- Have Materials Ready: When someone expresses interest, be prepared to hand them an application packet or send them an email with more information about the opportunity. Keep extra Volunteer Application Packets on hand.
- Communicate Clearly: Make it clear what the application, review, and orientation process is like for new volunteers. Establishing this sets mutual expectations and fosters professionalism in your program, along with creating more volunteer buy-in from the onset.
- Share Stories: Learn about the impact ASPIRE has made on your students and your current volunteers. When you hear compelling stories of the impact ASPIRE has had, share those stories with potential volunteers. It's always good to ask permission to share someone's story.
- Follow Up: Have people that expressed interest? Maintain contact and follow-up within two working days of their inquiry. This can be through a letter, phone call, or email. Following up shows that you are genuinely interested in the volunteer and the impact they can have.
Becoming a Volunteer
Once someone has expressed interest in becoming a volunteer at your site, they will need to complete the following steps:
- Application Packet: Complete the packet (application, agreement, position description) along with any other site-specific materials they need to fill out and submit it to the site coordinator
- Interview Process: Schedule a time to meet with the site coordinator to discuss the position, the volunteer's role and responsibilities, and see if they would be a good fit as a volunteer
- Background Check: The coordinator will organize a criminal background check to be run on the volunteer, since they will be working with youth. Some schools or districts may have their own background check forms. See: Volunteer Background Check
Approved volunteers will need to complete their training and orientation before working with students:
- ASPIRE Videos: Volunteer Training: This video series introduces volunteers to the ASPIRE program, the key themes in mentoring students to prepare for college or a career, and most importantly shows them how they can use the Toolkit to learn all they need to know.
- ASPIRE Volunteer Training Quiz: Once they have completed the video series, volunteers are asked to take a quiz to test their knowledge of the topics covered. Coordinators can track completion of the quiz using the Completion Tracker or Quiz Response Tracker (includes the volunteer's responses to the quiz).
- On-Site Training: Depending on the site and available resources, volunteers may be asked to come in for site-specific training. This typically includes going over ASPIRE guidelines, reviewing school/site policies and procedures, and shadowing a current volunteer to get a feel for the duties of a volunteer. During this meeting you can also set up a regular schedule for the volunteer to come in.
The Volunteer Toolkit (a.k.a the "Working with Students" section of this website) has all of the resources volunteers will need to help students plan and pay for their postsecondary goals. It has much of the content and curriculum for students in the ASPIRE program.
Some of the key resources volunteers will be using are the Volunteer Checklist and Volunteer Calendar. These help direct volunteers' work during different points of the year. Encourage volunteers to regularly explore the Toolkit and expand their knowledge.
Types of Volunteers
- Traditional Volunteer: An adult volunteer (18 years or older), recruited and screened by an ASPIRE site, to assist regularly.
- Episodic Volunteer: A volunteer who leads a college/career-focused presentation or leads activities for groups of students (in the presence of site staff). Site’s administration decides if one-time presenters must complete a background check.
- Peer Mentor: An ASPIRE high school junior or senior who has participated in the ASPIRE peer mentor training. Peer mentors are matched one-on-one or with younger students to help them with the early stages of college and career exploration.
- Coordinator-Mentor: ASPIRE Coordinators in rural areas, where it is difficult to have regular volunteers, act as mentors.
- Team Lead: Experienced and dedicated volunteers may take on this role. Team Leads assist Coordinators with their site management duties, help recruit more volunteers, and take added responsibility in managing site resources. (Position Description)
- Resource Specialist: Volunteers can also take on the role of Resource Specialist. These volunteers act as subject matter experts for fellow mentors and help keep site information up-to-date for current and future volunteers. (Position Description)
If your site matches students to specific volunteer mentors (as opposed to a more fluid drop-in approach), it can help to match the pair based on a student's interest in the mentor's career field, shared hobbies of the two, or common backgrounds. These forms allow you mentors and students to share a bit about themselves to you, which then you can use to match students to mentors.
Empowerment: Make sure volunteers are trained thoroughly and feel like they have the tools needed to succeed in their role. Discover a volunteer's skills and abilities that relate to the role and match them with tasks that maximize their strengths.
Recognition: Clearly show appreciation and recognition to volunteers in a way that they prefer. Figure out what kind of feedback method (verbal, written, etc.) is most appreciated by them as individuals. Treat your volunteers and staff partners as a team.
Feedback: Support your volunteers by taking notes of their efforts, offering resources to fill in their knowledge gaps, and giving feedback on areas for improvement. You are there to support their development as a volunteer mentor.
Creating Positive Environments
Other Points of View: Solicit the observations of site staff who work with/around the volunteer but be sure to respect the staff member's confidentiality. Listen and act on ideas/suggestions from your volunteers. Use feedback from spring surveys to improve your operations.
Inviting Spaces: Create a pleasant and welcoming work environment by giving them a well-lit and comfortable work space, having food or drinks available occasionally, and providing ample supplies for their work. Make it a place volunteers look forward to coming to.