407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Tapping the Best and Brightest Volunteers
A Challenge for Towns Large and Small


Dianne Clarke-Kudless
and
Andrew McCabe

While you are driving through a beautiful countryside or taking a stroll along a busy city block, have you ever thought about the number of volunteers it takes to run our local governments? We do pay attention to those whom we elect to serve and we meet the individuals that are hired to provide our roads, zoning and tax services. But the unknown fact is that every New Jersey municipality depends upon the devotion of its citizens to serve in important ways in order to keep our government running strong.

This article will provide some insight into the issues facing a rural township of 5,500 residents and a large urban center of 65,000 residents in the recruiting, development and retention of quality volunteers to do important work. Every municipality faces the challenge of filling volunteer positions. In an era of demanding jobs, busy lives and me-first attitudes, the job of locating the talent to run our government seems to be near impossible.

This article's authors specialize in helping organizations, like government, systematically improve their performance. They've applied these interests and talents to the problems of volunteerism in government to two very different communities.

Large project, big needs The B21C project, designed to assist in the planning process for the revitalization of Bayonne, was conceived during the tenure of Mayor Richard Rutkowski. Dr. McCabe became involved at the request of Mayor Leonard Kiczek, Rutkowski's successor. It was Mayor Kiczek's intention to expand the existing committee structure and provide a planning approach that would provide for the assessment of city needs as they pertained to nine interrelated, yet separate, areas: communication, education, employment, environment, health, housing, recreation, transportation and quality of life.

The process of involving citizens in the development of short and long term goals for each of the nine areas became the focus of Dr. McCabe's 1999 doctoral dissertation at Rutgers University titled: The Revitalization of a Mid-Sized American City Using Citizen Volunteers. The procedural framework for this project was modeled after a guideline provided by Dr. Charles Maher, Professor of Applied Psychology at Rutgers. Since the immediate concern of the B21C Committee was to develop a system for organizing, training and involving citizen volunteers, only the first phase of Maher's framework: Clarification, was implemented.

In this study, the A-VICTORY Model was used to assess relevant context. The following factors were considered by the governing committee. It can serve as checklist for volunteer projects. This is particularly helpful in large city projects. A-VICTORY is an acronym that stands for the following:

Ability: The ability of the group to complete the project. This includes resources like equipment, funding and people.

Value: Will the project be seen by those involved as having value for either themselves or, the community?

Idea: Is the idea something that people can understand and relate to? Does it make sense?

Circumstances: What are the circumstances that surround the project? These could include but, are not limited to, political, organizational, personal or economic conditions that might impact on the project.

Time: Is there enough time to complete the project?

Obligation: Once people are involved, will they feel obliged to follow the task through to completion.

Resistance: What factors must be considered as potential obstacles that might impact on project success?

Yield: What is the reward for project participants, the organization, the community and the project leaders?

This project, which continued for almost two years, included coordinating over 120 citizen volunteers on the nine committees identified, as well as training 18 committee leaders, two for each committee. The project continued into the term of Bayonne's current Mayor and State Senator Joseph Doria.

Many of the goals included in this report were implemented and the group held two "retreats" at a local restaurant where the goals of the nine committees were reviewed by the Steering Committee. The final product produced by the citizen volunteers was a written document detailing short and long term goals for all nine municipal entities identified that matched the direction of the city leaders and the nine committees.

The document was presented to Director of the Bloustein School of Planning for use as an example of good big city planning. A B21C group, including Dr. McCabe, met with the Director and, as a result, 19 Bloustein scholars completed a six month "studio" evaluating Bayonne and developing both long and short term goals for all of the nine areas noted in our committee reports.

Cities can get more mileage by starting with a good project foundation and linking city projects with other groups such as universities, foundations and non-profits. By using a similar format we can hook our work together and achieve mutually satisfying goals. We calculated the value of this additional volunteer work to be about $500,000.

When the Bloustein project was completed, a televised meeting was held at Bayonne City Hall.

Mayor Doria described all the good citizen volunteer work that had been done and all involved were thanked.

Important work, quality talent Most years, you don't even notice the change in a small township. Even when new residents arrive, they are generally busy with their own lives. Their volunteer activity includes helping with youth sports or school activities. But each year, over 110 volunteers are appointed in Tewksbury to serve in a variety of positions including the Board of Adjustment, Planning Board, Environmental Commission, Board of Health and special assignments such as Parks or Communications Committee. Each committee requires a different talent, commitment and knowledge of government regulations and community information.

Here are three types of recruitment problems that need to be addressed almost every year.

