Today’s Library Volunteer: A Force to Be Reckoned With (Part 1)
Presenter: Andrew Sanderbeck 727-409-2239
Building Relationships with Volunteers
The first step in nurturing a good relationship between staff members
and volunteers involves making sure volunteers are not merely an
The top-level leadership of an organization can help set the tone and
create a positive environment for a volunteer program by:
■ conducting a strategic planning process in which all staff members
determine where the organization is heading and then discuss how
volunteers can help meet goals
■ dedicating a staff person—ideally a full-time director of volunteers—
to oversee and manage the program
■ requiring good structure and policies that will guide volunteer
■ using volunteer help themselves; for example, the executive
director can have a volunteer assistant or use volunteers on special
projects she is coordinating
■ interacting with the volunteers regularly by participating in
orientations, attending recognition events, and being approachable
during volunteer hours
■ incorporating “working with volunteers” into staff job descriptions
■ making sure that staff roles are clear and that staff needs are being
met first; for example, does every staff member have a written job
description that accurately reflects her day-to-day duties, and are
staff members recognized for a job well done?
■ training staff to supervise and work with volunteers
■ rewarding staff who work well with volunteers; and
■ incorporating volunteers into the organizational chart.
How to Generate Conflict Between Paid Staff and Volunteers
by Steve McCurley & Rick Lynch
Don’t involve staff in the decisions as to if and how to utilize
volunteers within the agency. Everybody loves a surprise.
Don’t plan in advance the job descriptions or support and
supervision systems for the volunteers. These things will work
themselves out if you just give them time.
Accept everyone who volunteers for a position, regardless of
whether you think they are over-qualified or under-qualified.
Quantity is everything.
Assume that anyone who volunteers can pick up whatever skills
or knowledge they need as they go along.
If you do insist on training volunteers, be sure not to include the
staff members with whom the volunteers will be working in the
design of the training.
Assume that your staff already knows everything it needs about
proper volunteer utilization. Why should they receive any better
training than you did?
Don’t presume to recognize the contributions that volunteers
make to the agency. After all, volunteers are simply too
valuable for words.
Don’t reward staff members who work well with volunteers.
They are only doing their job.
Don’t let staff supervise the volunteers who work with them. As
a volunteer director, you should be sure to retain all authority
over ‘your’ volunteers.
Try to suppress any problems that come to your attention.
Listening only encourages complaints.
In case of disputes, operate on the principle that “The Staff is
Always Right.” Or operate on the principle of “My Volunteers,
Right or Wrong.”
Methods for reaching out to volunteers
One-on-One Personal Contact
Maintaining Contact with Volunteers
There's no substitute for maintaining effective communication with your
volunteers! The time you spend making sure that the lines of
communication are open between your library and the individuals who
freely share their time, you'll be on your way to cultivating solid
relationships with volunteers who are likely to remain loyal to your
organization for many years to come.
Where to Find New and Seasoned Volunteers
Five Ideas for Attracting Volunteers
Did you know that more than 50% of people who volunteer do so
because they are asked to by a friend, co-worker or acquaintance?
We can do all the fancy brochures and write lots of letters about the
value of volunteering, but the “yes, I will” comes 7 out of 10 times
from a personal conversation.
1. Imprint your logo and volunteer message on colorful balloons to
hand out at community events and watch your name float by all
who attend! (From Judy Esmond, author of Count Me In – 501
Ideas for Recruiting Volunteers)
2. Offer a “No obligation trial period” for new volunteers to give
them a chance to see if they like the job (and you!). This can
allay their fears and help you assess them. (From Steve
McCurley & Rick Lynch’s book Essential Volunteer
3. Spread the word about your organization at business
networking events like your local Chamber of Commerce. Many
have networking breakfasts or luncheons where you can give
your 30-second pitch one-on-one to dozens of people. (From
Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services volunteer recruiter)
4. Write a short, simple recruitment “slogan” that becomes your
volunteer brand and weave it into every communication from
your organization from letterhead and business cards to
speeches and advertising.
5. Connect with larger local businesses to develop a
relationship that promotes your volunteer opportunities to their
workforce. Consider asking them to “sponsor” a specific event
or activity by supplying volunteers or simply encouraging their
staff to support your volunteer needs.
Making It Work: How to Reach New Volunteers
(or at Least Friends)
Here are some ways to make the best use of social networking:
Be selective. Don't try to have your organization join every site at
once. Choose ones you're comfortable with and that seem to match
the demographic of whoever you're hoping to reach. If your
organization ends up with several kinds of online presence, make use
of features allowing automatic postings of content from your website,
blog, or Twitter feed to another site (Facebook offers this, for