Orientation for New Volunteers Table of ContentsExecutive Summary BackgroundNature of Learning ChallengeAlternatives to ConsiderAssumptions and RisksFinancial MetricsBusiness Impact of InterventionsEvaluationsConclusion and RecommendationsAppendixEXECUTIVE SUMMARY OPD, a small non-profit, is experiencing difficulty retaining volunteers which is impacting its operations.
The organization depends on volunteers to help plan and execute events, perform office tasks and publish its quarterly magazine. Based on exit interviews and surveys of the volunteers, the main reason identified for volunteer attrition is dissatisfaction with clarity around their responsibilities as they only get an informal orientation from one of the staff members on high level responsibilities. Otherwise, volunteers have to depend on other volunteers for information and on-the-job learning. Moreover, there is no training on the software the organization uses to organize events resulting in mistakes and confusion during the event, and additional cost in materials.
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The magazine volunteers have similar issues as they are also not trained on the publishing software. Due to lack of training volunteers are perceived as ineffective by the staff, and they themselves lose interest and leave. This business case proposes to resolve the issue by implementing a formal orientation program consisting of a video and a supplemental handbook that would provide the necessary information to the new volunteers to ensure productivity and higher morale. The volunteers can also review these materials as a refresher, as and when needed. As a result, volunteer performance would improve and they are more likely to stay longer with the organization. This would reduce the cost of recruiting new volunteers, reduce the organization’s personnel costs, and improve the quality of the organization’s activities. Furthermore, satisfied volunteers would be more likely to recommend the organization to others, creating community cohesion as well.
BACKGROUNDOPD is a small non-profit organization that aims to encourage entrepreneurship in the local community. It holds ten events every year and publishes a quarterly magazine. Due to its limited budget and small number of staff, it recruits volunteers to help run its activities. The volunteers work under two dedicated staff members, the executive director and office manager, who are overseen by a board of directors consisting of ten members.Volunteers contribute in terms of time, energy, and skills as they help with the publication of the quarterly magazine, basic office duties, and planning and executing various events.
While their skills and knowledge are critical to the success of the non-profit, volunteers work on an as-needed basis, contingent upon limitations of budget and the volume of work. Another benefit of recruiting volunteers is that it leads to increased community support and ownership. Hence volunteer sustainability is very important.Tight budget and limited staff mean there is little time to spend on the orientation of new volunteers. Due to the nature of the organization’s “as needed” work, the roster of volunteers also changes frequently. These factors further intensify the problems associated with a lack of a formal orientation program for new volunteer recruits.
NATURE OF CHALLENGEThe orientation program currently in place is informal in structure: one of the staff may introduce the new volunteer to the rest of the staff, board members and other volunteers, impart general information about the organization and the requirements of the position, and answer questions as they arise. No formal orientation program exists as such and through informal observation of volunteer performance, it has been noted that the volunteers are frequently unprepared to undertake many of the tasks assigned to them. Furthermore, the organization is currently facing volunteer attrition which is impacting its effectiveness in organizing events and publishing the quarterly magazine. Informal verbal feedback and comments to staff regarding volunteers’ experiences indicate similar concerns. Informal observation of productivity identified performance gaps as well, such as the length of time it took for the draft of the quarterly to be finalized and sent for publication due to numerous errors, inadequate knowledge of the publishing software, as well as inadequate understanding of how to print badges for the events sponsored by the organization leading to increased costs. A comment from a volunteer: “It took me a long time to understand how to perform the tasks I had been assigned, one of which was to print the registration participant badges. I felt I wasted my time as I was ill-prepared and had to have the badges printed twice.” Many of the volunteers have expressed dissatisfaction in verbal, informal exit interviews and comments over the years, and in FY2016, the organization started administering exit surveys to gauge the perceptions and experiences of the volunteers.
Review of these surveys shows that lack of proper guidance has resulted in low morale and productivity for the volunteers as well as low volunteer sustainability. Orientation is key to introducing volunteers to the organization, its mission, goals and policies, and description of their functions and duties and how to perform them.ALTERNATIVES TO CONSIDERIn order to improve the quality of organizational activities and raise volunteer morale, a formal orientation approach is proposed. The current informal orientation approach has limitations that are hindering the work of the organization by not preparing the volunteers adequately. To provide a viable and sound solution to the lack to volunteer orientation, a formal approach to orientation is recommended. The following alternatives are to be considered:ALTERNATIVE 1: VIDEO ORIENTATION & HANDBOOK Create a video orientation that introduces the volunteers to the organization, its mission and its engagement with the community.
