How To Keep Your Volunteers Coming Back For More

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

Shirley Kirsten, president of the year-old National Substitute Teachers Alliance (NSTA), tells Education World that although the demand for substitute teachers is increasing, the pressures to keep them are growing as well. Substitutes need more training and more support, Kirsten says.

The Biggest Challenges Facing Substitute Teachers

The biggest challenges facing substitute teachers include the following:

  • Being able to communicate adequately with the classroom teachers they replace. Written lesson plans, which can range from sparse to detailed and complex, may not give a reliable roadmap for a successful classroom experience.
  • Maintaining control over classrooms with an abundance of behavior management issues. If the classroom teacher has not adequately prepared students for the appearance of a substitute teacher, the substitute is at a grave disadvantage. Substitutes also are challenged by school administrators who may not give enough backup to subs when students are referred to the office for discipline problems.
  • Working in special education classes, with little or no special training provided.
  • Dealing with the rigors of long-term assignments, especially when adequate long-range lesson plans and/or adequate contact with classroom teachers are not provided.
  • Commanding the respect of students, parents, and school administrators, so learning will not be interrupted during teacher absences.

School districts should provide adequate professional training and development for substitutes, who are in short supply, and encourage a positive working relationship between classroom teachers and their substitutes. All of this has to be done with the tight budgets the schools already have.

Keep Your Volunteers Engaged and Coming Back for More

Volunteers can be a tremendous resource for school districts. By learning more about your volunteers you can ensure that you are making the most of this valuable resource. It is easy to get bogged down in the paper processing of volunteers and potentially miss out on the value and expertise that they bring to your district.

Learn About Your Volunteer's Interests

Volunteers are so much more than the piece of paper filled with impersonal information such as their name and email. They each have passions and areas of interest that make all volunteers especially unique. In order to more effectively engage your volunteers, you have to learn more about their interests or areas of preference. For example, volunteers that more interested in athletics would be more excited to volunteer in athletic events and concession areas. 

Other volunteers who may be interested in gardening might like to work on beautification projects around the school. When you place a volunteer in an environment that they enjoy, they are more likely to continue to volunteer and be more satisfied with their volunteer experience. If you place them in a situation that they either do not prefer, it is more likely that they will volunteer less often.

Utilize Your Volunteer's Expertise 

In order to make the volunteer experience a joy, implementing a more personable system is a wonderful idea! For example, reaching out to volunteers in areas that interest them is the best way to form a great relationship with your volunteers.

In order to utilize the vast experience and knowledge of volunteers you must first know what they have expertise in. Having a process that catalogs their interests or areas of expertise makes this much easier and more efficient.

Also, by automating the ability to send emails to volunteers for activities and areas that interest them, you keep them from getting overwhelmed by emails that don’t apply to them. This keeps them interested and also keeps them from automatically deleting impersonalized volunteer request emails.

Reach out to Retirees

When it comes to selecting and reaching out to volunteers, many times we overlook the retired people within our community. There is a large population of retirees who have expertise in many areas! By reaching out to them and asking them to volunteer, you are guaranteed to have a pool of experienced volunteers who have the time to spend in your district!

Again, cataloging their areas of expertise is very helpful and will make their experience of volunteering much more pleasant. And don’t forget, people who are volunteering in areas that they are excited about are more prone to tell all of their friends about helping in their community. This alone sets you up to have your volunteering needs travel by word of mouth very quickly!

Track Volunteer Hours

Also, the ability to track the hours that your volunteers spend in your district can help encourage volunteers to participate more! It can give you the means to congratulate those who have done exceptional hours of volunteer work and by doing this, it will help you build volunteer morale!

By rewarding or giving a quick shout-out to your most active volunteers you can not only make their day but also give the other volunteers the want to step up their game in hopes of getting recognized for their efforts! A great way to do this is to use your school or district’s social media platform not only to announce volunteer opportunities but also to recognize successful events, and programs and recognize the work that the volunteers put in.

Invest in Virtual Sub Training Courses

Virtual courses may help you to prepare your substitutes now for the school year.  This will allow your substitutes to get started immediately and be prepared when the school doors open. Substitute teaching can be a challenging, yet highly rewarding job.  It takes a lot of enthusiasm, hard work, guidance, and training to be an expert substitute teacher.  You are the key that provides that expertise.

We have an orientation that covers polices, safety, health, and bloodborne pathogens.  Please reach out and let us help you with the challenges of getting your substitutes trained and ready for the upcoming school year. Start Training Virtual Today!