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Volunteers are one of the keys to a successful activities program in a retirement community. If you are like me, you need all the help that you can get. I am a one person department and rely heavily on volunteers to run the community programs and help with office tasks.

Where I work, we have a volunteer orientation process. It begins with the volunteers getting an orientation and signing paperwork that includes HIPPA guidelines and the company's guidelines. It also covers emergency procedures and other "important" topics to the corporation. I try to give this volunteer orientation at a group meeting once a year. I invite all the residents who have not attended before to attend. They get the "in-service" and the handbook that requires their signature.

I think one of the hardest thing to do is recruit and retain good volunteers. The best way of course is when a resident offers their service without having to be asked (especially when they are good at what they are doing). But that is not very often. I usually find that putting a notice into a weekly announcement in the community, putting a request onto the in-house tv channel or any other wide scoop request, does not work. I think that the best way to get the right person for the right job is to take the time to ask them personally. It means that you must get to know the residents and know what their inertest and strengths are. It means that you must explain the job responsibilities, time involved and other expectations that you have of them. Yes, it takes time.... but it shows that it is important enough and that you care if the program succeeds or fails... and that you believe in them enough to ask for their help.

Staying in touch with the volunteers during the year is also important. I can not stress how important it is to really know the people that work as your support system! Thank you goes a long way. Say it, write it in a note, tell others about how great the volunteer is and yes, have a volunteer appreciation party. Usually we have our volunteer appreciation lunch in the month of April. A helpful website to look at is Energize Inc. It has ideas, quotes, resources, courses, gifts and much more.

And, as the parent of a high school freshmen, a reminder that high school kids need community service hours. Check out colleges too.

Yes, recruiting and keeping your volunteer program strong and healthy is a lot of work, but be smart and grow your volunteer core the best way possible.

p.s. Check out my blog on Volunteer Appreciation Party ideas and books volunteer appreciation ideas.

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