On-site Project Management

Take this tutorial to make the most of time, logistics, and people in your volunteer project planning. Click "Welcome" to begin.

Welcome

Welcome to the On-site Project Management course, presented by the Corporation for National and Community Service in conjunction with Hands On Network! Hands On Network, an internationally recognized volunteer management resource organization, has developed a new generation of volunteer engagement techniques — tailored to today’s community service organization.

In this course, you will learn how to manage volunteers, logistics, time, and reflection so that you can implement high-impact, well-managed projects. We hope that your projects will be so successful that they keep volunteers coming back while simultaneously increasing your program’s ability to deliver services.

There are no prerequisites for this course. However, we suggest that you also complete the Project Planning course. Project Planning assists you in creating a high-impact service project, while On-site Project Management helps ensure that volunteers have a quality service experience during your project.

We hope you thoroughly enjoy this course! For questions and/or to receive additional information or training, please contact Hands On Network at training@HandsOnNetwork.org.

Objectives

Successful projects exhibit a good balance between logistics, time, and people. As a program or project manager, you will need to balance these three elements effectively in order to implement a successful, productive service project.

This course discusses the various elements of a service project and how they can be managed effectively. We will discuss how to manage:

  • Planning
  • Project logistics
  • Volunteers
  • Time
  • Reflection
  • Closure

Planning

Plan for Success

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name]Have you ever planned a service project, arrived at the site, and realized that you forgot something important? It may have seemed like a minor detail early in the planning process and so you decided to take care of it later... but later never came. Instead of discovering what's missing on the day of the project, take time to carefully review your plans and think ahead to what issues may arise on the day of the project.

Community Engagement

Before you even begin planning your project, engage the community. Assess the needs of the community. Ask community members what they would like to see happen; then, involve them in creating the change they want to see.

Project Mapping

Identify the things you need to make your project successful:

  • Human Resources: Determine how many volunteers are needed, the roles they will fill, and your plan for recruiting them.
  • Financial and Material Resources: Create a project budget and identify the source of funds or donated supplies.
  • Educational Resources: Map out a plan for volunteer orientation, training, and reflection.

Final Plans

In the weeks before the event, you'll need to iron out details and confirm that all aspects of the project are ready to go:

  • Finalize your project plans. Address all questions and concerns.
  • Hold a final planning meeting with project leaders. Review the schedule.
  • Create a PR and media campaign. Discuss how to document the event.
  • Confirm all tools and materials.
  • Confirm plans for refreshments/meals.
  • Create a call list.
  • Set up project stations for things such as registration, water, or first aid.
  • Pack a project kit: sign-in sheets, evaluations, pens, markers, tape, poster board, rope, paper, clipboards, nametags, etc.
  • Confirm site logistics, including restroom facilities and trash containers.
  • Check, double check, and triple check!

Project Planning Resources

Click on the links below to download worksheets to help you plan a successful service project.

 

Planning - Knowledge Check

On-site Logisitics

As the project manager, you will have many responsibilities during the actual service. One of the most important is managing the logistics that will make the event run smoothly. If the logistics are handled well, volunteers will have a more positive experience and be more likely to volunteer with your program again. Many of the project logistics are outlined below.

Scheduling

Have you developed and printed a schedule for the event? Have you briefed the other project leaders regarding the schedule? Have volunteers been assigned as task leaders? Has time been allotted for set-up, breaks, lunch, clean-up, reflection, and evaluation? Are volunteers aware of their scheduled service time?

Access to Event Site

Do volunteers have directions to the event? Is the project site accessible to people with disabilities? If the site is normally closed/secured during the time of your project, who will be available to provide access to the facilities? Is there a place where volunteers can put their personal belongings?

Registration

Have you designated an area for volunteer check-in? Have you created registration forms? Do you have pens, pencils, and/or markers? Do you have volunteer name tags? Have you recruited volunteers to manage registration? Have they been trained on the registration procedures? Whom can volunteers contact in case of a cancellation or emergency?

Weather and Attire

Have you made contingency plans in the event of inclement weather? Have you sent back-up plans and contact information to volunteers? Do you know how to contact volunteers in case of an emergency? Do volunteers know how to dress appropriately for the project?

