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CMSC Webinar

Building Your Volunteer Program:
Feeding the HUMAN Machine & Building the HUMAN Capacity

Webinar Summary

In order to drive a community forward, each organization must foster, maintain, and perfect the available human capacity within each community. In this webinar, we dive into strategies for creating a comprehensive volunteer matrix, how to maximize efforts for volunteers, and how appropriate positive (or sometimes negative) feedback should be delivered. Topics include how to create a comprehensive volunteer list, how to partner volunteers together, and where and how to utilize critical volunteers. This webinar is also applicable to those who have volunteer boards and commissions.

Presentation Highlights

The Human Machine
  • A community functions like a watch – all the cogs need to work together in the right sequence. The downtown is run by people.
  • People need the ability to help, as well as the drive and desire to do it. This human capacity is the driving force behind any volunteer organization, whether it’s a Masonic Lodge, city council or downtown organization.
  • It also helps set the expectations for volunteers, what they can give, and what they can expect to get back from their service. Everyone needs to know their role, which will also help you leverage their talents and skills and avoid burnout.
6 Types of Human Capacity
  • As a Main Street manager, it’s not your job to do every project. It’s your job to empower people to help you implement the projects. You’re here to guide and provide resources, not do every job that comes up. The process isn’t linear, its cyclical and ongoing and has 6 components:
    1. Community Assessment
    2. Identifying Abilities
    3. Planning Roles
    4. Building a strong “house”
    5. Empowerment through partnership
    6. Implementing projects
Working with your Community as a Machine
  • Outlining a 2-way relationship is critical. What is the volunteer getting out of it?
  • When you do the Community Assessment, it’s like an audit where you can identify skills gaps. This is a great task for someone joining your Organization board or committee. It helps them understand how you work, while offering a fresh pair of eyes on the data.
  • When identifying abilities, you may need to have tough discussions with people because you may not need the skills they’re offering. Also look at when your volunteers are available. Do they have kids in school and so are not available at night? Do they work during the day and are only available on the weekend?
  • Many people want to do something different than their day job. You need to help them figure out their role, as well as who to hand off things to. You’re aiming to have seamless transitions between them.
  • Build a matrix of skills, availability, etc. Then you can pair people up, creating little “families” of volunteers.

Working With Your Community As A Machine

  • Main Street needs to empower through leadership, not by doing everything on their own. Build capacity through responsibility and let people know where they fit into the overall process.
  • When you implement the project, this is the time to give positive and constructive criticism. It’s also a time to re-evaluate your volunteer to see if anything’s changed.
Strategies for Improving the Machine
  • Create a social network map – Take your 20 core volunteers and map all the different groups in your community – everything from the PTA to the local bank.
  • What demographics are represented? Which are missing? What do they love to do and what are they good at? What’s motivating them to volunteer and to be part of the community? Remember, sometimes what people are good at is not what they’re looking to do when they’re volunteering.
  • Do an assessment to determine your volunteers’ strengths and weaknesses. Are they introverts or extroverts?
    • Can categorize people by Seer, Feeler, Thinker & Doers
      • Seer – learn or share by showing
      • Feelers – Likes to do something over and over
      • Thinkers – Likes data and putting things on paper
      • Doers – Do whatever needs to be done
    • Create a comprehensive volunteer list. Can be as short as 10 questions asking:
      • What they prefer
      • When they’re available (day, evening)
      • How they would like to volunteer
      • Where they’re comfortable
      • Can then sort the list and use it to ask for targeted help.
    • 2 Way benefit – to the volunteer and to the Main Street organization
      • Benefits to the Volunteer
        • Personal connections
        • Strengthened and vibrant downtown
        • Sense of accomplishment and belonging
        • Vested in the overall community’s health
      • Benefits to the Main Street program
        • Improved amounts of volunteers and participants
        • Vested residents or business owners
        • Increased networking and economic draw
      • These relationships don’t just start on day 1, they need to be cultivated. The Main Street director or manager usually needs to be the first to take the initial step.
      • You need to give continuous and personalized feedback and praise.
      • Conduct anonymous assessments to get feedback from the public.

View the Recording

About Ben Levenger, AICP

Ben Levenger is an AICP planner, registered landscape architect, and Certified Economic Developer. He is the president of Downtown Redevelopment Services, LLC, a planning firm specializing in assisting communities through comprehensive downtown planning. He has worked in over 30 states and consults for federal agencies on economic development best practices.


Ben Levenger, AICP


Cell: 330-212-2260 

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