5 ideas for supportive, creative roles

Many times nonprofit managers apply the same criteria in assigning volunteer roles that they would for paid staff. A business-like approach can be helpful, of course, but Susan J. Ellis, a consultant who specializes in volunteer management and training, suggests that being more creative in designing situations for volunteers.

Ellis recommends recruiting volunteers to focus on needs interfering with the success of an organization’s primary goal. She offers the following as examples for assignments that can be given to volunteers:

* Have coffee and conversation with whatever family member is waiting in a reception room for a loved one to be treated or counseled. Also, a volunteer can co-ordinate a carpool among family members or any patients/clients being helped on similar schedules.

* Assess what else a family is dealing with and offer referrals to agencies that can help with issues outside the organization’s purview.

* Moderate an online support discussion group for family members, especially teen-age sons and daughters, who need an outlet for their concerns about what is happening.

* Organize projects such as recycling of toys or durable medical equipment so that current clients save money on items they need.

* Provide pet care for animals left alone while the client is being seen or is in care.

Build wheelchair ramps and other adaptive needs for clients requiring such help.