Safety

Are there first-aid kits, a water station, phones, blank accident/incident report forms, as well as volunteer safety accessories on site? Do you have volunteer liability waivers that need to be signed in advance? Do you have blank forms on site? Are there special safety concerns for the use of special tools/supplies being used? Are there instructional handouts for any tools or equipment? Do you have a plan to monitor the site for safe use of tools, supplies, or equipment? Do you have a plan to encourage everyone to be safe and have fun?

Food, Beverages, and Breaks

Will there be food and/or beverages at the project? If so, do you have a station designated for this? Do you have a plan to distribute food/beverages to the volunteers? Is there a specific place for volunteers to eat/drink, or can it be anywhere on site? Do you have volunteers designated to staff the food/beverage station and/or distribute items? Do you have a plan to ensure that all volunteers get a break? Do you have a way to secure additional food/beverages if needed?

Reflection and Evaluation

Do you have a plan for facilitating a reflection activity with all volunteers? Do you have space and any supplies you might need for reflection? Do you have a plan for formal or informal evaluation? If needed, have you developed and printed copies of an evaluation survey? Do you have someone designated to manage the evaluation process?

Project Management

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name]Worried at the last minute? No problem! If you've planned your project thoroughly and you're prepared to handle the logistics of the day, you shouldn't have any trouble. Here’s a quick checklist to help you think through the project details and your role as the project manager.

Project Preparation

Arrive early: Verify that all materials are ready and tasks are assigned. Organize tools and materials in the space where they will be used. Set up stations for registration, water, first aid, etc. Verify that facilities are open and available (restrooms, electricity, etc.). Set out trash containers for easy access throughout the site. Hang project signage. Secure on-site storage, if necessary. Verify safety procedures, contingency plans, emergency call list, and other project details.

Volunteer Registration: Welcome and register all volunteers. Have volunteers sign waiver of liability and/or photo release, if necessary. Distribute name tags for all volunteers and staff. Distribute project T-shirts, if necessary. Offer brochures about your program or flyers about future volunteer opportunities.

Volunteer Orientation: Gather all volunteers together for welcome and orientation. Thank volunteers. Present brief overview of the program, the project, and the community issue you are addressing. Be sure to discuss the impact the project can have on the community. Review the schedule for the day. Motivate volunteers through a group cheer or other activity. Discuss safety procedures and other important details for the day. Divide volunteers into task groups, with a task leader for each.

During the Project

Motivate and encourage volunteers: Thank them for their service. Manage the volunteers’ time for effective service. Make sure each person has a task to complete. Prioritize tasks; complete the most important jobs first. At the half-way point, ask volunteers if there is too much or not enough to do. Have back-up projects available for extra work.

Monitor safety: Be available/accessible for answering questions and troubleshooting. Encourage all volunteers and staff to have fun!

Project Closure

Clean up: Conduct a final walk-through of the service site, checking that all tasks have been completed, trash disposed of, and tools/materials put away.

Gather volunteers together and review the accomplishments of the day: Facilitate a reflection activity. Solicit feedback through a formal or informal evaluation. Thank volunteers and tell them of future service opportunities.

Safety Considerations

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name]Ensuring the safety of life and property is critical. By reviewing your project for possible hazards and educating your volunteers about safety, you will minimize the chances of personal injury or property damage. Always have a first aid kit on hand and a phone to call 911 if necessary.

The safety tips below may be useful while on site at an outdoor project. Please advise your volunteers to take these precautions, where applicable.

  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Remain hydrated!
  • Wear appropriate safety items such as gloves, goggles, dust masks, safety vests, and sturdy closed-toed shoes.
  • Watch out for sharp or dangerous objects such as broken glass or needles. Don’t ever pick these items up. Have volunteers stand by the object(s) while another gets the project leader, team leader, or CSO representative. Be cautious around bio-medical waste if encountered.
  • When finished with tools, be sure to put them in an appropriate place and with the points down. Please do not leave tools lying around as someone may be injured. Clean your materials/equipment before you leave.
  • If children are present, please watch them closely to be certain they are not playing with dangerous/inappropriate items.
  • If using a ladder, make sure that all the rungs are intact. When on a ladder, have a spotter. Make sure you are going up the ladder on the right side and do not stand on the top rung of the ladder. If using scaffolding, always have a spotter. Stay away from any electrical feeds.
  • Do not intentionally inhale chemical/gaseous fumes. Be on the lookout for poisonous insects, snakes, scorpions, etc., and keep your distance from them. Turn rocks away from you, not toward you. (Critters like to hide under them!)
  • Please do not wander away from the project, volunteer group, trail, or area where you are working.
  • Please report all incidents immediately to the project or team leader.

