Volunteers are essential to a successful program for our youth. Many of us take great pride in being a volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America. Some units have a thriving volunteer base while others manage with just a few doing all the work. The question is: how does a Pack get all families to help?
Parents today are willing to volunteer, surveys tell us that they expect to volunteer. They will say YES. The problem is what the volunteer job looks like, the expectations. A Pack should have multiple opportunities/tasks available, set a start and finish time for each specific task, and allow adults to choose their assignment. We need to be flexible. There is no one right way to run the program, no list of specific volunteer jobs. While some opportunities may be in unit leadership, others may be task oriented.
Start the “volunteer” conversation at registration. Communicate that all adults will have a volunteer opportunity in some manner. This sets the expectation from the very beginning. Let everyone know that they will have the option to choose their volunteer task. Some volunteer opportunities are in leadership and direct contact with the youth. Explain that these choices do require Youth Protection Training and additional training that can be completed online at their convenience. Other opportunities that do not require training or interaction with youth do exist and require various amounts of time. Sharing this at registration is key so that families know what to expect as they sign up. Registration is not the time to lay out the opportunities or have family sign up to volunteer, this is done later.
After the fall registration event, conduct an Adult Orientation for the Pack inviting both those that are new and those that are returning. They have a lot to learn from one another. During orientation, remind everyone that the expectation is that everyone will be volunteering in some capacity. Explain that some opportunities are larger than others and all help is welcome. Using the exercise below, allow adults to pick out their own volunteer job.
- Before orientation, write down all the volunteer tasks/opportunities* on sticky notes with 1 per note. This should be done by the unit Committee. If the volunteer task has a due date, include that on the sticky note.
- Make sure there is a mix of small and large tasks.
- Be clear about what is absolutely necessary and what is “nice to have.” This might be annotation on the sticky note or you can color code the notes. One color for required tasks and another color for optional.
- If there is more than one person needed for the job, create a sticky note for each person needed. For example, if 3 people are needed to run the pinewood derby track, have 3 separate sticky notes.
- Depending upon unit structure and size, leadership opportunities may or may not be included. Sometimes that person volunteering to be in a leadership role is the right person and sometimes it is not the right person. A leadership role may be best left for a personal ask at a later date once the committee gets to know the person.
- Placing opportunities into categories or areas of concentration might help direct people to their interests.
- Before the meeting, place the sticky notes up on a wall, white board or any flat surface so that as families arrive, they can see all the opportunities that exist and all the work needed to run a successful Pack.
- During orientation, remind everyone that the BSA is a volunteer run organization, all the way from the Pack to the local Council to National. Creating a successful program for youth involves help, big and small, from everyone. Explain that the posted sticky notes include everything that the Pack needs to ensure a fun, well-run program.
- Ask families to select, or pull, one or more volunteer opportunities for which they would like to be responsible. If someone expresses a willingness to do something other than what is posted, say YES.
- Task someone to keep a list of tasks/opportunities and who pulled the job. A reminder can be sent out by the keeper of the volunteering opportunities. This too is a volunteer task.
- After the notes have been chosen, have everyone take a look at what is left on the wall. These things will not get done. Do not ask people to pick another one. Pack leadership is not responsible for taking care of everything that is left. Revisit what activities or tasks that have not been chosen with the group and ask if anyone would like to trade their choice for another.
People tend to have ownership of tasks they chose themselves. This process allows for people to see everything that it takes to run the program. They have a choice in making a selection, figuring out what works best for their family situation. Some families are capable of doing a larger task, while others can handle something small. Choosing gives people ownership. The public process also allows people to see others choosing, everyone is doing something.
This process also frees up Pack leadership from contacting people for volunteering and hearing “no.” Everyone chooses up front, at the beginning of the program year, decisions are made what to keep and what to remove based on the results. Focus for the remainder of the year is on conducting the program.
Families that volunteer also have some ownership of the program which can lead to increased retention. Longer tenured adults may tend to volunteer for a bigger job. Once the volunteer load is distributed, life becomes easier for everyone.
With the process, each Pack can create a list of tasks that work best for their unit. There is no one right list. By allowing adults to choose how they want to contribute everyone can get involved.
*Volunteer Tasks Ideas
Social media poster
Collect popcorn money
Pick up popcorn from Council and bring back to Pack
Purchase supplies for Pack meetings
Purchase Advancement supplies and distribute to dens
Make meeting facility reservations
Pinewood derby snack coordinator
Generate Pack calendar
Collect Summer Day camp registrations
Pack meeting door greeter