Getting the best effort out of a volunteer -- and giving the volunteer the best possible experience -- is really easy.
You find out what he or she wants in return for the services you want, and give it to 'em!
That was the nut of the message George Barnette of the Blanco County Disaster Response Group offered in the Saturday morning class on Volunteer Management offered free at the First United Methodist Church in Johnson City.
"It isn't really as simple as that, of course," Barnette said. "Finding out what motivates an individual volunteer takes time and effort, but it pays off in someone who will do a better job because they're happy in their volunteer work."
Part of the course focused on how to accomplish that...what motivates volunteers, how to support that motivation, and ways to use that understanding to train and manage the volunteers themselves.
"The basics of volunteer management are universal," he explained. "I learned most of mine as a leader in a professional society in Houston, but they apply to the disaster response group or a church committee just as well."
Managing disaster volunteers obviously is the disaster group's main interest. The class spent time on ways disasters are unique environments for volunteers.
"People who just show up at a disaster are called spontaneous volunteers, and they can be a great source of manpower and skills that wouldn't otherwise be available...or not available that quickly. But they're also untrained, unknown, and unorganized. Getting that mass of eager helpers into an orderly force takes a lot of know-how by a lot of people who plan it thoroughly in advance."
Disasters also are where the volunteer's training pays off, because there's no time to learn how to help when the tornado has passed through. It may seem like a waste of time to prepare for an event that never seems to happen, but suddenly the situation changes, and that class on flu vaccination clinics doesn't seem so useless any more.