Tell volunteers where they can find the first aid kit. Whether indoors or outdoors, make sure to monitor and encourage safe behavior!

Know the Physical Address of the Site

When dialing 911 from a cell phone, the 911 call center may not be able to pinpoint your exact location. Always know the physical address of the service project, and be able to relay it to the 911 dispatcher. You or another volunteer/staff person may want to greet the emergency responders and direct them to the person needing assistance.

 

Logisitics - Knowledge Check

Managing the Volunteers

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name]A successful service project hinges on effective volunteer management. This begins from the moment a volunteer signs up for the project. To ensure that you have enough volunteers — and that they are prepared for and interested in the service — consider registering volunteers for the project in advance. This can be as simple as providing a project contact name, phone number, and/or e-mail address that interested volunteers can use to sign up for the project. Pre-registering volunteers will also enable you (or your volunteer recruitment chairperson) to talk in advance with interested volunteers about the skills, supplies, or friends they might also bring to the project.

Advanced Communication

From the moment volunteers sign up to participate in your event, good communication is vital! Try to keep volunteers informed about project happenings and be very clear about what a volunteer should expect while at the project. When communicating with volunteers, always talk openly and professionally. You can never communicate too much or too often with volunteers. You should expect a little performance anxiety with first-time volunteers, whether it is their first time with you or the first time volunteering ever. Staying in touch with volunteers will help them begin to feel an attachment to you and to the project even before they arrive.

When managing a volunteer project, one of your objectives is to make the project such a great experience that volunteers return again and again. To make your project one that volunteers will love, it is helpful to understand what they might be thinking. The following list of questions offers you an opportunity to think about your project from the perspective of a volunteer. Be able to answer the following from the volunteer’s perspective:

  • What time is the project? How do I get there? Can I get there by public transportation or a shuttle? If I drive, will parking be available?
  • When I arrive, what will I see? How will I know where to go? Who will greet me? What tasks can sign up for? What should I wear? What should I bring? Will I get clear directions on what to do? Will I understand why this work is important to the community? Will my participation is enthusiastically received? Will food and beverages be provided? Is what’s being asked of me reasonable? Is it safe and do I have the capability to do it? How will I know that they really need me to get the work done? Will this be fun? Is the project happening going to be exciting, positive, and productive?
  • Does someone check with me after I start working? Is there someone readily available to answer questions as I work on my task? Will there be enough work to do and adequate materials and supplies to complete it? During the project, where can I go to take a break, store my belongings, get something to drink, warm up, or cool down? Can I be reassigned to another task if I don’t enjoy what I’m doing or feel I’m not effective?
  • After the work is finished, who will let me know if what I did was important and effective? Was I appreciated for my time and contributions? If I have questions, will it be easy to get accurate and complete answers? If I have an idea or a complaint, how do I give input or make a suggestion? What made me want to sign up for this project?

Compile a list of things volunteers should know about your project (e.g., what to wear, what to bring, what to expect at the project, who and when to meet, etc.) and compose an e-mail greeting to send to all the volunteers who sign up for your project. Contact volunteers with a phone call or e-mail that:

  • Introduces you (or another staff person, partner, or volunteer) as the project leader
  • Thanks them for volunteering
  • Provides the date and time of the project, service site address, directions, and parking information
  • Describes what will occur at the project
  • Lets volunteers know what to wear (or not wear) to the project
  • Encourages volunteers to bring supplies they may have
  • Tells volunteers whom to contact if they have a change in plans
  • Directions to the site and information on parking and public transportation
  • A final thank you

Communicate these things to volunteers when they register and again the week of the project. If you include task/job descriptions, make sure the descriptions are clear about any special skills required to participate in the task. The need for special clothing, gloves, hats, sunscreen, bug spray, or power tools should be communicated clearly.

Click the link to download a helpful form for sending project details to volunteers: VolunteerProjectInfoForm.pdf

Volunteer Motivation and Engagement

One of your tasks as the project manager is to keep the volunteers motivated throughout their time of service. This may mean listening to complaints and helping volunteers overcome challenges. It may also mean serving as a cheerleader when volunteers are getting tired.

