Last week was National Volunteer Week (yes, I know I’m a little behind – seems to be a theme for me lately), I came across a few different articles about the topic but this write-up from Createquity really touched on a lot of great issues. Having done a good amount of volunteering in my day I can relate to a lot of the points they are bringing up. The article equates building a great volunteer infrastructure to creating a social network. A network that should provide certain benefits. Inclusion in a group, helping out an organization you support and classes, training and development, where the first two points. While the first part – inclusion in a group – generally comes with little effort to an organization, it’s the second part – volunteer development (or volunteer school as the article describes it) – that I think is really key. Of course many small organizations cannot always provide specific training and formal classes per se, but almost all organizations and projects can and should encourage development.
Whether someone seeks out volunteering to gain more knowledge and experience in an area or to just give time to a project they care about (I have done both at different points), people want to feel that they are growing. It seems simple but from a few of the volunteer experiences I have had in the past that element is lacking. Even if the most an organization can do is to discover what aspects the volunteer is interested in and foster development and opportunities to work in that area. Trust me it’s worlds better than just leaving to them the most rudimentary tasks with no hope of learning something new.
The third and fourth points in the article I think really go back to the theme of development and inclusion. Interactions with staff and employees make the volunteer feel they are apart of the organization and not just a nameless volunteer handing out pamphlets. While specific recognition has never been an essential to me, at least not in the form of points (maybe I’m just not competitive enough), it is wonderful to know the work you do is valued and benefiting the place you are donating your time to.
As someone looking to expand into the field of Arts Administration I think points like these are really important. Volunteers are such a powerful force and my experiences have shown that when used poorly this is a wasted resources but for an organization willing to invest a little time and energy into their volunteer program it can have amazing benefits and create truly passionate volunteers.