by Kristi and Carol
What if …. Your usual volunteer pool is shrinking and your responsibilities are growing.
In part 1, we looked at the steps to evaluate your current situation:
TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND THINK: What is stressful to you or other leaders in your organization?
STOP FOR A SECOND AND LOOK CLOSELY: Are the job descriptions in your existing organizational structure up-to-date?
COMPARE REALITY TO WHAT IS ON PAPER: Although capable people are working hard, do their jobs match reality?
Now that you have identified the stress points and have a firm grasp on what your volunteers are actually trying to do, it is time to take action. Read on to see what “Org-C” did.
1. WE ADDED NEW FACES.
It looked like stay-at-home moms re-entering the workforce were depleting the pool of easily accessible volunteers. Older adult volunteers, though, had never previously been asked to take on this volunteer role. They were available to work on these tasks during the week and it gave them an excuse to get together with friends. Even better, they were excited to do something that they were good at.
2. WE ADDED NEW PLACES.
Although many moms couldn’t come during weekdays to do prep-work, some could work from home.
3. WE ADDED NEW POSITIONS.
It may seem counter-intuitive to increase the number of volunteer positions. To keep the supervisors focused on people (the volunteers they supervised), we created new job descriptions related to the computer work. These “extra” volunteers were designated to handle issues at the command center desk while the supervisors were in hallways and classrooms. They cross-trained in many areas and were able to help with tasks beyond the computers.
4. WE ADDED A NEW STATION.
A gathering point a few feet down the hallway became a new check-in station for supervision and dispatching of rotating substitutes. This took the congestion away from the main command center. Handling substitutes seemed to get in the way of the supervisors’ core job, and it could easily be done by volunteers with administrative talents. We sliced off those responsibilities and created a whole new volunteer position. Several volunteers were passionate to fill this role, as it was scheduled just for the first portion of the program day, and if they wanted to, they could finish and leave. In many instances, these volunteers stayed to pitch in and help with other needs that arose.
Spreading the load may seem like a lot more work at the beginning, but purposeful adjustments in this area will have multiple benefits. After new positions were created and the load was more evenly shared at Org-C, the supervisors were more successful in supervising volunteers. Prospective volunteers began observing an organization that was no longer frenetically out of control. Instead, they saw an organization they could successfully join. In case after case, the volunteers who came into the new positions eventually spread their efforts beyond their initial job descriptions. Because they felt fulfilled in the role that fit their key passions, many had enough energy to help in other areas — and had the motivation to do so because they had become loyal to the supervisors and to the program.
BOTTOM LINE: If you can’t recruit more of the volunteers you are looking for, start looking for different volunteers for different positions!