Volunteer Engagement Course

Introduction and Overview

Welcome to Volunteer Engagement, the fourth course in the Transforming Life After 50 (TLA50) Fellowship series, with instructor Carla Lehn. For the webinar offered in this course, see Week 3.

Baby boomers and the generations that follow are seeking new ways to use their skills and experience to make a difference in their communities. Your library is uniquely positioned to benefit from these volunteers. This course provides tools, techniques, and models for volunteer engagement so that you will be able to:

  • Understand the potential for engaging high impact, skilled volunteers to assist public libraries.
  • Engage this talent to extend the library’s capacity in the community and to benefit from these new library advocates and supporters.
  • Understand the motivations behind why people volunteer.
  • Describe the elements of a successful volunteer engagement program.
  • Create diverse and meaningful skilled volunteer positions that will attract a broad range of community volunteers, especially baby boomers.
  • Address staff resistance to engaging volunteers.
  • Understand current trends and issues in volunteer engagement, such as online recruitment and legal issues.

WEEK 1: Attracting and Engaging Volunteers

The higher rate at which Baby Boomers volunteer will be discussed as well as what motivates most volunteers. The need for clear, meaningful volunteer position descriptions and how to match the right person to the right position will also be explored.

Begin this week by watching (or listening to) an archived webinar Carla gave to kick off the California State Library’s “Get Involved: Powered by Your Library” initiative in late 2008. The material is still very relevant. Just ignore the parts where Carla: (1) offers prizes for the best volunteer position descriptions submitted, and (2) asks you to volunteer for the advisory committee—that ship has sailed.

Click if you would prefer to WATCH the presentation
Click if you prefer to LISTEN to the presentation.

Speaker’s Slides (pdf)
Sample Volunteer Position Descriptions (pdf)

Reading 1: Attracting and Engaging Volunteers (pdf)
Assignment 1: Develop a Volunteer Position Description
1. Using the template below, develop a volunteer position description to attract a mid-life adult volunteer to service in your library. Before developing your position description, listen to “Attracting Boomers to Volunteer Service” (see link above) and follow along with the PowerPoints (hyperlink to these listed above), so you have an explanation of how to develop clear, meaningful, position descriptions, as well as see a variety of examples. If you would like yet more background, you can read pages 34-40 of my book Volunteer Involvement in California Libraries: Best Practices.

Download: Volunteer Position Description Template (doc)

2. After listening to the archived webinar and writing your volunteer position, answer the following questions:

  • As you create a volunteer engagement program, what do you want to remember about baby boomers and their approaches to volunteerism?
  • What did you realize about your library’s current volunteer program and its ability to meet the needs of boomers?
  • During the webinar, the idea of appointing a volunteer to head the library speaker’s bureau was used as an example of a volunteer managing a volunteer effort. Do opportunities exist in your library for similar types of volunteer engagement? If so, what are they?

Supplementary Materials – Week 1
Corporation for National and Community Service, Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2014.

Eisner, David, Robert T. Grimm Jr., Shannon Maynard and Susannah Washburn, The New Volunteer Workforce, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2009.

VolunteerMatch, Great Expectations
: Boomers and the Future of Volunteering, July 2007.

WEEK 2: Elements of a Successful Program

Elements of a successful volunteer program will be explored, including recruitment, orientation, training, recognition and support. Retention, as a function of good planning, clear expectations, and matching the right volunteer to the right job, will also be discussed. Examples of library volunteer programs that demonstrate best practices will also be shared.

Reading 2: Finding and Keeping Good Volunteers (pdf)
Assignment 2: Develop a Targeted Recruitment Plan
1. Based on the Week 1 Volunteer Position Description you’ve created, develop your Targeted Recruitment Plan using this template. Download: Targeted Recruitment Plan Template (doc)
2. Save your finished plan as some sort of word processing file.
3. Briefly describe your recruitment process.

Supplementary Materials – Week 2
Harness the Power of Volunteers @Your Library

Three librarians share how they are implementing new volunteer engagement strategies. Perfect for getting new ideas and/or sharing with library staff who need a little extra convincing that this is a good idea!

Jill Friedman Fixler, Discusses Interviewing Volunteers
A 30-minute presentation at the May 2009 “Get Involved: Powered by Your Library” Institute.

Mission Viejo Library, Building Support for the Library through High Impact Volunteers
A 35-minute video presentation, February 2010.

