Do you have some of the following concerns about your volunteer program?
If you answer "yes" to some of these questions, a volunteer support committee could be very helpful. I call it a "volunteer support committee" because if it is called an "advisory committee", it will see its function only as giving advice and not assisting where appropriate in, for example, recruitment or recognition. However, if you choose to follow this recommendation, make sure it is clear in the job description that policies about the volunteer program are subject to approval by the board of directors so that committee members understand they aren't in a governance position but are there to advise and assist.
The following are the items you need to decide in advance and put into writing. They will form what I call a Committee Commission:
1. The Mission of the Volunteer Support Committee:
Draft a mission for the committee. For example:
The mission of the Volunteer Support Committee is to advise and assist the organization through its director of volunteers to provide a volunteer program that maximizes the talents and skills of volunteers in fulfilling the organizational mission and improving the community.
2. The Job Description for the Volunteer Support Committee:
Then draft a job description for committee members based on your needs and draft mission:
Members of the Volunteer Support Committee will advise and assist the director of volunteers in:
- Evaluating the effectiveness of the volunteer program
- Recognizing and rewarding volunteers for their contribution to the organization
- Exploring volunteer initiatives that enhance the ability of the organization to meet its mission
- Utilizing personal networks, where possible, to help recruit volunteers
- Suggesting collaborative efforts that help the community and heighten awareness of the importance of volunteerism
- Recommending to the board of directors changes or additions to the volunteer management policies
- Advocating for the importance of volunteerism
3. The Composition of the Volunteer Support Committee:
Then analyze the mission and job description to decide what people you need to recruit. For example:
- A board member to chair the committee who is supportive of volunteerism and who has a history of community involvement. The board member will report back to the board about the volunteer program. This will remind the board and CEO that volunteers are significant to the organization's mission and as necessary as paid staff, fundraising and marketing.
- Two or three staff members who are enthusiastic about the volunteers that work with them. This will not merely recognize the staff members for their wisdom in involving volunteers, but such staff members can be instrumental in encouraging other staff to see the value of volunteers
- Two or three of your volunteer leaders who have perspective about the organization and their work who can help brainstorm new approaches
- Two or three community leaders, perhaps the local DOVIA chair, the administrator of a corporate volunteer program, a service organization representative and/or the local volunteer center director. These members can enhance networking and be part of collaborative efforts.
4. Terms Of Office and Frequency of Meetings:
I usually advocate two-year terms. If you are starting fresh, half of the committee can be selected for a three- year term and half for a two-year term. After that, everyone will be appointed for two-year terms, but only half of the committee will rotate off each year, giving you some continuity.
Quarterly meetings usually are required, but meetings can be more frequent when and if required. Do make sure there is a good reason and an agenda for each meeting. Nothing turns volunteers off more than being invited to meaningless meetings. If there isn't a reason for even a quarterly meeting, then it is time to reevaluate the mission and job description of the committee.
Jeanne H. Bradner is an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development and leadership. She is the author of three publications, Passionate Volunteerism, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today. She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer Management curriculum. Send your comments and questions to Jeannebrad@aol.com.