One way to keep volunteers motivated is to keep their focus on the issue (e.g., hunger, education, the environment) they are addressing through their service. People volunteer for many reasons; help them connect their service to an individual reason or passion. When volunteers understand how their service ties into critical community needs they are more likely to get involved and stay motivated.

Have a representative from the service site available to offer an overview of their services and/or mission — and, more specifically, how volunteer support contributes to that mission. This has a positive effect on the volunteers; it helps them to:

  • Better understand the critical needs of the community.
  • See the impact they have on the CSO and its clients.
  • Recognize how their part in the service ties into the whole picture.

Another way to motivate volunteers is to communicate with them throughout the project. Keep them updated on the progress the group is making, and thank them regularly. A simple “thank you” is just one of many ways in which you can make volunteers feel appreciated and part of a team. Some other simple ways you can show volunteers their value to the project are:

  • Use their names often.
  • Ask them what they like to do and introduce and/or pair them with other volunteers who have similar interests.
  • Have them take charge of something — whether a specific task or a team.

Make sure that volunteers are fully engaged while they are at the service site. No matter how motivated they are, if they don't have enough work to do, they will feel their time was wasted. Check in with volunteers often to ensure they are making progress on their tasks. If they are finishing sooner than expected, encourage them to get involved in another task or another project at the same site.

Volunteer Personality Types

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name]Managing people can be very rewarding; yet it can also be challenging. You have the chance to meet lots of interesting people and learn from them as you serve together. However, as the program manager you also have the responsibility to juggle all those unique personalities. [photo] They will have different levels of experience, interest, motivation, and skills. Part of your job is to effectively balance all of these things to help the volunteers work as a team and be successful in their service goals.

The ability to accurately identify personality traits is important; also important is knowing how to position the various personalities and skills across project teams. Below is an overview of four basic personality types that you might encounter.

  • The Leader ( the “A” type personality) – The “A” personality is usually very independent, direct, and to the point. They exude a take-charge personality, and often will ask you to “get to the bottom line” or give them the “executive summary” to read. They don’t like routine and often delegate routine chores to someone else. They are very decisive and persistent in getting what they want and need.
  • The Socializer (the “B” type personality) – The “B” types love to have fun, travel, be part of groups, and are often the center of attention. They love excitement and being in the limelight; they are often the “high energy” type. The “B” personality is as supportive of others as they are direct in their approach. This type tends to be very talkative and outgoing with people and is normally quite persuasive.
  • The Details, Details, Details (the “C” type personality) – The “C” type thrives on details, accuracy, and takes just about everything seriously. They are usually very neat and are very calculated and precise in just about everything they do.
  • The Ever Dependable (the “D” type personality) – The typical “D” personality doesn’t like change, preferring instead to have a set of guidelines from which to follow, and they won’t mind doing the same thing repetitively. They are usually punctual and consistent.

Volunteer Conflicts

Opposite personalities can complement one another when they try to understand the other’s perspective. However, every volunteer manager will, at some point, encounter clashing personalities. It's important to handle the situation with sensitivity, care, and discretion. Talk openly and professionally with your volunteer to try to eliminate the problem. Consult with another staff member or volunteer leader who can troubleshoot with you and help resolve the problem. Document any incidents immediately and contact the office if you do not feel you can resolve the problem. If the problem is caused by a client of the service site, consult with an agency representative.

The agency is responssible for managing the clients; you are responsible for managing the volunteers. It is important to recognize and deal with problem volunteers. You cannot just ignore the problem and expect it to go away. It will affect other volunteers and their experience, and may influence them negatively.

Managing Volunteers - Knowledge Check

Timing

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name]Effective time management is essential for a successful project! Honing these skills will help you be a highly effective project manager. Below are some strategies to help you save time by working smarter, not harder:

Clearly define your objectives. One of the factors that differentiates successful project managers is their ability to work out what they want to achieve in advance. Often, they have written goals that they can review constantly. Your long-term goals should affect your daily activities and be included on your "to do" list as the project date approaches. Without a goal or objective, your project will drift and be unproductive.