WEEK 3: Overcoming Barriers, Future Trends

This week will address overcoming potential barriers, reasons for staff concerns about involving volunteers, and how to deal with some common issues or problems. Online recruitment, sustainability, legal issues, and future trends will also be discussed.

Reading 3: Dealing with Union Issues and Staff Resistance (pdf)
Assignment 3A: Finalize Your Volunteer Position Description
Share your volunteer position description with others and seek feedback.

  • Do others understand what it is you’re seeking in terms of volunteer abilities as well as what specific responsibilities you want a volunteer to take on?
  • Is the description compelling?
  • Does it peak their interest?

Using the feedback they provide, finalize your volunteer position description.

Assignment 3B: Explore VolunteerMatch (optional)
To assist California libraries seeking volunteers, the California State Library entered into a partnership with VolunteerMatch using a special “hub” site called Get Involved: Powered by Your Library. Potential volunteers are directed to it through a “widget” on library websites throughout the state. Your library does not need to have a special partnership with VolunteerMatch to use its website to recruit good volunteers. In this assignment you will explore volunteer opportunities first through a California library’s website, then through VolunteerMatch itself.

1. Explore VolunteerMatch by viewing the video, “Making the Most of Your VolunteerMatch Account.”
2. Once you’ve done the exploration, be sure to answer these questions:

  • What are two things you learned about making volunteer opportunities compelling from your exploration of VolunteerMatch?
  • How do you see your library using VolunteerMatch.org or other online recruitment strategies?

Watch: Archived Recording of Course Webinar

About the Webinar: We’ll explore sustainability, the final “success element for volunteer programs.” Then we’ll look at current trends and issues in volunteer engagement, including virtual volunteering, online recruitment, and risk management, including a word about criminal history background checks. I have enlisted two guests, Jennifer Baker and Joan Young, to help field questions. Both have been early adopters in our statewide volunteerism project, and each has terrific insights to enrich our Q&A session.

About Joan Young
Joan Young is the volunteer coordinator for San Jose Public Library (SJPL). Located in California’s Bay Area, the San Jose Public Library serves a population of over a million people. SJPL was selected as one of six pilot libraries to participate in the Get Involved Initiative in 2008. Joan spearheaded the implementation of Get Involved at SJPL. Working with a team of staff and volunteers, SJPL developed and delivered a system-wide training on best practices of volunteer engagement, resulting in the cultivation of dozens of new skilled volunteer positions for the library.

About Jennifer Baker
Jennifer Baker completed her MLS at Texas Woman’s University in 1995. Of the 21 years that she has worked in public libraries, 16 years were as a public services librarian. She has worked for city and county systems with service areas as large as one million and as small as 6,000 people. After nine years working as a children’s librarian, she completed a Masters degree in Public Administration at California State University, Fresno. In 2007 she took the position as director of the St. Helena Public Library in northern California.

Questions to Consider as You Watch this Webinar
1. How do current issues and trends discussed during the webinar (online recruitment, Gen Y volunteers, virtual volunteering, risk management) affect volunteer programs at your library?
2. Which practical experiences shared by Joan and Jennifer will be helpful to you as you recruit and engage mid-life adults as volunteers?

Webinar Handouts
Webinar PowerPoint Slides (ppt)

Supplementary Materials – Week 3
Union and Staff Resistance Survey Results Summary (pdf), Skilled Volunteer Engagement: Opportunities and Challenges, February, 2009. (These survey results are referenced in the Week 3 Reading, as well as in the Panel Presentation with Ed Kieczykowski and Kary Bloom, below.)

Liability, Insurance, and Risk Management Issues for Volunteer Programs (doc)

A Word about Criminal History Background Checks (doc)

State Liability Laws for Charitable Organizations and Volunteers (pdf), revised 2009, Nonprofit Risk Management Center.

An online service that is the preferred recruitment tool for over 75,000 non-profit organizations.

Effective Collaboration with Unions and Library Staff

A 30-minute panel presentation by Ed Kieczykowski, Library Director, San Bernardino
County Library, and Kary Bloom, Assistant to the Director, San Jose Public Library, moderated by Stephen Ristau.

Library Director Delgadillo Discusses How to Engage Staff (mp4)
In this five-minute video, Rachel Delgadillo, director of the Roseville Public Library, describes the process she used to bring some key staff around to the idea of using volunteers.

Get Involved: Powered By Your Library website (California state library volunteer initiative)

What to Do Next: Congratulations! You’ve completed the work for this course. If you’re interested, check out the other IMLS Fellowship online courses.