4 Steps to Create a Volunteer Program

You’ve got an idea for a new volunteer program, and you’re anxious to give it a try. But it can be overwhelming to know where to start. With everything still ahead of you—from volunteer recruitment, volunteer training, volunteer scheduling, and more —there’s a lot to consider. Start with the following four steps when launching a new volunteer program.

1. Define goals

When defining the goals, first ensure that the program will fit within the organization’s mission and vision. If it doesn’t, consider revising the program idea or evaluating if it should live within the organization. For example, if the organization’s mission is to provide free meals to anyone who is hungry in your community, recruiting volunteers for a new reading program may not be the best fit.

Once you’ve determined that your program will fit within the organization, create specific, measurable goals that will allow you to appropriately track success and failure. For example, if you want to create a reading program to improve local elementary students’ reading scores, a measurable goal would be for the elementary school’s student reading scores to improve by half a grade level or more every two quarters.

2. Identify leaders

Before launching a program, it’s important to ensure that there are appropriate people available and willing to step up to lead. That leader might be you, someone already involved in the organization, or someone who is specifically recruited, as a volunteer or staff member, to fill the role.

If you’re having trouble finding leadership, ask current stakeholders to consider those in their networks as possible candidates. Ask the board, volunteers, and any staff to share news regarding the leadership opportunity with those they know.

Be sure to have a description of the role written and ready to share. Even if it’s a brief description, include estimated time commitments and any skills or qualifications needed to excel. Explain the core responsibilities, such as budgeting, volunteer management, public speaking, and anything else needed for the role.

3. Create a plan

Sustainability is key. If you don’t have a plan for tomorrow, you may be wasting your time today. Regardless of whether there’s an end date or the program is meant to be ongoing, it’s important to determine if the necessary resources are available to see the program through.

For instance, in the reading program example, the resources needed may include volunteers, staff, reading curriculum, and a location for tutoring, among other things. Determine how you will access these resources both immediately for the launch of the program, and also in the long term. Where will the people, funds, space, and supplies come from year after year?

4. Reflect on learning

Take time to reflect back on any other volunteer programs your organization may have launched in the past. What was the foundation for success or the reason for failure? Try to identify specific causes so that you can replicate what worked and avoid what didn’t. If you don’t have a lot of experience creating programs or your organization is just getting started, reach out to other organizational leaders to see what learning they would be willing to share.

If you’d like to read more about starting volunteer programs, take a look at this informative ebook from

To streamline volunteer management in your new and established volunteer programs, consider using Volunteer Scheduler Pro to schedule, manage, and engage your volunteers.

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