All Hands on Deck: Building a Sustainable Volunteer Program


  • Susan Restler ALLINBKLYN
  • Lauren Glant ALLINBKLYN



sustainable volunteer program design, READ718, ALLINBKLYN, volunteer program model


Youth-serving organizations that engage volunteers offer them varied roles. In volunteer-dependent organizations, volunteers are the vital backbone of service delivery, without whom the organization would be hard-pressed to exist. At the other end of the spectrum are organizations whose paid staff provide all services and whose volunteers play episodic, narrowcast roles. Sitting in between are those organizations where volunteers provide added value to the work of paid staff, expanding services to youth that the organization may not otherwise afford. The volunteer value-add model is as challenging as it is appealing. It often frustrates and disappoints both the organization and the volunteers, not surprisingly because it requires time and attention to design and support well. In this article we examine why value-add programs so often fail and look at the critical elements of the volunteer value-add model. We describe one program, READ718, whose design exemplifies the key dimensions that value-add organizations need to consider and adapt if their programs are to meet the needs of staff, volunteers and especially youth. Because there is some risk to youth in poorly designed and inadequately supported volunteer programs, as well as ramifications for organizational reputation, we feel that greater clarity about what it takes to mount a robust initiative is vital and worthwhile, even if the result is that some organizations reflect and elect to abandon this path.

Author Biographies

Susan Restler, ALLINBKLYN

Harvard University, AB 1973

Columbia University, MBA 1975

Lauren Glant, ALLINBKLYN

Swathmore College, BA 1983

Harvard Law School, JD 1986


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