As an Admission or Development Director, it would be nearly impossible to do your job without the help and support of volunteers. Fundraising events, admission tours, open houses, buddy families, parent and alumni associations, athletic events, the annual fund, the Board of Trustees, and so much more, all depend on the time, talent, and, occasionally, the treasure of a dedicated, well-trained, and enthusiastic corps of volunteers.
The quality of your volunteers’ experiences with your school makes a profound difference in their ability to accomplish their given tasks and their willingness to volunteer again. Follow these “do’s and don’ts” when supporting your volunteers.
Do match the person to the job
It’s important that you build a profile of the ideal person who can perform the volunteer task for which you are recruiting prior to selecting prospects for the position. On a spreadsheet, list the skills, experience, and personality characteristics of the individuals most likely to succeed in the position. For example, the treasurer of your parent group should be comfortable with numbers, have some accounting experience, and be a good communicator. Build the profile based on these characteristics and then list candidates in order of preference, noting how each fits the criteria you have identified.
Don’t forget accurate job descriptions
Too often, volunteers are recruited without being fully informed of the duties for which they are expected to perform. Commonly, duties or time commitment are downplayed to get a “yes” from the prospective volunteer. While this may make it easier to fill the position, the mismatch between expectation and reality can lead to hurt feelings, anger, and poor performance, not to mention a lack of interest in volunteering again! Write job descriptions that are candid about the work and the time commitment required for the position. You won’t be sorry.
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Don’t leave volunteers unattended
Once recruited, give volunteers time to become familiar with the job at hand and provide ample opportunities for training to ensure success. Like any other staff member, volunteers work best in an atmosphere of predictability and support. This means that duties and time commitments assigned to the volunteer align with the job description and conversations they had before taking the role; when issues arise, staff and other volunteer leaders are responsive to the volunteer’s needs and are clear about expectations and solutions; and volunteers recognize that their contribution is a vital link in achieving the goals of the school.
Do say thank you
It’s hard to imagine something easier to do and more effective than saying thank you to a volunteer. Helping a volunteer feel appreciated takes little time but always pays back in big ways. Be sure to thank them while they are performing their volunteer duties and when the project has been completed. Also, consider the following:
- Arrange for the School Head to send a thank-you note.
- Recognize the volunteer’s contribution in front of a group of parents, faculty, or students.
- Display a list of volunteers in the school lobby. Include them in your annual report.
- Send flowers at the end of a big event.
There are as many ways to say thank you as there are volunteers.
Don’t forget to show volunteers how they have made a difference
Imagine the library volunteer who spends her days cataloging books and returning them to the shelves, never knowing if her work has made a difference to the students. Imagine if that same volunteer receives a hand-drawn card from the second-grade class, letting her know that they have been reading the books she has placed on the shelf. In the first case, the task could seem like drudgery. In the second, the volunteer is motivated, satisfied that she has made a difference. Demonstrating the effects of volunteer work in tangible ways gives them reason and motivation to continue to assist the school.
It is especially important during the COVID-19 crisis that schools support and maintain close connections with all community members. Taking care of volunteers and celebrating their successes is one way you not only sustain those connections but also remain focused on your mission for the benefit of your students.
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