This is the blog post I hesitate to write, but need to. The big question is what if I take over a volunteer program that is broken? The answer is fix it. If you are in the enviable position of taking over and fixing a program, mark yourself lucky. It is one of the most fun and fulfilling times of your volunteer management career.
So first -Slow down. Stop and look around, make a plan, start with where you want to end up.
- End Goal - “A dynamic volunteer group with active, qualified volunteers who are utilized by other departments due to their success on previous missions." It may take a while to get there, but it’s a goal.
- What are your agencies requirements? - Do the current volunteers meet those requirements (for us it was NIMS & ICS training).
- Survey your program from top to bottom - how do you process them, where do you get them, what do you do with them. Internal process (paperwork, checks & balances), do you have support above for what you need to do. Think of everything, and review it. Take your time do it right.
- Survey your volunteers- Do you have the right volunteers? why did you join? What do you like about volunteering with us? What would you like to see change? How can you help? How long have you been here? Ask them, they will tell you.
- Review your findings with your leadership. Review it with the volunteers. Tell both groups your plan.
- Two communications to volunteers are next:
- Tell the volunteers who meet all requirements thank you!
- Tell the volunteers who do not meet all requirements thank you, and here is what you need to do to continue as a volunteer. I know, I know what if they leave? Then they weren't really volunteers.
You aren't done yet; you need to provide a path and encouragement for the volunteers in the second group to accomplish whatever steps are missing. I typically do three communications, the first two by email, the third by snail mail. After the snail mail I just stop communicating and archive their files, if they ever decide to come back they don't have to start over again.
It’s tough to turn around a program, but in the end worth it.