Volunteers engagement when lessons are limited?
Because its so cold here now, our lessons have really dwindled. We just had a great volunteer training a couple of weeks ago, and want to keep their enthusiasm high until spring when lessons pick up again.
Any suggestions for ways we can make people feel valued and engaged when there just aren't that many lessons going on?
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We're in the same boat...or on the same saddle.
We only run programs when the roads are good, but volunteers meet once a week to school horses. But, we aren't getting as many volunteers in the Winter months. Obviously, its WAY fun to be there for the side walking and the internal rewards of working with the kids.
I know there is ebb and flows, especially seasonally~ but I'd love to see more volunteers engaging all year round.
It's pretty hard to get people to come out to the barn when it's 20 degrees.
It's so hard in the cold, dark winter months to keep all of the volunteers pumped when activities are slowed/limited! I know how you feel.
At my barn, they plan a lot of events. We had a Volunteer Appreciation Party a few weeks ago, and sometimes we have some of the kids come out and make crafts or bake cookies. Often, we invite volunteers to come exercise horses (even most of the non-horsey ones like to be leadlined!) We had a little horse show for the kids and the volunteers last month that was a hit. In the fall, we had a barn dance in our indoor (it might be too cold to do that now depending on where you live!)
Little get-togethers like tack cleaning parties or poop-scooping races and stuff like that keep people excited to come to the barn.
Hope I helped!
Guys, we HAVE to be at the barn when it's miserably cold and activities are curtailed, but volunteers don't. That's why you don't see them when the weather's crummy. I sure as heck wouldn't volunteer to take care of other peoples' horses when it's freezing.
I like the idea of having volunteers help school horses, I hadn't thought of it as even just leadlining some of the ones with less horse experience, that actually might be fun. It's hard, because I have seen that if you don't capitalize on their enthusiasm right after a training by getting them hands-on quickly, it's tough to get them back.
have a bowling night, Post a XYZ ride center volunteer bowling night. See if you can negotiate a flat rate for a couple lanes for 2 hours. then divide the cost among those that RSVP, My riding club does this in jan or feb every year when weather is to cold for many to want to be outside.
We do mock lessons for volunteers- the horses stay tuned up and then the volunteers can feel what it's like to be a participant. This usually leads to more effective volunteering, because they understand how/what/why they are needed, and of course they get horse time which is a bonus! Our instructors can also practice teaching certain skills on a "mock" audience, and you can have volunteers try to act out a disability as best they can- helps them REALLY understand disabilities too :)
How many volunteers do you have on the average in the Summer months vs. Winter?
Summer we have the Founders (5 of them) and 7ish volunteers
Winter we have 2 volunteers that come on a regular basis and then the 5 Founders.
At my center, we have basically the same number of riders throughout the year. We get more cancellations in the winter, but all of our riders have a regular slot and if they miss too much without canceling ahead of time, they get discontinued because our waitlist is huge. We also have regular volunteers. Like other people have said, we do a volunteer holiday party. The staff make all the food- it's a volunteer appreciation party. We sometimes have trouble with keeping volunteers consistent, but it has less to do with the season and more to do with the fact that we have a lot of teenage volunteers with social lives and sports schedules. We try to have a foundation of volunteers who we know will be consistent and then supplement our needs with the less reliable volunteers. We have over 40 volunteers throughout the week (and year)
At ours, we average 90 riders in the summer, and around 65 the rest of the years. Volunteer wise, we have anywhere from 70-150 at any given time, depending on the riders and level of support needed.
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