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How to onboard a first-time volunteer

This is a guide for shift leads and existing volunteers, describing how to welcome and onboard volunteers who are coming in for the first time. No need to take this prescriptively, but it's a good starting point for the conversations you can have!

At the start of the shift

  • Introduce yourself and any other volunteers or regulars who are present. Share when you started volunteering for the tool library.
  • Thank the volunteer for taking the time to come in and for being excited about our mission. Reiterate to the volunteer the three things that the tool library offers to the community (ie, pay-what-you-can item borrowing and workspace, and free classes), and that we’re an all-volunteer team, so we only exist because of the hard work of volunteers like them.
  • Give the volunteer a tour of our space, if they haven’t gotten one already. Share some of the common tasks that a volunteer might need to do during a shift, and also share some of the outside-of-shift tasks that other volunteers opt for (eg, marketing and outreach, teaching events, repairs, library hardware improvements, etc).
  • Set the volunteer up with WiFi, if they have a smartphone
  • Have the volunteer set up their MyTurn account, if they haven’t already done so
  • Once their MyTurn account is live, verify it grant them admin permissions so that they can catalog and check in/out items
  • Ask what they’re excited about working on, and give tasks as needed for that shift. Some ideas, if nothing obvious presents itself:
    • Show them how to catalog inventory, if there are donations on the cart
    • Organize or tidy up a specific section of the back room. Make sure you give clear goals/suggestions.
    • Try repairing inventory; show them the pile of broken items, how to see the existing maintenance notes in MyTurn, and what to do if the item seems to be un-fixable.
    • Check patrons’ items in and out at the front desk; show them how to do these in MyTurn, and make yourself available to answer questions
    • You can also look at the “volunteer tasks that need to get done” on the whiteboard next to the desk

At the end of the shift

  • Share what brought you in to the tool library initially, and what keeps you coming back
  • Invite them to Slack, and show them some of the most useful channels
  • Show them how to sign up for more shifts on the Google Sheet. Mention that they can come in for whichever shift works best for their schedule, but that folks often have luck picking a specific day of the week and working that shift.
  • Tell them about the coming month's volunteer social events
  • Thank the volunteer again for their time!