5 Ways To Help Build Your School's Volunteer Program

This blog post was published in 2017 but was updated on May 9th, 2023.

Anyone that works in or with school systems today already knows how important volunteers are to their school's success!  With all the budget cuts today, it would be almost impossible for schools to give a quality education without some outside help.

The key is how you enroll plenty of excited volunteers and how you use them effectively:

1. First You Have to “Ask”

Now, I know, during the first week at most any school, there is a form that goes home to the parents asking them to fill it out if they would be willing to volunteer at the school. This is the most important first step, but then sometimes that paper never gets looked at again. What if there was a better way to organize these volunteers?  How about we make it easy for parents to sign up? In the computer age, it only makes sense to have parents sign up online and list all interests, places they are willing to go, times available, strong skills etc.  The key here is to make it easy!

2. Next Is the “Black Hole”

Do you think some parents are reluctant to sign up to volunteer because they will be sucked into doing something they are not really interested in or at times that don’t fit their schedule?  Using online registration will help put volunteers at ease. They simply list the times they are available, schools they are willing to work at, and the type of volunteer work they are willing to do. This takes all the guesswork out of the equation.  Parents are then, not asked to do tasks that are outside of the scope of what they are willing to do. They are only asked to do things that they are excited about working on.  This will boost the enthusiasm of volunteers tremendously!

3. Communication

Clear communication is key. We simply must give ample notice that someone is needed and the volunteers will come.  Volunteers don’t like to always be asked at the last minute.  We also must be very clear about what the task is, the place, and the time needed.

4. Organization

I can’t emphasize this enough! A well-run volunteer program simply must be organized! You can have thousands of volunteers that are willing to work at schools, but if the program is not organized, they get discouraged and then it becomes hard to find volunteers when you need them. The excitement also gets sucked out of them, through a disorganized program.

5. Automation

If you automate the entire system with a cloud-based solution that will track where volunteers want to help, track background checks, and notify parents of potential opportunities with ease.
Teachers and coaches simply enter a need from their smartphone or computer. Then, only the parents that fit the criteria are notified. No need to send out mass emails to everyone at the school, which usually get ignored, or send home notes with the students, that get lost in the book bag. You can also keep track of the number of hours that have been given, and by whom.  This is especially important if your school would like to recognize volunteers at your school.  The number of hours is also important to superintendents when they are evaluating the success of each school.

Benefits of a School Volunteer Program

Although school volunteer programs can be very diverse, each has a mixture of school staff, community volunteers, parents, and students in the mix. It’s safe to say that each of these groups is very different, but each group benefits greatly from an efficient volunteer program at a school district.

First, the school district itself can benefit tremendously from a well-run and dynamic volunteer program. Volunteers many times can fill the gaps left by budget cuts in areas such as classroom assistants. One of the most beneficial aspects of a great volunteer program is the time the volunteers can take off of the teacher's hands for tasks such as grading papers and individual tutoring, leaving more time for the teacher to focus on developing lessons and improving instructional time. Having volunteers in the classroom can allow for more instructional time for educators which can result in higher student achievement in the long run. When parents see their children excelling because of exceptional volunteers and increased learning time it may encourage them to volunteer as well!

Districts will also find having a large number of parents volunteering at their district will result in a team of people who understand the day-to-day issues that a district faces and will be more understanding of decisions and issues that arise. Having a team of volunteers that are outgoing and have outstanding drive can also improve community support and public relations for the district.

Secondly, volunteers themselves also benefit from a dynamic school volunteer program. As volunteers see their efforts make a lasting impact on not only the students but on the community and school as well, they will be more likely to volunteer again and will gain a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that their efforts count. Quality volunteers love sharing their knowledge and talents with students and seeing the impact that they are making. Many volunteers have talents and expertise that they love to share with students and volunteering provides an outlet to use these talents – particularly with retirees that want to still stay involved and be able to utilize their skills. Volunteering also provides a means of feeling needed and wanted for many volunteers.

Lastly, students also benefit from an active volunteer program. Students are exposed to many different backgrounds and skills that volunteers can bring to both the classroom and special events and projects. They are given individual attention by volunteers that not only are positive role models but also volunteers who care about their mentor-student relationship and helping the student excel. This learning reinforcement provided by the volunteer base is extremely helpful and can greatly influence the student’s academic interests and achievement. Students who need extra attention in the classroom in areas such as individual reading or math tutoring can benefit from the time a volunteer can spend that a classroom teacher can’t devote to an individual student