by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.
Is it easy to picture what your setting looks like? Even traditional places like a school or hospital can look very different than what a stranger might imagine. We all know that prospective volunteers are more likely to express interest in joining us if they feel comfortable that they will fit into our organization. So help them with a "virtual tour."
Take photographs as you walk through your facility (or recruit a talented volunteer photographer). Pay special attention to the places volunteers are most likely to spend time, including where various volunteers do their work, the volunteer program office, where volunteers leave personal belongings while on shift, or where they can take a break. Show other volunteers (show them actually working, not posing for the camera!) and employees. Show clients, too, even if confidentiality requires that you take the shot from behind.
Don't forget outdoor shots, too. Showing where people park or what's in the neighborhood might be important to applicants. If you are located somewhere that has the reputation of being less safe, the outdoor photos may minimize fears.
These days, the best place for such photos are on the agency website. But let them do double duty by also making a set of slides to use in recruitment presentations.
If you have a volunteer with video and programming skills, the agency tour can be presented in video form or in neat three-dimensional versions in which the viewer can "move around" virtually in the room photographed.
This idea might prove valuable to your organization in other ways, too. Similar photo tours can be developed for prospective clients/customers, or for their interested families and friends. Even all-volunteer membership associations can use this idea by photographing meetings, special events, and other likely scenarios a newcomer would encounter.
Finally, think about how photographs can be a training tool, as well. Take shots of the entire sequence of actions a volunteer needs to take to accomplish certain tasks. This can be done for hands-on work such as handling homebound meal delivery cartons to less tangible assignments such as a "walk-through" of a tutoring session.
About the Author: Susan J. Ellis is President of Energize, Inc., a training, consulting, and publishing firm that specializes in volunteerism. She founded the Philadelphia-based company in 1977 and since that time has assisted clients throughout North America (48 states and 5 provinces), Europe (8 countries), Asia (3 countries), Latin America and Australia to create or strengthen their volunteer corps. The year 2002 marked Energize's 25th anniversary.
Susan is the author or co-author of eleven books, including From the Top Down: The Executive Role in Volunteer Program Success and The Volunteer Recruitment Book - several of which have been translated into Japanese, Taiwanese, French and Italian. All her books can be found in the online bookstore. From 1981 to 1987 she was Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Volunteer Administration. She has written more than 90 articles on volunteer management for dozens of publications and writes the national bi-monthly column, "On Volunteers," for The NonProfit Times.
Please visit Energize web site http://www.energizeinc.com, a cornucopia of over 1000 pages of information especially for leaders of volunteers. Call for a FREE catalog of Energize materials: (800)395-9800 [in Philadelphia (215) 438-8342], or fax (215) 428-0434. Or write to Energize at: 5450 Wissahickon Ave, Box C-13, Philadelphia, PA 19144.
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