Good Works, Better Practices, Great Homes
An interactive guide to operating AIDS housing

Section IV: VOLUNTEERS

Informing the community of particular program needs and volunteer opportunities is vital to the success of most not-for-profit organizations. For small programs or agencies, it may be one of the greatest assets in assisting your staff to deliver services. Volunteers can free up staff time for more vital duties by accomplishing tasks that may not require skill but a willingness to be of assistance. Some volunteers can bring greatly needed talents to the program which it might not necessarily be afforded in a typical agency's operating budget. For instance, a program may utilize the creative talents of interior decorators in designing community spaces within a congregate living program. Many programs are reliant on outside groups and individuals to prepare meals for their residents. Some volunteers may desire to work individually with one or two residents and offer to act as a "buddy." All of these contributions are invaluable program assets.

Staff and residents will probably think of numerous ways volunteers can serve the program. A list of these suggestions should be kept and used in your outreach efforts. If possible, select one staff person to serve as the contact between volunteers and the program. The "volunteer coordinator" might be a volunteer job in itself. This person would be responsible for recruiting volunteers through a variety of means: mailings, public speaking, press releases, and phone calls. Typically, volunteers will be recruited most easily from local churches, senior centers, civic organizations, area colleges and high schools, and personal contacts made through your Board of Directors and other agency volunteers.

Once your volunteers have been recruited, be sure they understand the mission and philosophy of your program; the expectations that will be placed on them; the basics of HIV/AIDS and universal precautions; the importance of confidentiality; boundary setting, and who they should turn to for guidance and support. This means that education and orientation are absolutes in building healthy relationships with your volunteers. A volunteer is not dissimilar to an employee: he wants to know his job and he wants to know who to rely on for supervision. Finally, he wants to be appreciated, not with a paycheck, but with a handshake, smile and thank you.

There are two vital things to remember when working with volunteers: a) match the right volunteer with the right job; b) have a task ready when your volunteer arrives. People volunteer because they want to feel worthwhile and know they have contributed something of value. An idle volunteer quickly loses interest.

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