Designing and Developing a Successful Volunteer Program Part 2

Last week’s Rich Tips focused on the 10 elements critical to the design and development of a successful volunteer program. Since volunteer management is such an important issue, and since the response has been so great, we decided to expand on the first three elements in this week’s Tips. These elements are:

A) Designing a plan for the volunteer efforts

B) Nuts and bolts of the volunteer program

C) Recruitment strategies for volunteers

Lets look a bit deeper at them:

1. Planning is at the core of any successful effort. Successful planning will enable you to clearly understand the goals and objectives, the expectations, and how this program will fit into the overall mission of the organization. As you develop the plan, try to involve the leadership and the existing volunteers who have an intimate knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the current efforts.

2. Some of the basis elements of the planning process include:

-Value and vision statement. The vision statement describes the underlying values of the organization and sets forth the vision for the future. Too many people manage and run organizations by driving through the “rear-view mirror” rather than anticipating what the future holds. Ask your staff, volunteers, and board members how they envision the volunteer program in the next five years.

Mission statement. The mission statement should answer the following four questions in one sentence: Who are we? What do we do? For whom? To what end? Try to write these on a piece of paper and ask your group to brainstorm words within each question, then have someone string them together in a coherent mission statement sentence.

Needs statement. The needs statement applies to key program needs. This is where you need to solicit input from staff, board, and volunteers to gain an understanding of what shortages the volunteer program will address.

Goals and objectives. What are the key goals and objectives you are seeking to solve through the volunteer program? The more measurable they are the easier it is to evaluate the success of the program.

Budget. What are the volunteer program costs? Although you probably won’t pay the volunteers, the program is not free. Be certain to develop a budget that includes all of the staff and administrative costs, in-kind contributions and other expenses associated with running the volunteer program.

3. Evaluate the impact the volunteer program will have on the organization. It’s important to look seriously at the internal impact of the volunteer program within the organization. Is the cost in time and money really worth it? Do you really have the space to house volunteers? Will they divert the organization from other critical tasks that need to be accomplished?

4. What are some of the nuts and bolts of developing a successful volunteer program? What policies, rules of conduct, and expectations are important in establishing a strong program? What policies do you need to limit your liability and to help assure the success of this program? It’s a good idea to develop some policies early on to give the volunteers and the organization a clear sense of the rules and regulations of the program.

5. Look at developing these policies on a number of levels. These levels might include: 1. the broad policies impacting the entire organization in terms of goals, objectives, mission, and beliefs. 2. policies that are specific to the volunteer program itself, and 3. the responsibilities of the specific volunteers.

6. Volunteer recruitment. Before you actually begin to recruit volunteers please make sure you know why you are recruiting volunteers. Make sure you’re clear with them and with yourself in terms of the exact tasks they will be taking on.

7. Once you’ve determined the needs and tasks for volunteers, define the message and medium for the recruitment. Do you want to recruit students? Are you looking for professional volunteers who can help with budgeting, marketing, or supervising the building of a house? Do you want to recruit through one of your local churches?

8. Work within your internal networks first when recruiting volunteers. After exhausting the internal networks, place advertisements or articles in college newspapers or church newsletters.

9. Don’t forget the personal approach. Remember: people give to people — not to institutions. With this in mind, make sure you personally meet the potential volunteers by giving a presentation at a church, at a chamber of commerce meeting, at a college, etc. Get in front of people and invite them to visit your organization.

10. Recruit a broad section of volunteers. Try to make sure you involve people of different ages, ethnicities, and racial backgrounds. This sends a message to the community that you value diversity, and it creates a real synergy within your organization. Also, some of these people will be prime candidates for your board, committees, and could end up becoming donors.

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