Without volunteers, many community organizations and groups would not be able to function. That includes University of Missouri Extension programs like 4-H, Master Gardeners and county extension councils.
Volunteers are the essential wheels that keep an organization rolling.
Whether your organization already uses volunteers or is thinking about developing a volunteer program, specialists with MU Extension have experience in working with volunteers and can offer programs for being successful.
MU Extension specialists offer up these six tips as the most important ones to remember.
1) Prepare before bringing on volunteers. Be sure your organization has addressed any liability issues regarding volunteers and has a volunteer screening program in place.
2) Recognize your volunteers. How do you recognize the contributions of your volunteers? Include ways for internal recognition since not all volunteers want their photo in the local paper. Some are happy to receive public recognition and public recognition also increases awareness of your organization and can be an effective recruiting tool for new volunteers.
3) Set a level of expectations. An organization should have clear expectations for volunteers. What are the different roles you expect volunteers to fill? Are there any special qualifications needed? How much time will it really take? How little time are you willing to accept?
4) Who knows you need volunteers? Leaders in community groups often complain about a lack of volunteers. But when that is the case, the first question to ask is, “who knows you need volunteers? Before volunteers can take advantage of the opportunity to give their time, they need to know you need them. Are you recruiting in the same old places?
5) Respect a volunteer’s time. Time is a valuable commodity. Your volunteers are giving of themselves as well as giving their time. No one is just a volunteer. Make good use of their time but don’t abuse the time they give.
6) Retention of volunteers. Address volunteer burn out before it happens. Volunteers need time off, too. Your organization does not want to have the reputation of exhausting their volunteers.
For more information on successfully working with volunteers or programs to help develop volunteers and board members, contact any of these MU Extension specialists in southwest Missouri: Human Development Specialists Dr. Jim Wirth (417) 881-8909 or Renette Wardlow (417) 581-3558; or Community Development Specialist David Burton, (417) 881-8909.