December 22, 2008

Finding the Help You Need with Volunteer Projects

Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Youth Development Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Everyone needs some help some time. Whether you are part of a government agency, a non-profit, or the PTA, there are times when additional people are needed to get the job done. For example, the school fund raiser will require a number of people to organize, promote, and facilitate the project. There is usually one person who chairs the committee responsible for finding volunteers and assigning them tasks. It goes without saying that a community can accomplish so much more when volunteers come together to organize and host an event. So, how does one convince people to donate time and energy from their already busy schedules to assist in a special project?

Just as it is true with other activities, if you want to find and organize volunteers, you must plan and be organized. Much has been written on the research that has occurred in the area of volunteer development. Several volunteer management models exist. While someone looking for just a few volunteers to help with a school or club event may not think following a model is necessary, most principles laid out in the models hold true no matter the size of the project or the number of volunteers required. After studying the models, it is apparent that the research supports good planning and common sense as the tools to successful volunteer management.

Florida 4-H faculty have embraced the ISOTURE model. The ISOTURE model was developed by Dr. Milton Boyce, former National 4-H Program Leader, USDA. The acronym stands for the steps of Identification, Selection, Orientation, Training, Utilization, Recognition, and Evaluation. These steps offer a systematic guide for anyone to develop a volunteer program, whether it is for a large organization or a one-time club fundraiser.


Identification - the process of identifying the positions and finding people who have the skills and attitude essential to fill specific positions. After you identify the tasks, create a role description for each one. This will let potential volunteers know which skills are needed and the time commitment. Write an interesting description to attract more people.

Selection - the process of studying the skills of prospective volunteers and determining their match with existing positions. Asking one or two people to do a particular task may be more effective than sending out a general plea for help. A person may feel honored if their special talents are recognized and then agree to help. Being asked as another “warm body” isn’t as special.

Orientation - this process serves as the initial stage in helping the volunteer understand the culture of the organization and their place in it. Be sure volunteers understand the expectations of their role and the “big picture” of the project. Volunteers should feel part of the team.

Training - this is the process of providing volunteers with specific knowledge and skills to carry out their position successfully. Depending on the nature of the volunteer’s skills, experience, and position, training time will vary. This is the time where a volunteer may find out that the assignment isn’t the best fit. It is better to find out during training than after the event is over. If the experience is not positive, chances are a volunteer will not return.

Utilization - this is the process of putting the volunteer to work. Volunteers could be doing something else. Make sure there is always work ready when the volunteer arrives.

Recognition - this is the process of recognizing and rewarding quality volunteer efforts. Everyone likes to be recognizes for their efforts. Small tokens of recognition can be presented at any time, not just at the end of the event or year.

Evaluation - this is the process of monitoring the volunteer’s service and the results of the project. Most people assess an event after it is over or make notes for next time. Be sure to ask the volunteers how they feel things went. You may be surprised.

The idea of using a development model may seem daunting to some people. In reality, what the model does is set out logical steps to organizing your volunteer program for your next event.

The 4-H Youth Development Program largely owes its success to the large number of dedicated volunteers who assist who delivering the program. Volunteer development is an important part of every 4-H Agent’s work. By utilizing the ISOTURE model, Florida 4-H Agents and staff are taking positive steps to insure that Florida 4-H will remain for another 100 years.
For more detailed information on ISOTURE, please go to:

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