Exploring and Preparing for Community Involvement

Once you have decided to engage volunteers to reach your goal, planning the nuts and bolts of volunteer engagement is your next step. While “Engaging the Community” focused on the larger philosophical issues and overall mission orientation of your group or organization, this step in the planning process prepares you for action.

When preparing for community engagement:

Designate a Point Person

Who is going to make your volunteer effort happen? Someone needs to carve out the time, organize the work, oversee the action, and commit to the follow-through that is necessary to assure that the work will get done. In an institutional setting, the person designated with this task needs to have a sufficient amount of time allocated for the work involved, and if the person has an existing position with the organization, other work may need to be reassigned. In addition, this person needs to be knowledgeable about working with volunteers and understand the complexity of the organization.

For more help with this decision, read:

Convene a Planning Team

Participant buy-in is critical in volunteer efforts. One of the best ways to prepare for engagement and facilitate acceptance of a volunteer work force is to form a planning team. Effective planning teams are manageable in size (6 to 10 people) are representative the organization, and involve key stakeholders. Aim for variety when you select your planning team. Potential members should bring a range of skills and abilities to your effort.

Additional information on how to convene a planning team can be found at: http://www.allfreeessays.com/essays/Project-Planning-Teams/4970.html

Identify Policy and Liability Issues

Life is inherently risky! Risk should be managed however, and not used a reason to avoid doing the work that needs to be done. When undertaking any new effort, your organization will need to properly assess risk and assure the safety and welfare of all concerned. 

  • Energized, Inc. provides a series of articles on risk and liability issues.

Prepare Others

Part of any planning effort is sharing what you are doing or planning to do with those that will be affected by your actions. The more others are a part of the process, the more likely it is that they will support your efforts. Within organizational settings, especially organizations with a limited history of community involvement, it may be necessary to begin any volunteer involvement process slowly so that existing staff will have the opportunity to adapt to the change. For clubs and organizations, a new volunteer effort may be perceived as an unwelcome addition to longtime members. Taking your time to share your plans and listening thoughtfully to the concerns of others will help facilitate the transition you’re proposing. 

Define Positions, Preparation & Support

What tasks do you need volunteers to complete? Developing task descriptions or assignment guides can make an enormous difference when it comes to organizing and preparing for work, recruiting and selecting volunteers and managing the overall project. 

Prepare Space and Allocate Funds

Where will the volunteer work take place? Are options available for work off-site? Are computers, telephones, and other materials and equipment available to volunteers when needed? Have resources been allocated to cover the costs associated with a larger workforce – funds for everything from coffee to pens and paper to insurance and recognition events? Effective planning requires attention to all of these details.

Determine Recordkeeping System

Record keeping is vital to a well-run program. As your planning team develops your volunteer initiative, think carefully about the information that you will need to determine the success of your effort and design systems that allow you to track and retrieve this information. For example, you may want to know how many volunteers are involved with your organization, the tasks they are performing and the time they are investing. You may want to capture the unique skills volunteers bring to your cause and the number of people fulfilling their commitment to your organization. You may want to integrate your database with the fund development database or with your public relations effort to assure that volunteers are kept up-to-date with the on-going work of the organization.

There are a host of software systems on the market, but as you work to develop the system that best fits your needs, remember to maintain basic information in a filing system in the event of electronic failure.