Although all these issues are really important, do these everincreasing processes scare potential volunteers away?
Are we becoming too rigid?
Several years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to undertake a work exchange from Adelaide, Australia to Alberta, Canada.
There were several volunteer opportunities I applied for whilst I was there. One role in particular was a new venture that I had not heard of in my country and so I was very motivated and really excited about the possibility of participating in and learning more about this program.
I spoke with the Manager of the service asking if I could apply to volunteer. I was disappointed to learn that they had just completed their training program (literally the night before!) and would not be running the training again for another six months.
I was unable to be considered for this role until I had undertaken the training program and as I was scheduled to return home to Australia a few weeks prior to their next formal training date there was nothing I could do to take part in this venture.
Because I had missed the training no further discussion was entered into about the possibility of my becoming a volunteer. My extensive work experience in the human services field or my tertiary studies in Social Sciences were not recognised and there was no flexibility within the 'policies' to consider such things.
Fair enough you might say? Rules are rules!
So how flexible can we be when we are engaging potential volunteers?
• Are we recognising prior learning and life skills?
• Are we offering training within a flexible learning model?
• Have we really considered what training is absolutely necessary before a volunteer can begin their role and what could be undertaken on an ongoing basis?
• How flexible can we be whilst still maintaining standards and working within best practice principles?
Training is just one example of the many processes I can think of that a new volunteer might need to complete before they can get on with the business of volunteering. Could it be a possibility that we lose some really good potential volunteers because of the inflexibility of
The argument is often offered that completing the set intake process shows commitment to the organisation and a willingness to accept its practices. As my example indicates it was a problem with time lines rather than an unwillingness to comply which lost a potential volunteer for the organisation.
And do you know what? Although I applied to volunteer in a number of organisations whilst in Canada the end result was that I never did get an opportunity to experience working as a volunteer in another country.
What a missed opportunity - not only for myself but also for the agencies I applied to.
Ask yourself - just how flexible are your organisation's intake processes to cater for potential volunteers who might need to be recruited outside your established routines?
By Rosie Williams.
Reprinted from Turn Your Organisation Into A Volunteer Magnet, 2nd edition (ed. Fryar, Jackson & Dyer) 2007
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