As a field,
we've become much more savvy in developing meaningful and appealing work for a
wide range of volunteers way past the old model of regularly-scheduled
helper. We've learned to run single days
of service and deal with spontaneous volunteers. We can assign projects to corporate employee
teams, intergenerational families, and those who want to volunteer virtually. Yet
we are still missing some opportunities.
of volunteer work might you design for the following less traditional prospects
(and this is only a partial list)?
suggesting that every organization needs the sort of help these people might
offer. But how did you react -- in your
gut -- to each group on this list? If you
can get past some preconceived notions about who is a potential volunteer, you
can vastly expand the pool of community resources available to you.
we simply avoid potential resources because we can't picture how we would work
with them. Maybe that's why so many
senior volunteering programs are focusing on people in their 50s (who don't
identify at all with the concept of "senior") and not on healthy nonagenarians. It's just easier -- and there are fewer
transportation and health concerns. It's
the same with engaging young children in service. Yet both ends of the age spectrum offer
unique perspectives and skill bases.
can't imagine that a group might even be interested in volunteering with
us. We approach students, but not their
teachers or professors -- and who is more skilled? We recruit secretaries and salespeople, but
not their managers and certainly not their CEOs. And why not?
Do we offer any volunteer work executives
would find appealing? What do we think
similar vein, it's fascinating how rarely we reach out to labor unions, trade
councils, or blue collar businesses. We
won't think twice about asking a white collar professional to volunteer as a
consultant or donate training services, but do we invite plumbers or roofers to
give their labor (also professionally skilled) pro bono? Why not?
wondering how you'll ever be able to coordinate and support these populations,
who will need extra time and attention.
Don't forget the strategy of recruiting interested volunteers
knowledgeable about each group to run a pilot project with the target
population, or to be team or shift leaders for the group.
If you find
yourself with a very homogenous volunteer corps, it may be because you are
gravitating towards the "usual suspects" in your recruitment. Whether you intended to or not, the volunteer
assignments you offer appeal to a narrow slice of the community. Try
welcoming people who fall outside the norm you've established of age, status,
schedule, and other factors. They may be
delighted at the invitation to get involved and you'll expand the value of the
volunteer effort for your organization.