What Piedmont AAA Learned from Stepping Up their Volunteer Program

The Aging Network Volunteer Resource Center just wrapped up its first Stepping Up: Take Your Volunteer Program to the Next Level training series of the year. Designed to help AAAs strengthen their volunteer programs, the six-week program provides focused support and assistance to agencies as they develop and begin to implement activities that will increase the number of older volunteers.

The Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC) was one of 25 agencies who participated in Stepping Up. Laura Bolton Plunkett, PTRC's Health Promotion Coordinator, who helps manage the nearly 1,700 volunteers who work with the agency and its funded partners, shared more about the program's Stepping Up experience in a recent interview with n4a staff

How would you describe PTRC's volunteer program?
We are an Area Agency on Aging that serves a 12-county region. We operate on a regional level where we work with over 40 funded partners, and they have their own volunteer efforts where they have volunteers doing a variety of activities such as delivering hot meals, providing transportation and helping facilitate events at senior centers. At our agency itself, we have four different needs for volunteers—Community Advisory Council, Evidence-Based Programming, 12 Planning Committees and Senior Tar Heel Legislators.

What were you reasons for attending the Stepping Up and what were you looking to get out of the series?
The primary reason is that we provide a lot of different services, but we don't have a streamlined way of marketing our volunteer program. We were looking for clear recruitment messages and strategies, clear retention strategies, how do you make sure there isn't volunteer burnout, how do you cater to specific volunteers, how do you evaluate volunteer satisfaction, and how do you make sure they know that they're appreciated.

What were some key takeaways for you?
The series gave us some great ideas about how we can take steps to our goals. I think doing the assessment of our program was incredibly helpful. The one-on-one assistance was very helpful, because we were receiving all this great information, but I couldn't envision concrete steps to make things happen. Through the program we determined our long-term objective and had an “a-ha” moment of what we really needed which was to have a more centralized volunteer program. We were also referred to another volunteer program that was centralized. We were able to talk to this other volunteer program, and they were able to give us some advice and share resources.

What did you learn from the Stepping Up series' capstone project?
We chose to reflect on what we learned and what we were going to do next. Hearing from some of the other volunteer programs really helped as well. We had learned so much over the six weeks. It was nice chance to take step back and reflect on which parts we wanted to focus on.

What are you final thoughts on the program?
It definitely brought to light some really important points—not only how to recruit new volunteers, but also what do we do to keep our volunteers happy and maybe even change some of the things were doing to make sure that's happening—to put them as a priority.

Take a look at slides from PTRC's capstone project, and find out what's next for their volunteer program.

The next Stepping Up series, being offered in partnership with the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center, is designed for Ombudsman programs (or volunteer programs that include Ombudsmen) and begins May 18. For more information or to sign-up, contact Peter Lane, Director, Leadership and Volunteer Development, n4a.



USAging Fact: Learn about your peers’ work—and how it can fit into your agency’s goals! The AIA Awards recognizes successful and innovative programs that USAging members have developed to serve older adults. Get inspiration from our 2023 winners!