Well, another week has gone by and we’re that much closer to the end of our service year. I’ve talked before about how our VMCs prepare for their departure from their service sites and how you can insure the sustainability of your volunteer program should you leave your organization. But what if you’re the one taking over the volunteer program? Do you know what the process for volunteer intake is? Do you know the key staff people you’ll be working with? Do you know the password for the volunteer coordinator email account? Do you even know where to start to make sure that you can run the program successfully? Whether you have experience as a volunteer coordinator in a past position or you’re totally new to the role knowing how things work now is the best way to insure that your organization’s volunteer program continues to run smoothly and experiences growth under your leadership. Here are a few things you can do if you are taking over an existing volunteer program:
1) Get a list of the places the outgoing volunteer coordinator posts volunteer opportunities, both online and physical locations, and find out if there are user names and passwords for any of these sites so that you’ll be able to take down old postings and put up new ones. If possible, talk to the volunteer coordinator and find out which sites have been most successful in terms of recruitment and if they have any recommendations for types of positions that should be posted at these sites.
2) Find out what partnerships have been formed during the outgoing volunteer coordinator’s tenure and who the key people are within these partnerships. Maybe you know that a high school down the road provides great volunteers any time you need event parking, but do you know how to get these volunteers? Find out who you’ll need to talk to within each partnership and, if possible, get the outgoing volunteer coordinator to set up meetings to introduce you and pass the torch in person. If they don’t have the time for physical meetings, ask them to send an introductory email instead, with you copied on it so that the partners have your contact information.
3) Find out who the key players are within your organization and within the existing volunteer pool. If your organization has programs run by different staff members, find out how each program uses volunteers and if the staff members have any preferences about the volunteers they work with. If, instead, there are dedicated volunteers who run programs, try to meet with them and the outgoing volunteer coordinator to be introduced and to talk about how things will work under your leadership. If possible, volunteer alongside these individuals once or twice to see how they work and get to know them better.
4) Find out how the outgoing volunteer coordinator tracks hours, any policies and procedures they have in place, what training looks like, and where critical documents (and their electronic copies) are stored. If they have been using an electronic tracking system, find out if there is a password and ask them to run you through an example of how to add a new volunteer, how to input hours, and how to indicate that volunteers are no longer serving with your organization.
5) Do a mock interview with the outgoing volunteer coordinator and ask to sit in on any volunteer interviews they have scheduled before their departure. This will help you to understand what you should be looking for in potential volunteers and will boost your confidence in your ability to conduct interviews on your own.
6) Pick the outgoing volunteer coordinator’s brain. Find out what they wish they would have known when they started, things they’ve learned during their tenure, tricky relationships that they’ve had to navigate, and their secrets to success.
These are just a few ideas for things you can do to help yourself succeed if you’re taking over a volunteer program. Of course, every program is different and not all of these tips might apply to your organization. If you have any tips to share or success stories from taking over an existing volunteer program, we’d love to hear them!