Posted May 1st, 1997

‘Train & Maintain’ Your Volunteer Force

Volunteers make up a viable force in the nonprofit world. According to a recent report on volunteering in America conducted by the Independent Sector, 93 million (48.8% of the population) volunteers give, on average, 4.2 hours each per week for a total of 20.3 billion annual volunteer hours.

How does the nonprofit use these volunteered hours most effectively? As more reliance is placed on volunteers — including find raising — better guidelines are needed to train and maintain your volunteer force.

Letters of agreement

A letter of agreement with volunteers is suggested in [Italics]The Volunteer Management Report [END ITALIC] Simple in format, it lays out expectations of the nonprofit organization and outlines what the individual is willing and/or capable of giving in terms of time, talents, and abilities.

The letter would be signed by the volunteer and an executive of the organization, each keeping a copy.

Orienting new volunteers

Volunteers new to your organization may have a deep-seated commitment to further your goals and talents and knowledge beneficial to the organization, but haven’t a clue about what really needs to be done. You can help by providing them with material that will familiarize them with your operations, while not overloading them. You might want to give them:

  • your mission statement
  • appropriate meeting minutes from the past year
  • a capsulized history of your organization
  • a directory of current volunteers with names, addresses. phone numbers, etc.
  • a copy of your bylaws
  • a job description for which they have volunteered
  • an organization chart with an explanation of where he or she fits in the structure
  • stated policies and procedures of the organization
  • a calendar of events for the year
  • a copy of future plans to which they may contribute.

Volunteers benefit, too

“It’s amazing to me how much I learn from the people I work with each week,” said a Sharpe company employee who volunteers her time at several local nonprofits. On Monday nights she tutors emigre residents who must learn English in order to pass the test for U.S. citizenship. Once a month, she delivers food and supplies to an animal shelter.

Her family makes up gift bags throughout the year that are delivered to nursing homes at Christmas. This person is a dedicated volunteer and probably gives more generously of her time than many others, but is also representative of the willingness of people to give from what they have. And, her enthusiasm infects others, encouraging them to volunteer their time.

The growing numbers of people like this woman are valuable planned giving prospects as they move into older age groups. Cultivating them now as friends of your organization will undoubtedly bear fruit in the coming years.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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