In addition, an orientation handbook to supplement the video would be created that will provide detailed instructions on performing different volunteer tasks. It will also include information from the orientation session, copies of the quarterly magazine, and a tip sheet with general information regarding the organization. Pros:A short video of about 15-20 minutes is a fun, convenient and effective way to impart information to new volunteers, and can be watched on their own mobile devices as well as the organization’s computers. The handbook in conjunction with the video will enhance the experience and help the new volunteers to understand and absorb the material before they start their duties with confidence and understanding of their job requirements, and align their tasks with the vision of the organization. This will take much less time and effort as opposed to volunteers on the job learning, save time for staff that perviously was spent on supervision and guidance, increase volunteer sustainability, and cut personnel costs as volunteers start off on a confident note and are more productive. Cons:The video will require to be outsourced to a Learning Design professional and require financial commitment and resources from the organization’s already limited budget.
The handbook will also require additional time and cost to write and publish. The staff will have to set time aside from their already strained schedules to act as SMEs and help in the creation of the learning materials.ALTERNATIVE 2: ORIENTATION HANDBOOK The second alternative is to provide the new volunteers with the orientation handbook only, after they have been informally introduced to their roles as volunteers. Pros:This will provide an easy reference for the volunteers to learn about the tasks they are assigned.This option will require less financial resources and staff time than creating an orientation video. Cons:Providing only printed material without a video orientation may overwhelm and burden the volunteer with too much information to digest.?ALTERNATIVE 3: STATUS QUOThis alternative will maintain the status quo by continuing with the current unstructured and informal orientation approach, and deal with issues as they arise.
Pros:Staff are familiar with the current informal approach and will not have to divert time from their responsibilities or allocate additional resources to design and implement a new program. Cons:This course of action is not recommended as volunteer problems will continue unabated, and the organization will continue to suffer low volunteer productivity, engagement and morale, as well as attrition.ASSUMPTIONS AND RISKSThese are the assumptions and risks associated with each option.ALTERNATIVE 1: VIDEO ORIENTATION & HANDBOOK Assumptions:This alternative assumes the organization has the funds to create a new orientation program The new orientation program will be outsourced to an instructional designer outside of the organizationStaff will collaborate as SME to the instructional design teamThe staff will support, coordinate and oversee the new strategyParticipation in the orientation will be mandatoryVolunteers will find the video and handbook valuable resources and utilize them Risks:The new volunteers may not want to participate in the new orientation program Staff may be unable to create content for the learning materials due to time constraintsThe orientation program may miss essential information ALTERNATIVE 2: ORIENTATION HANDBOOK Assumptions:This alternative also assumes the organization will be willing to allocate time and financial resources to publish the handbookStaff will have the time to act as SME to the instructional design teamVolunteers will find the handbook a valuable resource Risks:The manual alone may not be sufficientNew volunteers may not consult the manualVolunteers may view the handbook as redundant or information-overloadALTERNATIVE 3: STATUS QUO Assumptions: Leadership would not fund the new initiatives and continue with the old strategy Risks:The challenges faced by the new volunteers will continue unabated, affecting the morale and productivity of the volunteersAttrition will continue to be a problem Volunteers will continue to learn along the way and disrupt the flow of workFINANCIAL METRICS AND MEASURESIn order to develop the orientation video and handbook, the staff at OPD will contribute as SMEs and collaborate with an instructional designer to develop the learning materials. The table below summarizes the anticipated costs and resources that are required for each alternative. https://elearning.
net/freelance-elearning-developer-rateshttps://www.td.org/insights/how-long-does-it-take-to-develop-one-hour-of-training-updated-for-2017BUSINESS IMPACT OF INTERVENTIONS Implementing a formal orientation program consisting of a video and handbook will have a positive impact, both tangible and intangible, for both volunteers and the organization as a whole. Volunteer morale, satisfaction and productivity will go up and attrition will go down. Volunteers will be able to work with confidence and provide invaluable services to the organization without additional costs incurred due to errors in performance.
