The 2008 housing market crash affected millions in the U.S. from January 2007 to December 2011. There were more than 4 million completed home foreclosures and more than 8.2 million foreclosure applications (Bennett, 2012). With more families losing homes each day, there are organizations working to combat the issue. From homeless shelters, awareness campaigns, and building organizations, there are many nonprofit organizations willing to help. Being non-profits, these organizations rely on the efforts of donations and volunteers. With more families needing help, there is an increased need for volunteers and donations.
We collaborated with Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/ Greater Worcester ReStore, a nonprofit organization that sells new and gently used building materials, furniture, and appliances to raise money for local build projects. Habitat for Humanity and its ReStore serve a vital role in the community as they provide housing for low income families and improve neighborhoods in the city. Our goal was to facilitate ReStore’s recruitment and retention strategies for potential volunteers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations like Restore and play an essential role in their success. We hope that this project improves Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/ Greater Worcester ReStore’s volunteer recruitment and retention strategies in 2014 and builds a stepping-stone for the future.
The Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester ReStore requested a study on volunteering recruitment and retention. We developed the following objectives in order to achieve our goal:
1. Observed the daily operations of ReStore as a volunteer
2. Identified the current trends of volunteers at ReStore
3. Assessed motivations and availability of current and potential volunteers
4. Developed recommendations for volunteer recruitment and retention
5. Conducted outreach and recruitment activities for ReStore.
Our project has implications for our sponsors Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester ReStore, other Habitat for Humanity ReStores, and potential Habitat for Humanity homeowners. We conducted interviews with all these groups during our research to gauge their opinions on our plans. In order to accurately assess the ReStore volunteer experience and motivations of potential and current volunteers, and to develop an expanded outreach plan for ReStore, we completed the following tasks
• We immersed ourselves as volunteers to observe the daily operations of ReStore
• We restructured and analyzed ReStore’s volunteering database to identify the current trends of volunteers at ReStore.
• We distributed online surveys to potential volunteers and short questionnaires to current volunteers to assess their motivations and availability. We then analyzed the data we received.
• We conducted a focus group of high school students to assess their motivations and availability on volunteering.
• We interviewed Directors of other ReStores, high school service group advisors, and employees of Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester ReStore to help us develop recommendations for recruitment and retention.
• We updated ReStore’s stock of promotional presentation materials to improve the recruitment process and focus on key demographics.
• We recruited volunteers from local high schools including St. John’s High School and organizations such as the American Legion.
• We produced an infomercial for the ReStore to use for recruiting volunteers and other promotional activities
• We compiled a series of our recommendations on recruiting and retention strategies along with useful contacts of local organizations that we obtained over the course of the project and presented them to Molly Pietrantonio, the Volunteer Coordinator at ReStore.
The findings we generated from objective 1: Observed the daily operations of ReStore as a volunteer stem off of our immersion week. All of these findings came from personal conversations with other volunteers along with our individual direct observations. Some findings were general findings while some highlighted areas of improvement.
• It is very easy to meet new people during volunteer hours at the ReStore due to the friendly workplace culture.
• Volunteers enjoy working in groups while moving donations and accomplishing specific tasks.
• Volunteers enjoy working alongside the staff to complete daily operations.
• Volunteers can choose between donation pickup, donations processing, and/or customer service.
• Volunteer hours are very flexible. There are two scheduled volunteer slots from 9:30a.m. to 1:30p.m. and 1:00p.m. to 5:00p.m.. Volunteers can also come in anytime and stay for as long as they please.
• From cleaning donations, to bringing them onto the floor, to assisting customers, there is always volunteer work to be done.
• Volunteers are always looking for direction from paid staff.
• Some days are busier than others for volunteers; both the number of donations that arrive and the number of volunteers in a day vary considerably.
• Customers rely on volunteers for direction around the ReStore.
• Volunteers inform customers about the other aspects/perks of the ReStore including free donation pickup and various discounts around the store.
• Experienced volunteers provide guidance for new volunteers.
• Items brought to the ReStore move in and out quickly due to a consistent flow of customers.
• Completing projects and seeing donations move in and out quickly motivates volunteers because they can see their work make a difference.
• There is a large recycling campaign at ReStore to save materials from landfills.
