Summer Reading is officially over (at least for our library). The numbers are in, the prizes are gone, and the time has come to reflect on how things went. For the Teen Volunteer Program, this means looking at quantitative and qualitative data and coming up with a way to evaluate how it went.
We collected a few different kinds of information to help us evaluate the program. First, we kept track of how much each teen volunteered and the number of missed shifts. This quantitative data lets us make certain claims with confidence:
- We only had three no-call no-shows, which was just under 1% of all scheduled shifts.
- Teens showed up for a total of 298 volunteer shifts throughout the summer.
- On average, five teen volunteers helped us each day.
- Teens volunteered at the library for over 1,100 hours this summer.
- At least one teen volunteered for 100+ hours this summer, qualifying her for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award (check this out if you are looking for a way to recognize exceptionally dedicated volunteers).
Feedback from the teens suggests that using an online calendar (we used a Google Calendar) for scheduling was successful. We also emailed them regularly and made sure that they felt comfortable letting us know if they couldn’t make it in for a shift. Teens were never punished or treated differently if they couldn’t make a shift — volunteering, for all its similarities to a job, isn’t a job.
Towards the end of the program, we collected qualitative feedback using exit surveys. The teens’ responses were anonymous, and all answers were ‘long-form.’ (See the survey.) We gave these to the teens during the last two weeks of Summer Reading. In retrospect, it would be a good idea to have a midsummer survey ready. Only giving the survey at the end of the summer missed the teens who had to stop volunteering before then. We still emailed the survey to all of them, but only a few responded.
I love mistakes. They might not be fun to make, but I sure do learn a lot from them. Take the structure of the volunteer program I am overseeing this summer as an example. I ran it how it has been run for years: like a summer employment opportunity. This meant having interviews and orientations at the very beginning of the summer, the goal being to assemble our “staff,” then have them volunteer on a regular basis for the next two and a half months. So far, it has been successful overall, but not nearly as successful as it could be. I have, however, started to notice a marked decline in overall volunteer availability and general work ethic.
As you can see, the total number of volunteer hours per week is steadily declining. Relatedly, we have experienced about a 28% rate of attrition (of 21 volunteers, 6 are no longer able to volunteer). This causes us to ask more of other volunteers or to go without volunteers.
So, what did we do wrong this year? We expected too much, and we didn’t anticipate attrition. Fortunately, we are still receiving plenty of volunteer applications, so finding new volunteers isn’t an issue. However, I believe tweaking the structure of the volunteer program to make it more agile could naturally preclude such issues. Here’s what we will be doing next year:
At this point, most of you who are planning on having teen volunteers help you out with Summer Learning Program have probably already started working with your volunteers. It’s never too late or too early to start planning for next year. In this post, I’ll go through how we promoted our Summer Learning Program volunteer positions and how we handle applications.
We were hoping to attract 20 volunteers this summer. So far we have had about 40 applicants, and we are still fielding applications. It’s always hard to pinpoint causes of success when it comes to dealing with the public, so I can’t say that we received more applicants than we hoped for because of how we marketed the positions. Our marketing approach, however, doesn’t seem to have failed. The two approaches used were personal contact and flyer distribution.
Word of mouth is an effective way to promote any event. Quite a few of the teen volunteers we have this year are individuals whom I or other staff members personally recruited. These were teens who showed some of the traits we look for in volunteers (work ethic, passion for reading, interest in the library, looking for things to do), and seemed to be a good fit. We also reached out to teens who volunteered in previous years. We keep contact information for all of our volunteers on file. Then, when an event like Summer Reading is on the horizon, we reach out and invite them to return. This has the added benefit of padding a volunteer roster with experienced volunteers.