by Alivia Acosta, ATC Volunteer Development Coordinator

Welcoming New Volunteers

After an individual expresses interest in attending a volunteer opportunity, one great way for an organization to make them feel included is to proactively reach out with a warm welcome. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) recommends that all organizations coordinating volunteers have a ‘welcome wagon’ to support new volunteers’ interest in events.  

Whether you call it a “welcome wagon” or a volunteer liaison, the intent is to cultivate a positive relationship with a person who has signed up so that they feel comfortable and valued in their decision to volunteer. This moves the registration process from the digital space to the human dimension by allowing a new volunteer to have contact with someone they are going to see once they show up.  

Here are some things to include when following up on a new volunteer’s registration:  

  • Provide them with more information about the volunteer opportunity. 
  • Offer to answer any questions that they might have.  
  • Confirm that the individual’s interests, skills, and experience align with the expectations of the volunteer role may also be helpful at this point.  
  • If expectations do not align, then a warm welcome could also look like directing the individual to an alternative volunteer opportunity that may be more suitable for them. 

Enthusiastic welcomes that provide the individual with ample information are more likely to turn a registration into successful volunteer participation. Leaders from the Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers (PATH) hosted a spectacular work trip over the weekend of March 18, 2023, where they recruited six people via the A.T. Volunteer Engagement Platform. Five of these people attended with one cancellation communicated to the club due to an unexpected event. PATH leadership shared that the energy brought by the new volunteers was more than welcome and the weekend was a huge success. This success could be partially attributed to the following joyful email with helpful information that PATH leaders shared with registrants prior to the start of the work trip. Notice how the specific details can help put a new participant at ease.

PATHers and PATHer wannabes, 

Get ready for a super PATH AT work weekend on Saturday, March 18th!  On Saturday we have possibly 35 workers and 24 dinner guests!!! 

The forecast is very cold to cool with some rain showers on Friday, and possibly turning to snow on Saturday morning.  Saturday afternoon and Sunday look good.  Sunrise about 7:30; Sunset about 7:30. 

We will be staying in the pods at the Konnarock trail work center at Sugar Grove, VA on Friday and Saturday nights for those who want to be protected from the rain.  Those 4-walls and roof will feel good, but they are unheated.  Bring the sleeping bags as the night temp is supposed to be down to mid 20s on Saturday night.  We will not have extra sleeping bags.  You can tent if you want to.  PATH leaders will be there to open things up and greet you early on Friday afternoon.  

Please bring your Friday food and your lunch for Saturday.  For the new members and volunteers, there are not many dining facilities in Sugar Grove –  only pizza and Dollar General – so plan ahead.  There are lots of fast food restaurants in nearby Marion.  We will not be providing any meals except a lite breakfast on Saturday morning (oatmeal & fruit) and a gourmet meal of catfish court bouillon, rice, cornbread, salad and pie on Saturday evening graciously provided and prepared by a PATH member.  We will have water and tea as well. 

Please bring your medications, work gloves, eye protection as needed, long pants, hard toe shoes, lunch, and at least 2 liters of water for each workday.  To keep it from raining, you should also bring rain/snow gear!  Chain sawyers already know what additional equipment and protective gear to bring.  All work tools and all other building/painting supplies will be provided by PATH. 

There are still blowdowns to be removed – a work plan for Saturday is attached.  If you see something that needs to be changed or if you are attending and not on the list, please let me know.  We can always modify this plan based on individual needs/preferences.  Let me know any questions…  Safety briefing begins at 8:30 on Saturday morning.