The findings generated from objective 2: Identified the current trends of volunteers at ReStore came from our updated ReStore database. Data analysis showed current trends of ReStore volunteers within the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
• ReStore experiences two large downtrends in volunteers during the winter months of December-February as well as the summer months of June-August. The number of volunteers dropped from 298 in November to 205 in December, 226 in January, and 136 in February. After the winter months, the number of volunteers increased to 306 in March and 332 in April. All of the winter months are below the tracked monthly avergage of 253. Since ReStore only recently started tracking this information, we were unable to varify the summer month’s downtrend. The only summer month we had data for, August, had 229 volunteers compared to the average of 253 volunteers for the tracked months. However, our group and Ms. Maruca Hoak hypothesized for the downtrend in the summer months to be related to the local colleges ending class sessions for summer vacation.
The findings generated from objective 3: Assessed motivations and availability of current and potential volunteers came from our potential volunteer surveys distributed to students and older adults. Questionnaires came from current volunteers at the restore. The focus group information came from our focus groups held with St. Johns high school.
• In terms of months of the year, potential volunteers stated they are most available during May-July. • They are most available on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as being more available in the afternoon daily
• Out of 192 responses, we found the main reasons for volunteering were service learning/school (39 responses), friends/family (37 responses), and free time (32 responses).
• They stated they would prefer gifts (apparel), instead of discounts and recognition (ex. Volunteer of the month).
• We found that volunteers most associate volunteering with helping others, altruism, and socializing.
• Current volunteers said that the friendly atmosphere at ReStore kept them coming back.
• Older adults stated on the questionnaires that they volunteer because of free time.
• In our focus group of High school students, they said the social aspect of volunteering was important to them.
• We also found that high school students are unlikely to volunteer during the summer unless it is an organized school/social activity.
The findings from objective 4: Developed recommendations for volunteer recruitment and retention came from interviews held with Mike Foley, Werner Thissen, as well as personal conversations with volunteers at both MetroWest/Greater Worcester and Leominster volunteers.
• High school students respond better to short and to-the-point presentations.
• Colleges are not the best resource for recruitment due to busy schedules, leadership turnover within college organizations, and the downtrend of college students in Worcester during the summer.
• Older adults respond to the mentoring aspect of volunteering.
• PowerPoint presentations are often an ineffective media to present with because we found PowerPoint presentations do not stimulate students’ and older adults’ interest.
• The most functional media for presenting is video because it is clear, concise, and is visually and audibly pleasing. • There is a strong response to emotional testimony’s from families affected.
• Consistent tracking of volunteers is beneficial for retention because the ReStore can properly recognize regular volunteers’ efforts.
The findings from objective 5: Conducted outreach and recruitment activities for ReStore came from our observations during our outreach efforts.
• We found widespread interest and enthusiasm for volunteering at the ReStore among both of our key target populations, older adults and students.
• We found that our outreach activities coincided well with and could be integrated into the activities of the volunteer coordinator at ReStore.
• Bringing a ReStore coordinator to talk about ReStore background information while we talked about personal experiences was an effective strategy.
• It is important to bring handouts and brochures to leave potential volunteers with ReStore information.
Through our findings, we developed recommendations for ReStore to facilitate the recruitment and retention of potential volunteers. The recommendations are organized below into recruitment recommendations and retention recommendations respectively.
• We recommend ReStore establish volunteer programs at local high schools.
• We recommend that ReStore try to establish consistent volunteer programs at St. John’s High School Shrewsbury and Worcester Academy.
• We recommend Restore market the social aspect of volunteering.
• We recommend a monthly Sunday Volunteer Day due to the increased availability of potential volunteers. This day consists of reorganization of the ReStore and to get ahead on donations processing.
• We recommend that ReStore update and gear presentations to students and older adults.
• We also recommend that ReStore use the ReStore Infomercial that was designed as a recruitment tool.
• We recommend enhancing branding within the ReStore following some of the practices from Leominster’s ReStore.
• We recommend that ReStore market its flexible hours to potential volunteers
• We recommend that ReStore set up a list of daily, weekly, and yearly tasks for volunteers according to their commitment level.
• We recommend that Restore contact local colleges and high schools at the beginning of each academic year.
• We recommend that ReStore generate a recognition program.
• We recommend that ReStore expand their volunteer tracking information
The goal of this project was to facilitate the recruitment and retention of potential volunteers at the MetroWest/Greater Worcester ReStore. Our objectives worked out to be a sufficient road map to climb towards our goal. With information on the current volunteer status at ReStore, data from our surveys, and advice from other interviews and focus groups, we developed recommendations for recruitment and retention to facilitate the increase of volunteers at ReStore. Finally, we began an ongoing outreach campaign targeting both students and older adults. We were able to represent ReStore as if we were staff due to our group’s ability to embody the ReStore mission. With all of our findings and recommendations, we hope that the recruitment and retention efforts of MetroWest/Greater Worcester ReStore will continue to grow and expand.