that includes contact information, demographic data, and service history
    2. Volunteers and staff are asked about the need for volunteers. Create a form they can use to request a volunteer
    3. Volunteers can design their own opportunities for service.  Be flexible


  2. There is a plan
    1. There are measurable goals for recruitment each year
    2. The manager (and his/her staff) have annual objectives and work plans

  4. Activities for volunteers are planned
    1. Tasks, jobs, services of volunteers are tied to needs of the organization
    2.  Volunteer skills and interests are always considered when designing things for them to do
    3. A cost/benefit analysis is used whenever it is decided to engage volunteers in a particular activity.
    4. There are volunteer jobs, services, tasks for a wide variety of volunteering styles

4. There are descriptions of volunteer duties

    1. There are standard position descriptions for traditional volunteer positions
    2. Episodic volunteers receive short descriptions of tasks or duties
    3. Volunteers who supervise other volunteers know what is to be done.  They have been trained.
    4. Position or service descriptions are reviewed regularly
    5. Services and tasks are designed to attract a variety of volunteering styles

5.  We know our service community

    1. The volunteer office maintains information on the demographic profiles of the potential volunteer pool.
    2. Recruiting is targeted to specific groups—by tasks, service, job; by length of service needed; by demographic group.
    3. Demographic research is used in planning a recruiting campaign

6.  Advertising and Promotion

    1. Recruiting efforts are personal and global to find potential volunteers
    2. All types of media are used to recruit
    3. Various volunteer positions are listed on Web sites designed to recruit online
    4. The organization prominently displays volunteer opportunities on the homepage of its Web site.
    5. Current and former volunteers are engaged in the recruiting effort

7.  Volunteer Recruiting Teams

    1. The recruiting effort for different styles of volunteers is guided by a volunteer recruiting team staffed by the manager of volunteers or designee.
    2. Volunteer office staff views their role as working with the volunteer recruiting team members as partners, not just people they tell what to do.
    3. There is a budget for recruiting volunteers.
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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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