Analyze your use of time. Are you spending enough time on high-priority tasks? Do you constantly ask yourself, "What is the most important use of my time, right now?" If so, it will help you to focus on important tasks and stop reacting to tasks that seem urgent (or pleasant to do) but carry no importance toward the goal of your project. If it helps, apply the 80/20 Rule — also known as Pareto’s Principle. It can be a very effective tool in helping you manage time and tasks effectively. The 80/20 Rule posits that for every project, only a few things are vital — approximately 20 percent — and many are incidental — approximately 80 percent. Program and project managers know that 20 percent of the work (most likely, the first 10 percent and the last 10 percent) consumes a large majority of time and resources. The Pareto Principle serves as a valuable reminder for managers to focus on the 20 percent that matters most. When the fire drills of the day begin to sap your time, remind yourself of the 20 percent you need to focus on. If something in the schedule has to slip — if something isn’t going to get done — make sure it’s not an overwhelming part of the project’s productivity. Let the 80/20 Rule serve as a daily reminder to focus the majority of your time and energy on the percent of your work that is really important.

Have a plan. How can you achieve your goals without a plan? Most people know what they want but have no plan to achieve it except by sheer hard work. Your project plan should be reviewed daily and reset as your achievements are met. Successful project managers make lists constantly; this enables them to stay on top of priorities and to remain flexible to changing priorities. Know the aspects of your project that need improvement. Problems will always occur. The value of a good plan is to identify them early and seek out solutions. Good time management enables you to measure the progress toward your goals. Be honest about areas of your plan that may need improvement.

Beware of:

  • Shifting Priorities and Crisis Management – Make sure to plan ahead for safety and have contingency plans ready in case the project needs to take a turn. Don’t give power to the Crisis Management time stealer!
  • Communication Distractions – Have you ever had one of those days when you thought your true calling was in customer service or training? Pre-project communication, one of our greatest communication tools, can be our biggest enemy to effectiveness if all of the necessary plan details aren't communicated to volunteers prior to the event.
  • Lack of Priorities/Objectives – Vague or ambiguous priorities and objectives are often the biggest and most important time waster. It affects all we do both professionally and personally. A lack of planning in this area often results in too much time spent on the minor tasks and not enough time spent on mission-critical tasks.
  • Attempting Too Much – Many organizations feel that they have to accomplish everything yesterday and don't give themselves enough time to do things properly. Take time to scope out your project plan in detail, and in advance Do this so you fully understand the tasks that are achievable and the time it will take to meet your goals. Remember, you don’t want your volunteers to half finish the project and feel as if they didn’t achieve any one task.
  • Ineffective Delegation – Good delegation is considered a key skill in both program managers and project leaders. Project managers should have an ability to delegate work to staff/volunteers and ensure it is done correctly. This is probably the best way of building team morale while simultaneously reducing your workload.
  • Procrastination – The biggest thief of time is not decision making but decision avoidance. By reducing the amount of procrastinating you do, you can substantially increase the amount of active time available to you and your volunteers on the day of the event. The more time we spend planning our project tasks and activities, the more time we will have for those activities.

As a project manager, you should focus your time on setting goals, eliminating time stealers, and prioritizing project tasks accordingly. If you do all three of these things, you may find you will have extra time at the project to spend on those people and activities that are most important to you. Learn the difference between "Where can I help?" and "Where am I really needed?" Experienced project managers learn that the latter question is much more important than the former. In addition, learn the difference between "Do I need to do this now?" and "Do I need to do this at all?" Be able to quickly answer this question when faced with a new task.

Avoid Time Stealers

During a project, many distractions can occur that take time and focus away from the mission of the project — ultimately reducing the effectiveness of the project. Use time management strategies analyze your time and see how you may be both the cause and the solution to time challenges such as:

  • Procrastination and indecision
  • Acting with incomplete information
  • Dealing with conflicting personalities
  • Crisis management
  • Tasks you should have delegated
  • Unclear communication
  • Inadequate technical knowledge
  • Unclear objectives and priorities
  • Lack of planning Inability to say "no"

Planning Allows Time for the Most Important Things

Effectively managing your time is not hard to do. The lesson to learn is that the more time we spend planning our project tasks and activities, the more time we will have to perform those activities. By setting goals, eliminating time stealers, and prioritizing tasks, you will find you have extra time at the project to spend on those people and activities that are most important.

Service Project Timeline

The following are tips and to-do’s for a one-day project. This timeline can be easily adapted to fit most volunteer opportunities.

Welcome (15-30 minutes)

  • Ask volunteers to sign in, fill out any necessary forms, and take a name tag.
  • Gather volunteers together and thank them for participating in the project; introduce yourself and your project partners. Welcome and introduce volunteers.
  • Give a brief orientation, including an overview of the project, its importance, and how it will affect the community, agency, and/or the clients you are serving. Ask your project site contact to talk briefly about the mission and history of the organization.
  • Review the schedule for the day. Inform volunteers about the lunch / snack plan and restroom locations. Review safety procedures. Set a goal for the first half of the project

Assign Tasks (5-10 minutes)

  • Describe the project tasks to be completed.
  • Introduce the task leaders, or assign task leaders if they have not already been identified.
  • Assign volunteers to the different work areas. Make sure that each task has the right number of volunteers and that each volunteer feels comfortable and prepared to complete the task at hand.

Distribute Supplies (5-10 minutes)

  • Supervise supply distribution.
  • Remind volunteers to follow the safety procedures that were discussed.

Note: You may choose to distribute the supplies to the work locations prior to the volunteers' arrival at the project site. This can save time and confusion once your volunteers are ready to get started.

Project Task Implementation (1-4 hours)

  • Monitor volunteers and maintain communication with task leaders to ensure the project is running smoothly.
  • Watch for conflicts, supply shortages, injuries, or other issues of concern.
  • Keep an eye on the progress being made and be prepared to make adjustments as needed. Share the progress and encouraging stories with volunteers to keep them motivated.

Lunch or Snack Break (10-20 minutes, optional)

  • Encourage everyone to eat together and meet new people.
  • Evaluate your progress so far and discuss how the rest of the day will go.

Close the Project and Clean Up (30 minutes - 2 hours)

  • Finish all projects at least 30 minutes before the designated end time to allow time for clean up and reflection.
  • Supervise clean up, making sure all trash is disposed of and all supplies/materials are stored.

Reflection and Wrap-up (15 minutes)

  • Thank everyone and talk about the impact of the work accomplished.
  • Discuss the highlights and the challenges of the day.
  • Engage volunteers in the reflection or wrap-up activity you planned for the project.
  • Discuss next steps: Does the project need to be finished at a later time? Are participants interested in volunteering again?
  • Conduct an evaluation with volunteers, staff, beneficiaries, or others from the community.

Reflection

Reflection is strongly encouraged after every service experience — this process is often referred to as service-learning or community-building. While volunteers will certainly think about their experiences independently, a conversation among all participating volunteers creates a stronger sense of accomplishment and establishes a deeper connection to the community.

A group conversation or other reflection exercise provides structured time for volunteers to think and talk about what occurred during the project. This activity can often deepen volunteers’ understanding of the social issue your project addresses and increase their commitment to service.

Before the Project

Before volunteers begin their service, reflection can help them understand the mission and expectations of the project. Pre-project reflection should provide an introduction to the community where they will be serving and/or the issue the project will address.

During the Project

As volunteers are serving, the service experience itself should be engaging and meaningful. Reflection in the midst of service can help volunteers understand the setting, their feelings, and how to problem-solve as necessary. Create an environment in which volunteers feel comfortable discussing the community, the people they are serving, and why their participation is important.

After the Project

Once the project is completed, volunteers should reflect on the project and the community need that was addressed. A community-building conversation with all of the volunteers leads to more effective action by giving volunteers the opportunity to think and discuss their experiences and the relationship of service to the larger social and personal concerns. Post-project reflection can also be a time for volunteers to think about future action around the community need. No matter the method or question, be sure to host a reflection activity at the end of your project!

Reflection Questions

No matter when you facilitate a reflection activity, your goal should be to help volunteers express their thoughts about the the project and answer three questions:

  1. What? What issue(s) is being addressed? What did you notice happening around you during the project? What were the results/outcome of the project?
  2. So What? What did you think about during the project activity? What affect do you think this activity has had on those intended to benefit from it? How has today's work affected you personally?
  3. Now What? What are the larger issues that caused the need for you to participate in this service activity? How did your efforts help? What more needs to be done to improve these problems? How will you apply what you have learned here in the future?

 

Project Closure

At the end of the project, it's important to address several logistical matters:

Clean-up

Ask everyone do his or her part. Have project leaders lead volunteers in cleaning up the site/area so well that it looks better than it did when they arrived. All materials should be used, donated to the service site, or stored safely. All tools should be returned to their respective areas. Don't forget to collect trash and dispose of it appropriately.

