The 1999 study, Combining Paid Service and Volunteerism: Strategies for Effective Practice in School Settings by Public/Private Ventures (P/PV) outlines strategies for successful integration between paid and unpaid providers, and between providers and schools. This is the second in a series of reports that examines approaches to uniting efforts of paid national service participants and unpaid volunteers.
National service programs often have a mix of paid members and non-paid volunteers working together on projects. While there are benefits to this arrangement, there are management challenges as well. No matter how well-intentioned volunteers are, without an infrastructure to support and direct their efforts, they are less likely to be effective and, worse yet, may withdraw from the program.
Working effectively as an outsider in school settings, regardless of program curriculum, requires a solid plan and the ability to communicate it to administrators, teachers, and other school personnel.
During the first year of the Public/Private Ventures study, the seven participating sites shared effective practices:
Strategies to initiate effective partnerships:
- Show how your program will help achieve existing educational objectives—considering both administrative and operational levels, from state departments of education to individual school buildings.
- Articulate what your program will provide and accomplish. Who will benefit and what will the outcomes be?
- Engage school personnel prior to program start-up. A high level of engagement up front will result in ongoing support and "investment" in the results.
- Be clear up front about programmatic processes, objectives, and expectations. This candidness can alleviate apprehension and delineate areas of responsibility.
Strategies for training paid providers:
- Build on the experience of outgoing paid providers and volunteers. Gather input from paid and non-paid providers who are transitioning out of service. Build a notebook of activities, fliers, newsletters, and notes that can help providers operate effectively and consistently.
- Tap into the expertise of specialists to train tutors or encourage students enrolled in reading instruction courses to become volunteer tutors.
Strategies for fitting in the school community:
- Take the initiative. Be visible, but pro-active. Be careful not to overwhelm school staff. Attending various school activities, such as assemblies and staff meetings, contributes to increased acceptance.
- Incorporate programming into the existing school structure. School structure influences fit in several ways, such as school openness and accountability to local residents; existence of other outside programs; previous experience of staff and administrators with other outside programs; and the willingness on the school's part to facilitate a "fit" through policy and development opportunities.
- Use school resources strategically and diplomatically. Certain resources will be required, such as space, access to fax machines, and copy machines. Be aware of and responsive to the dynamics that surround the ownership and use of these resources. Offer to use the equipment after school hours or at less busy times of day. Become resourceful at using scarce resources.
- Recognize and respond to barriers. These may be structural, transitional, or timing-related.
Become a value-added resource.
- Have a paid provider who can manage the volunteers, as well as fill-in for volunteers who are late or sick.
- Identify only one person (the paid service provider) that the teacher needs to contact when there is a classroom scheduling change.
Public/Private Ventures' Spectrum of Service Initiative (SOS), is a three-year demonstration through which P/PV is gathering information about the strategies that programs use to combine paid and unpaid service, and disseminating this information to the field so that both practitioners and policy-makers can benefit.
Public/Private Ventures is working with seven sites across the country that vary in geography, budget, size and longevity, and were selected to represent a range of programmatic approaches to combining the work of school-based paid service providers and volunteers.
During each of the two implementation years, P/PV is providing SOS sites with grants to support the expansion and efficacy of this work, and also will provide the opportunity for participants to take part in a "learning community" (via cross-site conferences) where they gather to exchange information, provide peer support, and generate data that will be made available to service and volunteer fields.
With a consistent presence in the schools, paid service providers can enhance the value of volunteers.