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Volunteer Onboarding

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Volunteers are the life blood of Main Street programs. They do more than make up the difference when money is tight – they help your program connect to the community and increase its visibility. The number of volunteers you have depends on your recruitment efforts and the size of your community. In 2013, Arkansas Main Street programs reported more than 23,224 volunteer hours. If we were to quantify this amount, that would be approximately $439,630. On average, our Main Street programs have 40 to 60 active volunteers working on revitalization planning and implementation.

It is necessary that your program create procedures for keeping volunteers productive and happy. One way is to develop a strong onboarding system. Onboarding is a critical first step when it comes to retaining good volunteers.

Volunteer management expert and author of Volunteer Manager First 90 Days Tobi Johnson suggests that “a well-designed volunteer onboarding process helps volunteers both manage expectations and supports them as they negotiate uncertain and stressful waters.” She advises that if organizations want to “convert joiners to stayers” they need to implement strategies that involve:

  • Implementing Regular Rituals
  • Encouraging Relationships
  • Offering Formal Training
  • Demonstrating Return on Investment Early and Often

As your Main Street program’s organization committee or membership experience committee work to increase your volunteer retention rates, here are seven essential tips that expands on Johnson’s advice:

  • Be responsive (within 24 hours)
  • Simplify the process
  • Determine preferred communication method
  • Give frequent updates
  • Make sure the volunteer is the right fit
  • Value volunteers time
  • Show volunteers their impact



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