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  • Writer's pictureJessica

PB&J: Why Leaders of Volunteers should create Job Aids

Earlier this week, I found my partner laughing uncontrollably. He was watching this TikTok video shared on LinkedIn:

In the video, a father asks his two children to give him written instructions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He reads the instructions and does as they say- with hilarious outcomes.

"Put the peanut butter on the bread": man literally puts the jar of peanut butter on top of the bread.

"Put the butter knife in the peanut butter": man plops the knife into the peanut butter jar and leaves it there.

"Put jelly on top of a slice of bread": man adds jelly to the bread crust, which is technically the top of the bread.

The caption of this TikTok post: "why operating instructions are important".

This made me think of job aids. Job aids are step-by-step operating instructions that outline how a person should complete a task.

In one of my first roles as a volunteer engagement professional, I engaged volunteers to make phone calls to donors and log these interactions into Raiser's Edge. The calls welcomed new monthly donors, reminded them to update their credit card information for monthly donations, and thanked them for supporting specific campaigns. Very often, these calls came as unexpected to donors who would say "Oh, you are just calling to say thanks? That's wonderful!" It was a fantastic stewardship initiative that was excellent in surprising and delighting supporters.

These volunteers had limited access to Raiser's Edge so they could check donor preferences (i.e. no phone calls) and update actions on the call outcomes. During these calls, they would sometimes learn new information about the donors (e.g. address update, request to increase gift amount), which they would communicate to staff members for follow-up.

Dozens of individuals supported as volunteers in this role, from retired executive assistants to recent grads, and retail workers looking for a career change. They were all able to do the role with some 1:1 training from me because of very detailed job aids. What does being very detailed mean? Here are some examples:

The instruction: Check Raiser's Edge to make sure that the donor is okay with receiving phone calls.

What was on the job aid:

Log into Raiser's Edge with your username and password.

Search for the donor using first and last name.

Check that the donor record has the same phone number that you are prepared to call.

Go to the attributes tab. Check if the donor has any of the following attributes listed:

  • Do not call

  • Do not contact

If the donor has either attribute listed, do not make the call. Flag this to your staff partner.

The instruction: Dial the phone number.

What was on the job aid:

Pick up the phone receiver. You will not hear a dial tone.

Press line 1.

To make the call, press 9 + the phone number listed.

The instruction: Tell the donor that their gift was appreciated in a kind and professional way.

What was on the job aid:

A script with information on exactly how to greet the donor (looking at their salutation information in Raiser's Edge), as well as a voicemail script with a callback number.

You might be wondering: isn't this level of detail patronizing?

No! It is not! In fact, it puts all volunteers in the role on a level playing field as it gives them all the information they need to succeed in the role. Volunteers with more phone and/or customer service experience completed training faster, but they found the job aids to be very useful.

The job aids also ensured a consistent experience for all donors who received the calls. Further, they saved me as the staff partner lots of time. Volunteers would only come in once a week and the job aids were great at refreshing their memories.

Job aids are also very helpful to leaders of volunteers in supporting staff to work with volunteers.

  • Have a volunteer data cleanup project to complete? Make a job aid so busy colleagues can refer back to it for support!

  • Doing a volunteer recognition campaign? Provide recommended phone call scripts and congratulatory messages, as well as information on how to document these recognition interactions!

  • Executing volunteer appreciation events across multiple sites? Provide an "event in a box" template to support planning and give ideas to help colleagues get started!

  • Updating volunteer screening tools? Create an interview guide for colleagues to help them decide on interview styles and questions to match the volunteer roles they are recruiting for!

Job aids do not replace live training or opportunity for the users (be they volunteers or colleagues) to ask for support. But they do a lot!

Bonus tip: if you are creating or updating a job aid, ask a select group of users (e.g. more experienced volunteers or colleagues) to provide feedback and/or test it. Their insights are invaluable, and they often catch mistakes or opportunities to improve!

How do you use job aids as a volunteer engagement professional? And how would you outline the instructions for making a PB&J?

Let me know in the comments!

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