Designing a new volunteer program for a worthy cause is an exciting undertaking, but it takes a lot of time, resources, and dedication to make it work. You need a plan for assessment, a solid vision for your program, and a touch of creativity.
So how do you craft a program that allows you to stand out among the crowd and excite your board members?
Here are a few tips to get you started.
Tips to Design an Innovative Volunteer Program
1. Create a vision board with ideas and concepts that reflect your desired volunteer program.
Vision boards are a great way to manifest your goals and dreams, and you can use this visualization exercise for your volunteer program as well. Gather all of your board members together and flip through different books and magazines to make a collage of pictures that represent your ideal program.
You may want to post inspirational photos of your target audience or even written affirmations of positivity and success that resonate with your members. If you’re in the process of decorating your volunteer headquarters, get some samples of fabric for your chairs or curtains and tack them to the vision board. Need to get new t-shirts made? Grab a brochure from a local business with mock-ups of your dream shirts and pin them up!
The goal is to curate as many representations of your ideal volunteer program as possible. And if you aren’t into the idea of a physical board, you can choose an online option like Pinterest to “pin” or save images that reflect your desired program.
Just remember to keep your board private and only share it among your executive council and volunteers to protect your vision and program strategies. You can always create a separate public Pinterest board with content to promote your program to prospective volunteers, donors, and the general public at a later time.
2. Create a leadership journal and have each board member write about their personal goals and program experiences.
A leadership journal is a great way to reflect on program-wide decisions and personal competencies. As leaders of a volunteer program, you and your board will need to assess your program strengths and weaknesses, share ideas, and provide solutions on an ongoing basis. The best way to do this is through reflection, specifically journaling.
Allow members to write down their observations of the program and ways to improve it (from branding to performance). Review the suggestions at weekly or monthly meetings and let everyone share their contributions. For easy access and sharing, create an online journal in a Google document for simple editing and collaborative writing.
To dig into the minds of your team, create journal prompts based on specific themes or topics impacting your organization. You can start by asking basic questions such as:
- What are the program’s biggest strengths?
- How would you improve the last event?
- On a scale of 1-5, how would you evaluate your current leadership skills?
These are just a few examples of questions you can use to examine the different areas of your program and encourage skill development. The main goal is to create an open and constructive forum where you and your team can freely exchange ideas and reflect on the operation of the program.
3. Use creative titles for official volunteer and executive roles.
Instead of giving your staff traditional titles for leadership roles such as President or Vice President, create branded names to enhance your program and make you stand out. It’s a quick and creative way to set you apart from other organizations.
How do you go about creating unique titles? Take the time to assess the personality traits of your members and figure out what their strengths and hobbies are.
Let’s take Julia, for example. A talented member of a new small non-profit, she has lots of energy, ideas, and tenacity. Julia is incredibly gifted when it comes to transcribing notes and writing complex business reports. Instead of adopting the common term Secretary, she decides to coin herself the Chief Correspondence Officer in a group brainstorming meeting. Inspired by Julia’s creativity, her peers came up with unique titles of their own and put them on t-shirts to wear at special events. Each member even created catchy job descriptions to go with those titles for their program’s website.
So what makes this idea so effective? It supports the culture of their program, serves as a great conversation starter, and promotes interest.
This is a classic example of how to empower your team through a simple creative activity and turn it into a major branding opportunity for both the staff and program to benefit from. Before you get started brainstorming titles, just be sure to choose names that are appropriate for the overall culture and tone of your program.
While creating a volunteer program is no easy task, it is important to tap into the strength and support of your team. No matter how many challenges you may face, stay the course! It will be worth it!
About the Author
Janelle Howell is Founder & CEO of Training by Nelle LLC, an employee training and virtual business solutions agency. She has over 10 years of experience as a trainer, consultant, and public speaker.