After identifying, screening and selecting volunteers, next comes the all-important ORIENTATION.
An effective volunteer orientation is critical in that it sets the tone and culture for the type of 4-H program you want to have. Good orientations cover the basics without overwhelming new volunteers, and typically last 45-90 minutes in length. Orientations may be conducted one-on-one in your office, or you may find it more time-conscious to pre-schedule 1-4 orientations during the year such that when new volunteers are selected they wait until the next scheduled orientation to begin.
Things to cover in your orientation should include:
- The big picture. The mission, vision, and values of both Cooperative Extension and 4-H, and how the volunteer fits into this picture.
- An opportunity to meet ALL Extension staff.
- 4-H 101: Branding (pledges, emblem, slogan, motto, colors), ages served, clubs, projects, events, activities, recognition.
- Positive Youth Development 101: Targeting Life Skills, Essential Elements
- BASIC Risk Management.
- The Role of the 4-H Agent. Of all things, I believe this is one of the most critical things to make clear to new volunteers. Explain your job, including your role as a faculty member and expectation to contribute to scholarship. Explain what they should be reasonably able to expect from you. Underpromise and Overdeliver.
- Officially appoint the volunteer to their new position, including signing a volunteer role description.
And remember- DON’T OVER DO IT! There will be room for more training as the volunteer continues service with your program.