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Working for a non-profit, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with volunteers. Some of these experiences have been amazing, while others have been very negative. Because of my experiences, I find the model that resonates with me the most is Stepputat’s model. Connors (2011) summarizes the model with ten steps, “recruitment, application and screening, orientation and training, placement, supervision and evaluation, recognition, retention, record keeping, evaluation, and finally advocacy and education” (p. 13). These steps appear comprehensive and thorough. Volunteers are not compensated for their time, energy, or effort so they must be managed and engaged with intentionality. An employee can make a mistake and receive negative feedback from their supervisor with the desire for increased job performance; however, if a volunteer makes a mistake and faces harsh feedback, they could walk away without any consequence to themselves. Volunteers must be treated differently than employees. Stepputat’s model includes screening as well as training and evaluation. I’ve seen difficult volunteer experiences when the volunteer has not been appropriately trained toward the population they are going to be interacting with so I appreciate this step. I also like that recognition is included in this model since volunteers should receive praise and commendation because they may not be receiving any personal benefit.
As Connors (2011) discusses, individuals can be interested in volunteering for a variety of reasons such as social justice, faith, school requirements, or coaching. When recruiting a volunteer, I would be intentional to be present where different motivators could lie: advertising in churches, schools, and possibly collaborating with different businesses. If people of faith are drawn to volunteer and university students need hours, I would be intentional to recruit where they would have a chance to see the opportunity to become involved. Many volunteers I’ve encountered truly have a heart to give back to their community and make an impact on individuals. My organization utilizes volunteers often with direct contact with children since so many of our volunteers are motivated to interact with our clients directly. If we have recruited volunteers to help paint a room and transform it to be something therapeutically beneficial for families, they often ask for pictures with children interacting in the room to see how it benefited a child directly. While some volunteers do have an intrinsic desire to help, others may require volunteer hours either for school or probation requirements. Depending on the desire and motivation behind the volunteer, would determine how to help motivate and manage them. Similarly, Connors (2011) breaks down two potential types of volunteers to being “Short Term Episodic or “Long Term Ongoing” (p. 105). Before finding ways to motivate volunteers as a whole, I think it is imperative to identify what type of volunteers you have. Volunteers seeking a long-term commitment with an organization with faith as their value may need a personal relationship with their volunteer manager and be reminded of their personal impact. Volunteers seeking a short-term commitment with school internship requirements may need to be supported with better understanding how the organization works and the population they are serving; this type of volunteer may be better suited for shadowing opportunities rather than direct service.
Appropriate placement for a volunteer would be key to helping to provide motivators as well. Finding the best place for your individual volunteer will require to get to know the volunteer personally. If a volunteer strives to make an impact with children, but is placed with the elderly, this may be a recipe for disaster. If an introverted volunteer is asked to run a clown booth at a Harvest Festival, this may detract from their desire to volunteer. Knowing your volunteer personally can help to motivate them in the right direction for the organization’s benefit as well as retaining the volunteer. If I was a volunteer manager, I would be intentional to provide ongoing training, send regular updates regarding their impact, engage them with consistent in-person feedback maybe a luncheon, provide recognition, and discuss upcoming events and continued needs. As Rosenthal (2015) states, “meaningfully incorporating community into the equation of organizational success isn’t just a nice idea; it is essential” (p. 42). Organizations must embrace volunteers in order to have a greater impact in the community.
Connors, T. D. (2011). Wiley nonprofit law, finance and management series: volunteer management handbook: leadership strategies for success (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Rosenthal, R. J., & Baldwin, G. (2015). Volunteer engagement 2.0: Ideas and insights changing the world. Somerset, NJ: Wiley & Sons.