The U.S. National Fire Protection Association reported one structure fire every minute in 2015, with over 19,000 deaths and injuries and $14.3B in property loss. In Vermont, fire has damaged and destroyed numerous landmark buildings over the past several years. How can stewards of historic commercial and public buildings avoid having their properties become part of these sobering statistics?
By Lisa Ryan
We are fortunate here in Vermont to have many people who are passionate about their communities and are willing to spend their time volunteering. People volunteer because it offers the chance to give back to the community and share their expertise. For others, it’s an opportunity to spend time with people who share their interests. Still other volunteers are eager to develop new skills, gain fresh experience and acquire new knowledge. No matter what the reason, volunteers play a very important role in the preservation community and in restoration projects around the state. Here are a few tips to help you recruit and retain volunteers.
Make it fun – Volunteers who experience positive social interactions and have fun while working together on a project are more likely to stay with a project until the end and even recruit their friends, family and neighbors to help.
- Provide time for your volunteers to connect with one another in an informal setting to help spark new friendships.
- Look for opportunities to recognize inspiration, commitment and passion
- Share meals, down time and deliberately provide opportunities for story sharing.
- Celebrate your success every step of the way!
Make it meaningful – Establishing a well organized list of opportunities that encourages meaningful participation will help you both attract and retain volunteers.
- Consider developing volunteer job descriptions. This kind of clarity may help both your organization and your volunteer feel good about the project.
- Maintain a list of odd jobs such gardening, photography, or painting. This can provide meaningful work for volunteers that might not be able to make a long-term commitment to the project.
- Keep track of your organizational needs such as administrative tasks, computer work, secretary or treasurer. Even if your current volunteer base doesn’t have the skill you are seeking, they may know someone who does.
Show your appreciation – Volunteers need to know that their contribution is valued and is critical to the success of your project or organization. Take the time to recognize the unique contributions that each volunteer makes to your organization or project, no matter how big or small.
- Thank your volunteers personally both on a regular basis and after big efforts.
- Publicly recognize your volunteers at meetings and public gatherings.
- Regularly highlight volunteer activity in your newsletter and on your website.
- Honor your volunteers with special recognition or awards at the end of the project.