Project that require special talent There are several appointments that must be filled with special talent such as historic preservation talent or landscape architect. When these qualifications are written into the structure of the appointment, the problem needs to be addressed in special ways.

Project that require special commitments During the past two years, the Planning Board completed a thorough review of the Master Plan. Having a Planning Board group that can handle numerous meetings, difficult decisions and varied technical presentations is a special challenge.

Appointments based on special interests Some appointments really benefit from a deep interest or previous experience. These areas such as Environment Commission, Board of Health or our Equestrian Committee benefit from a selection of volunteers dedicated to the deep exploration of these topics.

Appointments that allow for growth and enjoyment. There are several committees where the work requires only a sincere interest and willingness to serve. On these committees, the selection process needs to balance the potential for future contributions with the immediate work that needs to be done. Assignments such as Parks, Communications or Heritage Trees can be a good place for a new volunteer or a place to allow a seasoned volunteer to continue to contribute in a lighter or more flexible assignment.

For the last five years, Tewksbury residents have become increasingly aware of the talent pool that our local government requires. Regular activities such as volunteer recruitment ads, Leadership Summits, youth volunteer awards and new appointee training are just some of the programs that help to keep a steady source of quality volunteer talent willing and available for appointments. The pool of talent that has been created helped with comprehensive review of the Master Plan, a major local library project, various Citizen Advisory (CAC) and Development Regulation Ordinance (DRO) assignments, the establishment of an Equestrian Committee, Communications Committee, 250th Anniversary celebration and the start of an international friendship program. New residents who joined existing committees made important contributions too, such as the start of a Heritage Tree program or obtaining grants for various environmental projects. After five years and over 500 appointments, the result of having a process to bring quality citizen talent into our appointment pool is very evident.

Whether it is a large project in a major urban area or the continuous need for quality volunteers that come from a small part of heaven that you call home, your New Jersey municipality will become better governed if you apply organizing principles to the recruitment of local citizen talent.

Dianne Clarke-Kudless, PsyD and Andrew McCabe, PsyD have been working with local government volunteers for over a decade. Dr. Clarke-Kudless is a second term elected Township Committee member and former Mayor in Tewksbury. Dr. McCabe is an Associate Professor at New Jersey City University in Jersey City and served as the Project Coordinator of the Bayonne 21st Century Project.


Click Here to return to the League's Home Page

NJLM - Skills Update - A Challenge for Towns Large and Small

407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Tapping the Best and Brightest Volunteers
A Challenge for Towns Large and Small


Dianne Clarke-Kudless
and
Andrew McCabe

While you are driving through a beautiful countryside or taking a stroll along a busy city block, have you ever thought about the number of volunteers it takes to run our local governments? We do pay attention to those whom we elect to serve and we meet the individuals that are hired to provide our roads, zoning and tax services. But the unknown fact is that every New Jersey municipality depends upon the devotion of its citizens to serve in important ways in order to keep our government running strong.

This article will provide some insight into the issues facing a rural township of 5,500 residents and a large urban center of 65,000 residents in the recruiting, development and retention of quality volunteers to do important work. Every municipality faces the challenge of filling volunteer positions. In an era of demanding jobs, busy lives and me-first attitudes, the job of locating the talent to run our government seems to be near impossible.

This article's authors specialize in helping organizations, like government, systematically improve their performance. They've applied these interests and talents to the problems of volunteerism in government to two very different communities.

Large project, big needs The B21C project, designed to assist in the planning process for the revitalization of Bayonne, was conceived during the tenure of Mayor Richard Rutkowski. Dr. McCabe became involved at the request of Mayor Leonard Kiczek, Rutkowski's successor. It was Mayor Kiczek's intention to expand the existing committee structure and provide a planning approach that would provide for the assessment of city needs as they pertained to nine interrelated, yet separate, areas: communication, education, employment, environment, health, housing, recreation, transportation and quality of life.

The process of involving citizens in the development of short and long term goals for each of the nine areas became the focus of Dr. McCabe's 1999 doctoral dissertation at Rutgers University titled: The Revitalization of a Mid-Sized American City Using Citizen Volunteers. The procedural framework for this project was modeled after a guideline provided by Dr. Charles Maher, Professor of Applied Psychology at Rutgers. Since the immediate concern of the B21C Committee was to develop a system for organizing, training and involving citizen volunteers, only the first phase of Maher's framework: Clarification, was implemented.

In this study, the A-VICTORY Model was used to assess relevant context. The following factors were considered by the governing committee. It can serve as checklist for volunteer projects. This is particularly helpful in large city projects. A-VICTORY is an acronym that stands for the following:

Ability: The ability of the group to complete the project. This includes resources like equipment, funding and people.

