So you want to take charge and start a volunteer project through your church, but you’re not quite sure how to go about it? Taking the initiative is great, but be prepared for a bit of work at the start. To help you out, we’ve developed 10 tips to keep you from losing your head. Once you’ve got an efficient process set in place, your project should practically run itself, so follow these ideas and you’ll have one perfect volunteer project.
1. Assess Your Needs
What volunteer projects is your church already involved in? What local organizations need help? What within your church needs help? What kind of help is needed and how often? Do you have the manpower required? This step will take time and will likely require you to meet with a few other leaders to put your heads together to think things through and develop a plan.
2. Be Organized
Write down all your thoughts and all your notes from assessment meetings. Keep a binder of area organization brochures and any other documents you need. Create folders for future volunteer applications and related forms. Knowing where everything is and being able to access it easily is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
3. Have an Audience in Mind
Who will you be assisting? The elderly at the nursing home down the road? Young learners at Sunday School? The homeless at a soup kitchen? And who will you get to help out this audience? What audience will you be advertising volunteer positions to? High school kids who will have extra time after school? Work-at-home parents who have a few extra minutes each day to help out? Retired professors who want to spend a few hours doing what they know best? Knowing which audiences will be receiving and which will be giving the help will be useful as you develop your project.
4. Learn Social Media
When you’re finally ready to advertise those volunteer positions, social media can be your best friend. Websites like volunteermatch.org and idealist.org are great sites that allow you to post your needs and find helping hands. Social apps like Twitter or Facebook can also be useful for the same reason, but they have the added bonus in that you have the ability to post your progress along the way and to champion your causes.
5. Create a Task Force
If you’re creating a volunteer project all by yourself, more power to you. But you might want to think of having at least one or two extra minds that can contribute to your ideas and help to mold the project into a success. If you run into a problem, four hands are always better than two. Once you start gaining more enthusiasm for your cause, it’ll be great for you to have the ability to dole out assignments (make one person in charge of creating and editing volunteer forms, have another be in direct contact with the organization, etc.) instead of having to take care of everything by yourself.
6. Develop Cohesive Information Documents
Communication is key in any organization and for any project, and it is especially important in volunteerism. Create information flyers about the organization you want to assist, have specific forms available for volunteer applicants, and keep in mind any legal documents you might need as well.
7. Have a Goal to Work Towards
Depending on what organization you are assisting, the goal will be different: if you find that there are few meaningful after-school programs in your district, you may have an end goal of developing a program that will eventually involve 100 of those school children in arts and crafts activities, thereby creating a sustainable program that both entertains and teaches children. If you recognize the increasing number of homeless begging for food at night, your end goal may be to be able to locate or create a soup kitchen that regularly serves hot meals to the hungry every other day.
8. Keep Track of Your Progress
Your goals will start out small, but once your project gains traction in the community, your goals may change. Keep track of how many volunteers you acquire, how many individuals you’re serving, how many hours your volunteers are assisting and how many locations you are helping. Re-assess your goals every few months, if necessary.
Keep in constant communication with both your volunteers, the organization you are helping with, the people you are serving and the general community. Maintain a database of important contact numbers and emails. If there is a change to the schedule, relate that to your volunteers immediately. If volunteers go above and beyond, thank them and show them how much you appreciate that. Likewise, if a volunteer is causing a problem within the organization, speak with him as soon as possible. Communicating with the people you are assisting is also useful – if the service you are providing is not doing the job, you want to know right away and make appropriate changes.
Did you reach your goal sooner than you thought? Have you celebrated a full year of volunteering? Are you hoping to gain more volunteers to the project by the end of the month? Get the word out! Relate all your good and exciting news to the public through flyers, social media, organization websites, snail mail, and any other form of communication you can think of. When there’s something to celebrate, do it in style!
Good luck, and have fun with your project!