Research Finds Volunteer Efforts Down Among Teens — Five Rules for a Successful Volunteer Program
Redondo Beach, CA, May 3, 2009 — A study conducted by Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) found an increasingly declining trend in teen volunteer activity for the years 2005 through 2007. In an effort to assist volunteer coordinators and nonprofits dependent upon volunteers, Jesse Torres, bank executive, lifelong volunteer and recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, today provided to nonprofit organizations the five rules to maintaining long-lasting volunteer participation.
CIRCLE has been tracking volunteer activity since 2002. In 2007, CIRCLE found volunteer activity at its lowest point since it began tracking volunteer activity. Many factors may explain this phenomenon, from a reduction in volunteer program budgets at nonprofits to the need of teens to work at paying jobs in order to compensate for expected losses in college grants and scholarships.
“Loss of volunteers severely affects public health programs, recreational programs, educational programs and every other type of program that relies on the donation of time,” said Mr. Torres. “Volunteers are truly the lifeline of most nonprofit organizations. Without the contributed human capital, many organizations cannot exist. Executive Directors and volunteer coordinators must maintain programs that retain and recruit new volunteers.”
Mr. Torres provides the following tips to nonprofits:
1) Provide a framework that includes policies, procedures, tools, orientation, commonly asked questions and a point of contact for new volunteers, regardless of the volunteer’s role. The goal should be to make the volunteer feel comfortable before stepping into unknown waters. This information will not only allow volunteers to become comfortable and well acquainted with the organization and their role, but also allows them to envision playing a larger role within the organization before they even begin. Notwithstanding the framework provided, to the extent possible provide sufficient flexibility to allow the volunteer to apply individuality in problem solving and execution in a manner that is conducive to each individual's style and preference while still accomplishing what needs to be done within the timeframes required.
2) Provide continuing education/training to volunteers to increase organizational competency. As the individual gains experience and becomes increasingly familiar and comfortable with the organization, the volunteer feels more vested, willing and able to accept additional responsibility. Leadership/On-The-Job training provides volunteers with the opportunity to move up the organizational ladder and increase their contribution to the organization.
3) Provide the tools to succeed. The proper tools include forms, checklists, feedback, mentoring, etc.
4) Include recognition programs that showcase volunteer efforts among their peers. This includes use of the President's Volunteer Service Award as well as other similar programs that help celebrate a volunteer’s contributions to the organization. Include newsletters, e-mail blasts, press releases and award functions. While volunteers provide their time for all the right reasons and not for the recognition, acknowledging the efforts is generally greatly appreciated and encourages further participation.
5) Spread the workload out among many. Do not make volunteers feel like it is all on their shoulders. People volunteer to feel good and to support a cause they believe in. They do not do it to create additional stress in their lives. The moment volunteer activity begins to resemble the stress and anxiety associated with work the volunteers are likely to begin the process of unwinding their involvement. Too much stress creates the "I don't need this" scenario. In every organization someone is likely to own the lion's share of the burden. However, these individuals should be management (executive director, board members, etc.). The rank and file volunteer should feel energized about volunteering.
Jesse is a Managing Director for Carillon Capital Partners' Financial Institutions Group (www.CarillonCapital.com). Jesse spent nearly 20 years in leadership and executive management positions. He holds a B.A. from UCLA, is a graduate of the Pacific Coast Banking School and recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Jesse can be reached by e-mail at MrJesseTorres@gmail.com. He can also be found on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jessetorres and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jstorres.