Volunteers who receive consistent, ongoing support experience more satisfying and ultimately more effective relationships with youth.1 Managing continued volunteer engagement involves connecting with volunteers and youth on a regular basis to understand what’s going well and where participants need additional support. These interactions prove most informative when conducted in-person or over the phone, so that you can hear tone and inferences while being able to ask poignant follow-up questions. On-going communication and volunteer hours should be regularly collected and documented (link to online activity log) by program staff. You can track volunteer using an online database or simple paper logs. The STEM Mentoring Session Overview is a tracking tool and feedback form for mentors working with groups of youth in a STEM setting. You can also try a simple paper form like the Mentor Monthly Report Log or The Mentoring Activity Log.
If you notice that a volunteer is unable to rise to one or multiple expectations outlined in your volunteer position description, it’s time for a conversation to learn what’s happening and what if any changes need to be made to support on-going success. The volunteer commitment statement becomes an important tool for managing continued volunteer engagement as it asks volunteers to acknowledge what’s expected of them in their role. In the event that you experience unmet program expectations or poor performance you can refer back to this tool with your volunteer while offering specific feedback
If you’re new to coordinating adult volunteers you’ll want to spend some time reviewing relationship building communication skills like active listening, reflection, open-ended questioning and encouragement. These communication skills are important to practice with volunteers as they help you build rapport, while also modeling the kind of communication that volunteers should use in their interactions with youth.
In addition to consistent communication and relationship development support, programs that also provide affirmations and recognition connected to a volunteer’s motivation are more likely to retain these individuals as volunteers. This involves supporting volunteers to achieve their individual goals related to the volunteer experience –assuming those goals are appropriate for the program and context. For example, if a volunteer is interested in becoming a STEM mentor because he or she is considering a career in teaching, you might offer to connect them with teaching staff at your school. Remaining responsive to the changing needs of volunteers is central to retaining high-quality volunteers. How do you learn an individual’s motivation to volunteer? You ask with questions like, “Why do you want to volunteer in this STEM program?”