Community Readiness for Economic Development: Working with Volunteers
Table of Contents
In a Community Economic Development project it is community members who see the need, plan the program, and carry it out. A community-based approach generates more support, ownership and commitment by the community than a top down approach, which is conceived and implemented by an agency or government department in isolation.
Community Volunteers are critical to the community-based approach taken in developing a community economic development project. Volunteers make up the majority of people, and they are primarily responsible for the community and business outreach visits. Volunteer involvement has many benefits.
The Benefits of Using Volunteers for a community project are numerous. To ensure success, a good volunteer program must be well organized and managed to ensure success. Four key elements of a volunteer management process are:
In the Planning and Preparation stage you look at the kinds of volunteers required. Jobs are defined and lists of requirements and qualifications, and job descriptions for specific positions are developed.
Recruitment starts with a candidate list. Who do you know that might be interested and qualified to do each specific task? When the list is complete, interview the candidates and ask those qualified to be involved. Often, community groups ask for everyone and anyone to volunteer. The result of this shotgun approach is that volunteers are mismatched to the tasks, and less than ideal involvement and results are achieved.
Orientation and Training include a thorough discussion of the community economic development project: its purpose, methods and expected results. It also describes who else is involved, and what their duties and responsibilities are. Review each persons own job description at this point in time, along with skills training if required. For example, involve volunteer visitors in a mock business interview to help prepare them for the actual situation.
Recognition of Achievements is the finishing touch of a good community volunteer program. Occasionally, celebrating successes and accomplishments helps the group take stock of results, gives recognition where it is due, and moves the project forward to its next stages.
One of the greatest sources of conflict within a volunteer program is related to expectations not knowing what is expected, who is expected to do it, and how it was expected to be done.
A job description is a tool that helps the volunteer and the organizer better understand expectations. It contains all the essential information about the position, including:
Prepare job descriptions for every volunteer position in the program. Take them with you when you recruit a volunteer for a particular position. It will provide answers to most of the questions the candidate might have about the position.
A community economic development project requires many volunteers. The task of recruiting volunteers is critical to the overall success of the project. Finding volunteers may be as simple as contacting community members, organizations or entire community networks. Asking them for potential candidates may result in a significant list for you to pursue.
A Guide to the Recruitment Process
There are hundreds of ways to thank volunteers, and to recognize their contributions to the community economic development project. Here are a few ideas to help you celebrate the accomplishments of volunteers in your project:
Pins could be given to volunteers as thank you gifts. They are available from The Volunteer Centre of Ontario for a small charge.
Revised by Luna Ramkhalawansingh, Community Economic Development Unit, OMAFRA, Guelph.
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