Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Research Update: Vying for Volunteers: Simple Strategies Can Acquire and Retain Valuable Help

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Research Update: Vying for Volunteers: Simple Strategies Can Acquire and Retain Valuable Help

Article excerpt

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By better understanding the current trends in recruitment and retention of volunteers, recreation and park organizations can further extend their reach and increase their institutional capacity. Along with examining the insight from previous literature, several volunteer coordinators of natural resource-based organizations were interviewed to provide a grounded perspective on the state of the practice for volunteer program strategies. There are seven steps that draw on the wisdom of current practices, as well as the collective insight of past research.

Step 1. Develop a clear mission statement. Recruitment is not just about finding new people to volunteer their time and talents, it is about finding the right kind of people to help your organization. A clear mission should convey the values of the organization, and will focus the organization in the ways it can use volunteers to meet its goals. If potential volunteers believe in the organization's values, they will be more likely to volunteer for the organization. T. Anderson says in Community-Based Volunteer Management that "a shared vision attracts volunteers, ignites enthusiasm, and helps maintain momentum."

If volunteers believe in the mission, they also will be more likely to spread the word to others. Anderson goes on to state that "volunteers who believe in the organization are excellent ambassadors and advocates. Satisfied volunteers are great recruiters."

Step 2. Develop a volunteer policy statement. Anderson suggests adopting a volunteer policy statement that informs volunteers of the ways in which their efforts contribute to the goals of the organization.

At Perry Farm in Bourbonnais, Ill., the volunteer program fits well into the farm's mission. The Web site makes a special point to emphasize the importance of volunteers in carrying out the various programs of the farm. In particular, a policy statement is posted on the site that connects achieving Perry Farm's mission to volunteer labor and contributions.

Step 3. Seek appropriate fits between your organization and external groups. As it is important for your own organization to develop a clear statement of goals, it is just as important to recognize the organizational goals of prospective pools of volunteers. Volunteers have a vast array of goals and motivations as to why they join organizations. By recognizing these motivations, your organization can incorporate these into recruitment strategies. Seeking matches between your organization and others in your community will lead to synergistic partnerships and confidence in your volunteers that they are a good fit.

Step 4. Develop specific job descriptions for your volunteer positions. Volunteer job descriptions should include "important tasks, techniques to accomplish the tasks, purpose and responsibilities, and future skill development obtained through training," according to Flood, Gardner, and Yarrell in Managing Volunteers. Before someone even applies for a volunteer position, if he has received a well-written job description, he should be able to self-screen by applying only for those positions that match his skills, interests, expected time commitments, and realistic costs. By offering a well-written job description, the organization allows potential volunteers to judge their fit for themselves

Step 5. …

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