Value

What’s the value of a volunteer?

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

April is National Volunteer Month, and it is a great time to recruit volunteers for long- and short-term service within your program. Volunteers are beneficial in a number of ways, including being a mentor, helping with remodeling and/or gardening, assisting with operations, and more. Here are some important factors to keep in mind when working with volunteers.

  1. Understand why people volunteer.
    Volunteers will become involved with your program for many reasons.

    The basic reasons follow:

  • They want to help others.
  • They are interested in your agency’s programs and what you offer to your
  • They want to learn and gain experience.
  • They have free time.
  • They are devoted to helping their community.
  • They know someone who was/is involved.
  • They want to volunteer for religious reasons.
  • They want to make a difference.
  1. Understand what your volunteers are interested in.
    Volunteers will not only put more effort into their service but also commit to serving longer if they enjoy what they are doing. In an effort to properly determine the appropriate position, gather information regarding the volunteer’s interest. You may consider using a Volunteer Interest Checklist for this process. Have your volunteers identify their interests. Do they prefer working with youth, teaching a skill, picking up or delivering items, washing automobiles or providing maintenance support, performing clerical duties? Take time to get to know your volunteers before placement.
  1. Understand the value of volunteers.
    Volunteers, like staff, need to be linked into your program in ways that ensure they are productive, challenged, and given an opportunity to grow. They should be valued for what they do and who they are. Volunteers are NOT free. There are real costs associated with recruiting, interviewing/screening, training, evaluating, and recognizing volunteers. Effective supervision is a necessary investment. The volunteer coordinator and staff who assist the volunteers must recognize that time must be allocated to relating to, managing, and assisting the volunteers. Staff must be available to volunteers in order to relate to them on both a professional and a personal basis. Volunteers are dedicated to your organization—it’s important for your organization to be dedicated to them. Don’t forget to say “thank you.” Ways to recognize your volunteers are limitless.

    Recognizing volunteers is crucial to sustaining their interest and dedication. Remember above when I shared the reasons they are volunteering? Providing recognition validates that their service is making a difference and meeting their needs. There are lots of ways you can recognize volunteers—and not all recognition requires a budget line.

    Awards
    There are two types of awards; both are given periodically to recognize the efforts of volunteers.

    Things

  • Certificates
  • Pins
  • Group photographs
  • Items of clothing, such as T-shirts, caps, etc.
  • Small gifts

    Events

  • Lunches and dinners
  • Picnics
  • Parties and celebrations
  • Field trips
  • National Volunteer Week celebrations

    Rewards
    Rewards are intangible day-to-day activities of recognition and motivation that are given to volunteers. Rewards tend to be more effective “long-run” motivators for volunteers.

  • Saying thank you
  • Giving respect and equal status
  • Involving volunteers in staff meetings on a regular basis
  • Maintaining a personal interest in the volunteer
  • Giving the volunteer more responsibility

    Remember the following recognition tips when offering awards and/or rewards:

  • Tailor recognition to the volunteer.
    • What type of recognition would be most meaningful to the particular volunteer?
      • Some prefer public and some appreciate smaller private recognition.
    • If appropriate and welcomed, grant recognition in a public forum, preferably among the peer group of the volunteer.
  • Time recognition so that it is as close as possible to the achievement of the volunteer.

This is just a small snippet of the helpful information available about volunteerism. If you’re interested in learning more about volunteers, including setting up a volunteer program, position development and design, recruitment, screening, volunteer checklists, interviewing, volunteer orientation and training, service records, program director and staff training, supervision, and recognition, feel free to contact us today at info@nspnetwork.org.

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