Tuesday, April 7, 2015

4 easy steps for involving volunteers: Mpowerment Project best practices.

The Mpowerment Project has a unique philosophy about working with volunteers. 

Instead of using volunteers to simply get tasks done, Mpowerment facilitates a process for participants to take on roles of authority, leadership, and responsibility that fosters a sense of ownership of the Project. 

It is important that the Coordinators do not convey the idea that the staff is “on top” and that the volunteers work for the staff. Coordinators should be able and willing to participate in all of the tasks volunteers are asked to carry out, acting as mentors to volunteers along the way. It is not appropriate for Coordinators to delegate the most boring and dull tasks to volunteers. For the Project to succeed, the young men who participate in it must develop a sense of ownership of the Project and the Project’s goals.

MLAN | Mpowerment Columbia MO
Every task in the Mpowerment Project can become an opportunity to build community among volunteers  - one of its Guiding Principles

For example, envelope stuffing and making safer-sex kits are essential tasks that can readily be performed in a social atmosphere. Likewise, the Outreach Team activities can be fun social opportunities as men get together to make costumes, plan their outreach performances, or gather before an outreach activity at a bar or community event. These activities give participants a chance to spend time together, talk, listen, and get to know and appreciate one other. They are also opportunities to support each other in practicing safer sex, and remind each other to provide the same support to friends.

Start Small

Match volunteers with a small task for their first project. If participants begin with an overly ambitious project and fail at it, they will feel less empowered than if they start with a smaller endeavor and succeed.

For instance, ask a new volunteer to design an event invitation instead of coordinating the entire event. Then for their next project, give them something a bit more challenging. Start small, but don’t underestimate what volunteers are willing or capable of contributing. At the same time, it is also important to ask for what you need, especially from volunteers who have already demonstrated their capabilities.

Mpowerment Long Island | New York City NY

Respect their time

Many volunteers have busy social, school, or professional lives. Although some may not be able to volunteer much time to the Project, their contributions— however limited—can prove extremely valuable. It is important to avoid making too many demands on volunteers that may unintentionally create barriers to attracting the most gregarious, socially active men into the Project.

Stress the benefits

There are many benefits to volunteering for the Mpowerment Project. Through volunteering, young men can make new friends, meet potential partners, learn more about HIV issues, participate in outreach events, learn new skills, and feel good about themselves by knowing they are making a contribution to their community. Always point out these benefits when talking to potential volunteers. 

FUSE | Mpowerment Dallas TX

Extend a personal invitation

Most young gay/bisexual men decide to volunteer when someone from the Project personally invites them to help out with a task. Try to identify what the potential volunteer might be good at when matching him to a task. Ask him what his talents are. Look at what volunteer opportunities he checked on his interest sheet. Then let the volunteer choose the task that sounds most appealing to him. Remember, volunteers report that they are more willing to participate in areas which seem more relevant to their daily lives and in which they have greater expertise. 

Bridgemen | Mpowerment San Francisco CA

RELATED: Looking for ways to recruit for your Core Group? 1 super simple way to recruit new participants

RELATED5 easy tips on conducting a successful Venue Based Outreach 

RELATED12+ Icebreakers to start Core Group or other meetings

Reach out to us.

Follow the adventures of these Mpowerment Projects

Want more? Module 5: Core Group and Other Volunteers is a free download when you register at www.mpowerment.org 

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