Value: Will the project be seen by those involved as having value for either themselves or, the community?

Idea: Is the idea something that people can understand and relate to? Does it make sense?

Circumstances: What are the circumstances that surround the project? These could include but, are not limited to, political, organizational, personal or economic conditions that might impact on the project.

Time: Is there enough time to complete the project?

Obligation: Once people are involved, will they feel obliged to follow the task through to completion.

Resistance: What factors must be considered as potential obstacles that might impact on project success?

Yield: What is the reward for project participants, the organization, the community and the project leaders?

This project, which continued for almost two years, included coordinating over 120 citizen volunteers on the nine committees identified, as well as training 18 committee leaders, two for each committee. The project continued into the term of Bayonne's current Mayor and State Senator Joseph Doria.

Many of the goals included in this report were implemented and the group held two "retreats" at a local restaurant where the goals of the nine committees were reviewed by the Steering Committee. The final product produced by the citizen volunteers was a written document detailing short and long term goals for all nine municipal entities identified that matched the direction of the city leaders and the nine committees.

The document was presented to Director of the Bloustein School of Planning for use as an example of good big city planning. A B21C group, including Dr. McCabe, met with the Director and, as a result, 19 Bloustein scholars completed a six month "studio" evaluating Bayonne and developing both long and short term goals for all of the nine areas noted in our committee reports.

Cities can get more mileage by starting with a good project foundation and linking city projects with other groups such as universities, foundations and non-profits. By using a similar format we can hook our work together and achieve mutually satisfying goals. We calculated the value of this additional volunteer work to be about $500,000.

When the Bloustein project was completed, a televised meeting was held at Bayonne City Hall.

Mayor Doria described all the good citizen volunteer work that had been done and all involved were thanked.

Important work, quality talent Most years, you don't even notice the change in a small township. Even when new residents arrive, they are generally busy with their own lives. Their volunteer activity includes helping with youth sports or school activities. But each year, over 110 volunteers are appointed in Tewksbury to serve in a variety of positions including the Board of Adjustment, Planning Board, Environmental Commission, Board of Health and special assignments such as Parks or Communications Committee. Each committee requires a different talent, commitment and knowledge of government regulations and community information.

Here are three types of recruitment problems that need to be addressed almost every year.

Project that require special talent There are several appointments that must be filled with special talent such as historic preservation talent or landscape architect. When these qualifications are written into the structure of the appointment, the problem needs to be addressed in special ways.

Project that require special commitments During the past two years, the Planning Board completed a thorough review of the Master Plan. Having a Planning Board group that can handle numerous meetings, difficult decisions and varied technical presentations is a special challenge.

Appointments based on special interests Some appointments really benefit from a deep interest or previous experience. These areas such as Environment Commission, Board of Health or our Equestrian Committee benefit from a selection of volunteers dedicated to the deep exploration of these topics.

Appointments that allow for growth and enjoyment. There are several committees where the work requires only a sincere interest and willingness to serve. On these committees, the selection process needs to balance the potential for future contributions with the immediate work that needs to be done. Assignments such as Parks, Communications or Heritage Trees can be a good place for a new volunteer or a place to allow a seasoned volunteer to continue to contribute in a lighter or more flexible assignment.

For the last five years, Tewksbury residents have become increasingly aware of the talent pool that our local government requires. Regular activities such as volunteer recruitment ads, Leadership Summits, youth volunteer awards and new appointee training are just some of the programs that help to keep a steady source of quality volunteer talent willing and available for appointments. The pool of talent that has been created helped with comprehensive review of the Master Plan, a major local library project, various Citizen Advisory (CAC) and Development Regulation Ordinance (DRO) assignments, the establishment of an Equestrian Committee, Communications Committee, 250th Anniversary celebration and the start of an international friendship program. New residents who joined existing committees made important contributions too, such as the start of a Heritage Tree program or obtaining grants for various environmental projects. After five years and over 500 appointments, the result of having a process to bring quality citizen talent into our appointment pool is very evident.

Whether it is a large project in a major urban area or the continuous need for quality volunteers that come from a small part of heaven that you call home, your New Jersey municipality will become better governed if you apply organizing principles to the recruitment of local citizen talent.

Dianne Clarke-Kudless, PsyD and Andrew McCabe, PsyD have been working with local government volunteers for over a decade. Dr. Clarke-Kudless is a second term elected Township Committee member and former Mayor in Tewksbury. Dr. McCabe is an Associate Professor at New Jersey City University in Jersey City and served as the Project Coordinator of the Bayonne 21st Century Project.


Click Here to return to the League's Home Page