Back in March, at the Volunteer Maryland Mid Year retreat, each of us share the successes we’d experienced so far in the service year. Jordan Silverman, the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at Planned Parenthood of Maryland (PPM), mentioned that she had recruited volunteers remotely. Recruiting volunteers locally can be a challenge and I wanted to know more about recruiting “from afar.” I invited Jordan to have coffee and I picked her brain to find out how she did it. What she shared with me are “best practices” of volunteer management, regardless of geography.
First of all, I would be remiss if I did not re-educate you about Planned Parenthood of Maryland’s intention:
Our mission is to enable all Marylanders to have access to a wide range of high quality, affordable reproductive health care services. By providing medical services, education, training and advocacy, PPM seeks to help individuals make informed decisions about their reproductive health, family planning options, and sexuality.
There are eight PPM centers across the state of Maryland; only three sites have their volunteer positions filled. PPM clearly communicates their expectations to prospective volunteers. Each volunteer is asked to make a minimum commitment of six months, and preferably pledge at least a year of time. Volunteers’ talents are matched with tasks to be done. Both PPM and the volunteer benefit from these intentional matches.
Volunteer position descriptions are very clearly written; each volunteer is provided clear expectations of what’s needed. Some volunteers teach classes. Outreach volunteers are enthusiastic and engaging with good public speaking skills. The culture on transparency shows through even on their web page.
In addition to making a time commitment, volunteers also receive intense training provided by PPM. Most of the centers have very limited space and many administrative duties. One strategy for confronting this challenge is monthly administration nights. These evenings are dedicated to assembling information packets, writing Thank Yous, and other crucial administrative tasks. This approach permits staff and volunteers to plan accordingly and effectively use the schedule.
PPM strives to reach community members effectively. Billboards and TV marketing are used in areas where that approach has proven to be effective. The organization has also established partnerships throughout the community, including local colleges and universities and other community and civic groups. Currently a graduate student is working on a long-term history project.
PPM shares a continuous flow of information through their website, Facebook Page, LinkedIn and Pinterest. They also use Indeed.com, VolunteerMatch, and Idealist, etc. These tools allow PPM to communicate with the public and volunteers effectively and in a timely manner. The website is user friendly and engaging. Visit it and you will see how PPM implements the best practice of transparency. It’s easy to find a local PPM center,volunteer opportunities, or make a donation.
Whether you are recruiting volunteers from the next block or the other side of the bay, here are a few best practices to consider. Know what the community need is and how your organization’s mission intersects with the need. Have a clear understanding among staff of tasks to be accomplished and position descriptions that reflect the understanding. Following successful recruitment, screen volunteers for “best match” of tasks and then orient and train them. Finally, be creative in over coming obstacles like space. Regularly scheduling duties on rotating days means space can be re-purposed. These are best practices wherever you are recruiting volunteers.