Volunteers Anyone?

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Yesterday, I had a wonderful conversation with Susan, a mom of twin boys, both in a special needs classroom for children with autism. She is spending 1:1 time at home interacting non-directively with them, and would like to expand the home program by recruiting additional staff. This conversation led to the challenges of finding and getting volunteers.

As I thought about the challenges she is facing, the questions:
• Is there anyone who would want to be in a child's home program?
• Where are these people?
• How do we find them?
all competed for my attention. Again (I have to keep answering these questions to recruit for my own home program) I answered with resounding Yes! Everywhere! By Looking Everywhere! I 'm going to share some of the ideas Susan and I talked about. If you are looking for an idea to help you increase the size of your home team, read on!

1. Believe - There are people out there who would love to be a part of your home team! I didn't believe that statement for a long time. I acted in my belief and my results confirmed it. I'm so glad I decided to change that belief. I now believe that I have a wealth of insight and knowledge that I give generously to everyone on my team. People benefit temendously from being around us. Plus, the star of the team is my son, Jaedon! People love the freedom of just loving him and being with him. It is much easier to expect people to join the team when I believe like this.
2. Expect - Since these people are out there, expect to see them as you go about life. Be curious about people. Stop and talk to them as they shop with you, wait with you at the bank or post office, in the doctor's office. It's amazing how much we all have in common. If the person connects with you, offer to email them with info about your program or leave them a flyer. They may be interested, or they may know someone who will be interested. Face to face, 1:1 is the best way to create a connection.
3. Hand out/Put up 500 flyers. Let's do the math. Each flyer will be seen at least 5 times before it goes to flyer heaven. 500 flyers would be 2,500 people looking. I'm sure you can find the next 5 people for your team by doing that! Make the flyer creative and intersting to read. I saw one that was done in the form of a comic strip with actual photos of the child and clouds of words above his head with the information. Brainstorm with people for ideas on how to put togeher a really unique flyer.
4. Post an advertisment online in places where organizations typically post for interns. Remember, you are not just looking for help, you are offering a wonderful learning opportunity. It's an internship! Carefully write out what you are looking for someone to do using all the appropriate jargon (like 'design games and activities using a multiple inteligences approach appropriate to xxxx's developmental stage')
5. Host a regular Info Session. Responses to flyers, postings, emails, etc can be invited to your next info session where you talk about autism and the amazing opportunity you are offering
6. Network with other parents who may want to develop home programs but would love the energy of working together. Offer to refer volunteers to them, and encourage them to do the same. Host meetings, post ads together!
7. Write articles for the local paper, blogs, facebook notes talking about your program, with quotes from past participants (or people in other home programs) on the impact participaing had on them. Encourage people to contact you.
8. Visit college campuses and talk with students in fields you might find interseting. Almost any field will do. I like Performing Arts, Visual Arts, Psychology and Education students. Ask to share for 15 minutes in a class about your program. One parent I spoke to created such energy around her talk, she got to go back and do it every semester with the same professor!
9. Get Sponsorship for a paid internship. Just ask! You never know what might happen. Contact local businesses and tell them about autism, the rising need and encourage them to help. Be part of their advertising force for 1 year in return. Post their ad. in all your emails, blogs, flyers etc as a thank you for the sponsorship. A group of families working on this together would be wonderful! That way, sponsorship could be acquired for a 20 hour internship, and 2 families share the intern, 10 hours each. I recommend that paid interns be people who already have the skills and attitudes you want in a team member.
10. Attend events relevant to your target audience (students, people interested in autism, etc.) See what's happening locally, contact the co-ordinators and ask if you can post your flyers.
11. April is Autism Awareness month. Do something and talk about your program. Go to the local library and do a presentation. Host a fundraising event, split the proceeds with a known organization that works with the ASD population and take the opportunity to advertise your program.
The more I write, the more ideas I get. Actually, there is no shortage of ideas for doing anything, just shortage of action. Why not choose just 1 idea? Tell me what it is, and come back and share the results! I'm posting an ad for my program online tomorrow. I'll share my results with you as I get them! Wishing you all the staff you would like for your home program in 2010!
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