When an organization involves volunteers in high-responsibility, long-term roles, volunteer turnover can be a program killer. It's vital that organizations continually look for ways to ensure that volunteers are well-supported, that volunteers feel their concerns are heard and addressed promptly, that volunteers feel respected and valued, etc., but screening is also vital to help screen in the right people for high-responsibility, long-term volunteer roles, particularly those where the volunteer will work with clients and the general public, and to screen out people who may be better in shorter-term assignments or assignments where they would not work with clients or the general public, or who would not be appropriate in any role at the organization.
managers are much more than HR managers, there are
resources from the HR management world that can be helpful in the new
paradigm of volunteer involvement / community engagement. For instance,
this article from workforce.com
and hiring employees with an eye to their attitude can help
volunteer managers seeking to create a screening process that
will keep turnover low for high-responsibility, long-term volunteer
(note that you will have to register to read articles on workforce.com, but registration is free)
The article notes that the idea of hiring for attitude has been made famous by such companies as Southwest Airlines and Nordstrom. One CEO of a real estate services company in New Jersey, which traditionally has a high-turnover rate, used various books about this model to develop his own test to measure five qualities among potential candidates. Such an assessment tool could easily be adapted at nonprofit organizations looking to reduce turnover and create a particular type of culture among long-term, high-commitment volunteers.
The recruiter or hiring manager administers the test verbally, face-to-face or by phone. One of the qualities sought is demonstrated integrity, measured through a series of questions about ethical behavior. Another quality sought is passion, which candidates can demonstrate through a hobby or a personal project where the candidate succeeded (not just through a paid or volunteer role).
The third quality test—longevity—determines whether the candidate is looking for a job or a career. Adapted for a volunteer model, the goal could be to see if the volunteer is looking for a long-term relationship with an organization or cause through volunteering.
The fourth step measures positive attitude and asks candidates to describe a positive customer service experience. It also asks how the candidate’s friends would describe the candidate’s personal characteristics. The final element of the test measures the candidate’s knowledge of tasks that are relevant to the job and the company’s mission and role.
What could the assessment questions actually look like? Some very general ideas:
managers: you are NOT psychic!
A manager of volunteers should NEVER let his or her gut be the guide to decision-making! Thank it for its input, but look at the facts. Your gut may, in fact, be encouraging a prejudice you didn't know you had - or encourage you to overlook a warning sign about a volunteer.
(or any high-responsibility volunteers that will work with clients)
Recruitment is a mentality. Successful recruitment of volunteer mentors comes from a mentality that permeates the organization, one that prompts employees and volunteers to always be looking for opportunities for outreach and partnership, and where all employees and volunteers are advocates for the program, regardless of the tasks they undertake. This web page has specific recommendations to recruit mentors for youth, but these recommendations could be used for most any high-responsibility, high-commitment volunteer role working with clients, such as counselors or tutors.
Local Volunteers To Increase Diversity Among the Ranks
Having plenty of volunteers to undertake all the roles at your organization usually isn't enough to say a volunteering program is successful. Another indicator of success is if your volunteers represent a variety of ages, education-levels, economic levels and other demographics, or are a reflection of your local community. Most organizations don't want volunteers to be a homogeneous group; they want to reach a variety of people as volunteers (and donors and other supporters, for that matter). This resource will help you think about how to recruit for diversity, or to reach a specific demographic.
Research and case
studies regarding recruitment and retainment of volunteer
firefighters & justifications for involving volunteer
firefighters that do NOT relate to "money saved"
A little bit of commentary and a long list of resources, compiled from various sources. Updates welcomed!
Virtual Volunteering Myths
Common misconceptions about virtual volunteering versus the reality of the practice.
Research on online volunteering
All of the academic research and journal articles about online volunteering and online community engagement.
Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
available for purchase as a paperback & an ebook from Energize, Inc.
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