Preparing Volunteers to Win the Game

As I reviewed the agencies that I am connected with this fall, I did an informal assessment of the “preparations” they all do to get volunteers ready to do the volunteering needed by the agency itself.  The range is very fascinating to me.  As I study more about Volunteer Management, I think I will be coming back to this area again to continue to assess the front end prep work and how it impacts the volunteers’ service, as well as the agency’s satisfaction, project management and goal/work accomplishment.

One agency’s “preparation” included a staff interview and nothing more, while another had volunteers secure a police background / record check, request a urine sample to check for drug use, complete an application and submit a resume and three character references.   All this to volunteer 30 hours this fall? I have come to believe I need to place more emphasis on the “intake process” for volunteers with whom I work and the agencies they will soon serve.

Soccer team

Thinking about an agency as a TEAM, working together seamlessly to win a game, each player must be “recruited” (staff, board or volunteer) or selected as a “walk-on” (volunteer) and prepped through training and learning the team’s “play book” so that each may play their role in order to score points as often as possible.  The kinds of preparation possible to get the TEAM ready are endless.  Selecting the right ones and putting them in the right order  takes some planning and skill to help the “players” and the team succeed at the highest levels.

Even an interest inventory completed by the prospective team member/ volunteer will be a boon to the agency administrator (Coach or Captain) as they try to place the volunteer where they can do the most good.  It must be maddening to have a long list of tasks to be done and wonder whether trusting a volunteer with any or all of those tasks is a good idea… a safe risk. Whether the administrator will end up doing it all by themselves later anyway, after an incompetent, disinterested or uncommitted volunteer drops the ball.  Hopefully it will be equally as surprising as it is frustrating, to entrust a project to a volunteer and have them hit a home run with it – exceeding the expectations of the agency’s staffer.  There is some real skill to making these choices.  I can’t wait to learn more about the tips and tricks, research and practical SWAG that goes into managing volunteers at this level.

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