This will also free the staff to work uninterrupted as it will decrease the time taken up by volunteer coaching, hence productivity for both staff and volunteers will increase. This will also increase the value of the work volunteers perform as proper knowledge of their jobs will ensure that organizationals tasks are completed correctly. Enhanced volunteer performance will result in smooth event planning and execution, and the magazine publication will be on target, both within their original budgets.
Ultimately, intangible benefits of the new orientation program will thus result in tangible benefits that are concrete and real.Implementing the second option of providing the volunteers with an orientation handbook after an informal introduction to their responsibilities will impact the budget moderately, and address some of the issues faced by the volunteers and the organization. Volunteers will start off on the right note and get to know their functions within the organization and gain understanding of their responsibilities in the organization.
The handbook will also be readily available as a reference for step-by-step instructions, and a manual for software. However, the performance will still lag overall as the staff will spend time in correcting tasks of volunteers. If the organization opts to stay with the current informal orientation approach, there will be no impact to the budget as there will be no cost towards preparing the learning materials. But volunteer errors will impact the budget negatively.
For example, errors in printing badges for events, and other event-related matters such as incorrect catering orders will likely continue to overextend the budget outlined for these programs. Similarly, time spent in editing and re-editing, formatting and re-formatting the quarterly magazine will also cost the organization time, money and other resources (such as ink and paper). Ineffective volunteers who complete tasks incorrectly are a burden for the organization, both financially and figuratively. Attrition and volunteer dissatisfaction will also not be addressed.HIGH-LEVEL IMPLEMENTATION AND EVALUATION PLANTo design and develop the orientation materials, staff will collaborate with an instructional designer and provide direction, content and expertise as SME.
Staff will review and approve of the materials before the delivery of the materials. Current volunteers will provide feedback before the products are finalized. Implementation does not have a fixed date as it will be conducted on an as-needed basis. The effectiveness of the program will be measured by using surveys and other tools. As indicated in the implementation plan, the pilot will be evaluated to determine its effectiveness and to correct any shortcomings. This will be informal feedback from the volunteers. Post-launch, evaluations will be conducted via surveys.
Summative evaluations will be administered immediately after the end of the orientation to gauge the participants’ perceptions and how beneficial the they found the orientation. As the end of their term, volunteers will be asked to complete an exit survey to determine their perceptions and experiences as well as to see how effective the program was in helping them fulfill their responsibilities, whether they plan on staying active on the volunteer roster, and if they would recommend the organization to others. This data will be compared to previous two years’ data to identify trends.
The goal is for volunteers to score 70% or higher in satisfaction, 80% or higher for being available for further volunteer opportunities with the organization, and 80% or higher for recommending the organization to others. Another observable metric of success of the program will be to see how accurately volunteers perform their duties without supervision and staying within the budget. Small group evaluations in the form of informal interviews will also be conducted to determine what the volunteers gained from the orientation.APPENDIXAppendix A: Volunteer Feedback Form – FY2016Volunteer Feedback Form – FY2016Thank you for volunteering with OPD. We strive to provide a quality experience for our volunteers and your feedback is extremely important to us.1.
Name: ________________________2. How long have you volunteered with OPD? for one event only less than 6 months 6 months – 1 year 1 year – 3 years3. In your opinion, did you receive adequate guidance and supervision to complete tasks assigned to you? Yes Somewhat No4.
How likely are you to volunteer with us again? Very Somewhat Not at all If you no longer wish to volunteer with us, please tell us why:I no longer want to volunteer because: 5. How likely are you to encourage others to volunteer with us? Very Somewhat Not at all6. How satisfied are you with your experience as a volunteer? Very Somewhat Not at all8. How confident/prepared are you about performing the tasks assigned to you?VerySomewhatNot at all7. Please share additional comments in the box below:Comments & suggestions:Appendix B: Volunteer Feedback Form – FY2019This feedback form will be administered one week after the orientation program:Volunteer Feedback Form Thank you for volunteering with OPD. Please let us know what you think about our orientation program.
Do you think the orientation prepared you for the tasks assigned to you? Yes Somewhat No3. How satisfied are you with the orientation?VerySomewhatNot satisfied at all4. What did you like best about the orientation? What did you like least?Type to enter text5. Please share suggestions to improve our orientation program.Type to enter text