Beggars can’t be choosers, right? So how can you possibly evaluate the free service donated by your volunteers? The fact is- you can, and you must.
Volunteers need feedback. Annual evaluation of volunteers provides an opportunity for dialogue between the volunteer and the agent which can provide critical insight into continued training and support needs of your volunteers.
Plan a time at the end of the service year with your volunteers for a conversation about their experiences over the past year, either individually or in small groups. If time and money are no option- consider taking each volunteer out to lunch or coffee individually, or if that’s not feasible, you may choose to conduct a group evaluation at an end-of-year volunteer meeting. The evaluation should be a conversation… a dialogue between the volunteer and the agent. Both parties should have the opportunity to learn from one another during this time.
To prepare yourself- review the volunteers’ files for the year (screening/training needs, any notes from 4-H parents, etc.) and share with your volunteers in advance the questions you would like to discuss:
• What were you most proud of this year?
• What struggles did you have?
• What tools, resources, and/or training do you need?
• How can I (the agent) help?
When you meet with the volunteer(s) prepare to ask and really listen to the answers to these questions. Explain in advance to the volunteer that you will be taking notes, because you really want to absorb the valuable feedback they are sharing.
During your conversation, prepare to give the volunteer some constructive comments (remember the sandwich model- share something positive, something they might consider for the future, something else positive). Additionally share any notes you may have received on the volunteer during the year (positive notes from 4-H families, issues that may have come up and how they were resolved).
During this time make sure to review responsibilities. Specifically any mandatory meetings, trainings, and screening requirements needed. Also remembering yourself to keep these mandates to a minimum and as simple as possible for the volunteer to complete. Remember, this is a leisure time activity for this volunteer.
Be sure to share future opportunities with the volunteer- training opportunities such as Volunteer Conference of Southern States, MAD Mondays, NE 4-H Kickoff and recognition opportunities such as grants and awards for clubs (i.e. Community Pride) and for the individual volunteers.
Engage your volunteer in visioning for the future. Prepare to ask questions such as:
• Do you plan to continue volunteering?
• Is there a different role in our organization you’d like to try? Is there something you want to do that you have not yet had the opportunity to try?
• What goals do you have for next year?
End your conversation with an opportunity for feedback from the volunteer for you. And really listen and thank them for what they have to say:
• How can I be more helpful?
• What suggestions do you have for the 4-H program?