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"Good Horsemanship is Built on Solid Basics...So is Good Business!"

Business & Association Development, Marketing, Professional Workshops forthe Horse Industry

by Lisa Derby Oden

Just think about all the activities in this country that rely on volunteer help! Town officials, fire departments, youth leaders and many more, this dedicated group provides the backbone for our organizations. The horse industry has many opportunities for volunteers. Volunteers run our horse shows, muck stalls, provide horse care, clear trails, provide therapeutic support for handicapped riding stables, give riding instruction, and perform a multitude of other organizational activities.

Volunteer development isn't a hit or miss thing. It's components are: understanding motivation, recruitment, training, and recognition/reward

What motivates someone to give freely of their time this way? Many reasons can be given: because they were asked/invited, to have fun, to be creative, to work with friends, to serve the industry, to bring about change, to work with/around horses, to be outside, to add to or update skills and experience, to explore career fields, to be with people, to network, to use free time, to have recognition, to earn school credit, to work with youth, to be a resource, to travel, to be part of a team. List other reasons that you can think of.

Why do volunteers stop? Again, there are a variety of reasons: inadequate orientation/training, position requires more skill or time than volunteer can give, position is perceived as "busy work", no job description, no means for input and ideas, poor supervision, lack of recognition, lack of cooperation with other volunteers, burnout, leaders react negatively to new volunteer participation, position/activity misrepresented, no chance for "advancement".

Where are volunteers found? Using your experience and imagination, list the sources of volunteers that have already participated in the past on committees and projects. Think about the best ways to involve the different groupings that emerge from your list. Have a volunteer information sheet for new volunteers to fill out. It should include name, address, phone, volunteer activities that your group offers, skills and experiences, how much time volunteer has to commit.  Once this information is in hand, a good volunteer opportunity can be matched to the individual. Your organization should create job descriptions for volunteer opportunities, as well as estimated time required for these. This makes volunteering easier for everyone. Think about if you're asked to participate in something. If you can get answers to your questions, you're more likely to say yes. If the > people involved aren't sure of answers, you may get cold feet.

Volunteer training may vary depending on the size of your organization. