April 09, 2008

Pastures new

Since leaving the Open Directory Project (as documented in the previous two posts) I have been looking around for different places to volunteer, and of course there is no shortage of opportunities.
One friend of mine is a district leader in Girl Guides Australia, so she was delighted to hear I suddenly had a lot more free time, but leading groups of teenage girls in singing or abseiling is not really my cup of tea. Incidentally, when I mentioned the research I referenced earlier concerning retention of volunteers, my friend readily agreed that this was definitely a big problem in her organisation, saying that in fact she devoted a lot of her time to ensuring that troop leaders did not take on too many responsibilities at once, and that they continued to have fun. (Clearly I should have spoken to her ages ago!)

Another 2 friends are voluntary tutors in a free adult literacy programme with the clever name of "Read Write Now!" (Their website is currently under construction, but this government page outlines the programme.)
This sounded much more my sort of thing than did girl guiding, so I immediately wrote away for an application form. Having reviewed many thousands of applications from prospective volunteer ODP editors, I chuckled at the irony of the shoe now being on the other foot.
Once your application form is received you will be contacted by a co-ordinator in your region, who is also a volunteer, to arrange an interview. At the interview the co-ordinator will discuss with you your interests and abilities and the program's expectations of tutors. If both you and the co-ordinator decide that Read Write Now! is the right volunteering organisation for you, you will be invited to take part in a stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable training program.

This highly-personalised selection process obviously requires considerable commitment from the co-ordinator, but in a small organisation it probably also increases the chance that the new volunteer will contribute effectively. Thinking back to the ODP (never far from my thoughts at the moment), I found it interesting to speculate on the advantages of such an approach, if the sheer number of applicants did not make it completely impracticable.

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