Staff Readiness

woman and childYou may have the world’s greatest strategy for engaging volunteers. You may have all of your policies & procedures, communications protocols, forms, handbooks, and such at the ready. You may even have staff nodding their heads up and down in support of a volunteer initiative. But if they aren’t ready, willing, and able to work with volunteers effectively, your program will fall short of its potential.

The Board of Directors and leadership team set the tone for the entire organization. They need to have a vision for volunteerism that dovetails with the agency’s mission and objectives. They need to consider how volunteer engagement factors into their annual goals as well as each employee’s job description and performance plan. And they need to make the appropriate investment in resources to support the program.

Staff may need guidance as they consider possibilities for volunteers and develop skills to manage them. Consider sharing success stories from other agencies. Use sample position descriptions and job-specific toolkits to stimulate discussion. Encourage staff to provide input on work design and screening criteria. And, most importantly, establish a culture of trust in which staff can express concerns and provide feedback.

Be sensitive to the political and economic climate surrounding program implementation. If you’ve experienced budget cuts, staff might be concerned that volunteers will replace paid employees. Others may worry that “outsiders” might be a burden or interfere in relationship building with students. As with volunteer work design, invite open dialog and be as inclusive and transparent as possible in all communications.

Finally, staff preparation is not a “once and done” activity, especially at the start of a volunteer management program. Make time at staff meetings to discuss the added value that volunteers bring to your work with children and families. Work collaboratively to address issues and improve outcomes for all concerned. Solicit feedback on training and professional development topics.

Staff Resources

articleAll Staff Presentation (Umatilla-Morrow Head Start)

articleTop 10 Things TO DO with Volunteers (Umatilla-Morrow Head Start)

articleTop 10 Things NOT TO DO with Volunteers (Umatilla-Morrow Head Start)

articleEngaging Staff with Volunteers (Karen Beal)

websiteEveryone Ready, on-line volunteer management training

websiteOregon Volunteers! management training

articleStaff Survey (Family Building Blocks)