Celebration and Recognition

Volunteer recognition is a must! You should make sure that volunteers feel appreciated and invite them back to serve again.

Reflection

Reflection provides volunteers an opportunity to think about their service and how it impacted them personally. Reflection activities help volunteers connect to the mission of the project.

Evaluation

Evaluation and feedback are necessary for improving your projects. The information gathered in these forms will help your program better meet the needs of your volunteers and your community. We already reviewed the importance of reflection earlier in this course.

Now, let's take a look at clean up, celebration and recognition, and evaluation in greater detail.

 

Project Clean-up

Cleaning up is an essential part of any project. Although it isn't often a popular activity, it is necessary to maintain the cleanliness, organization, and look of a project site. While still on site, make sure to engage volunteers in the clean-up process. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Collect any food-related trash such as wrappers, empty water bottles, cups, etc. Empty any unused, non-reusable products into proper containers and throw away. Collect all stray plastic and paper products on the ground. Gather up the garbage in plastic bags and dispose of properly.
  • Break down the registration table and break area, if applicable. Store the table, chairs, and other furniture in their proper place. Store any extra forms/papers you have; you may be able to use them at a later time. Collect the sign-in sheets, volunteer waiver forms, and any other signed forms for your documentation.
  • Make sure no personal belongings are left at the site.
  • Collect any unused tools, materials, or supplies, and store them safely or prepare them for transport back to the storage location.

When finished, do a final walk-through of the site to make sure it’s in the same condition in which you found it.

Celebration & Recognition

Thumbnail for [node:title][user:name]At the end of the project, take time to celebrate and recognize the volunteers. A time of celebration and recognition will help bring a sense of closure to the project, as well as letting volunteers know that their efforts are appreciated. Your clebration and recognition can be the same day as the project (at the project site or off-site at a local resturant) or later in a different location. Showing appreciation for your volunteers is a great way to get them to come back!

The simplest acknowledgment and appreciation practices are often the most effective. When showing volunteers that you care, make sure to:

  • Deliver recognition in a personal and honest manner.
  • Tailor your recognition and reward to the unique needs of the people involved. Have a variety of recognition and reward options available. This enables an organization to acknowledge accomplishments in ways appropriate to the individual and the situation.
  • Celebrate even the smallest contributions throughout the project. Every little bit counts!
  • Reward volunteers close to the time that the volunteering occurs. Time delays weaken the impact of the recognition program.
  • Have a clear message. Be sure that volunteers understand why they receive awards and the criteria used to determine awards. Create a clear, well-communicated connection between accomplishments and the recognition received.

The most important way to recognize volunteers is to treat them with respect and give them support and praise throughout the project. You may want to combine your reflection and celebration activities. Reflection done in conjunction with celebration leads to more effective volunteerism; you are giving volunteers the opportunity to think and discuss their experiences and the relationship of service to the larger social and personal concerns.

Feedback & Evaluation

Evaluation and feedback are different than reflection. Evaluation is about the actual project — the work, planning, coordination, delivery, implementation, logistics, and management. Feedback is a gift. Use it as an opportunity to reflect on the overall management and implementation of the project. You can use many methods to solicit feedback from volunteers, staff, community members, and others.

The most popular, time-efficient way to get feedback on-site is to ask those involved to complete an evaluation form at the end of the project before everyone leaves. Doing this allows the volunteer experience to stay fresh in their minds; you can get immediate feedback from volunteers very quickly. Do not ask volunteers to put their names on these forms; people are more comfortable giving anonymous feedback. Do not react or respond to any feedback given while at the project site. If a volunteer gives you his/her name and contact information, you should call him/her soon after the project to discuss matters further.

If immediate feedback is not an option, you can mail or e-mail participants a feedback form within a week of the project. You can attach a feedback form to the thank you letter or follow-up correspondence. If you are mailing the form, include a stamped return envelope; this increases the likelihood of getting a returned form. No matter the method of collection, do not be hesitant to ask your project leaders, volunteers, and service site contacts for their feedback. Most people will be happy that you asked.

Summary

In this course, we examined how successful projects exhibit a good balance between logistics, time, and people through the effective management of:

  • Planning
  • Project logistics
  • Volunteers
  • Time
  • Reflection
  • Closure