Engaging the Community

Carpenters live by an old adage, “Measure twice – cut once.” It highlights the importance of careful planning in their work. The same type of careful attention should be given to working with and through volunteers. Why does volunteer engagement matter to your organization? What needs will be met, or objectives fulfilled? Have we engaged our staff or members of the board in the important decision-making that surrounds this initiative? Who is our community and what does our community want from this organization?

It is important to begin planning by carefully examining a few questions involving goals, timing, community, existing activities, and human resources:

  • Goals: What do we hope to achieve through this effort?
  • Timing: Is this the right time to be initiating this project or organization? How long will this effort take us? Does our timing mess well with the needs and priorities of our community?
  • Community: Who needs to be aware of our work? Do you have the support of those in key leadership positions? Who in the community may want to be a part of this work? If you are the ‘founder’ of a new effort, are you willing to share the limelight with others who help make the dream come true?
  • Existing activities: In what other ways do we currently engage volunteers? Is this effort consistent with our new efforts? Are there ways to combine these efforts efficiently?
  • Human resources: Do we have people with the right temperament to work with volunteers a part of our team?

The more carefully your think about what you’re doing and why, the more likely you will be to foresee the critical issues ahead of you.

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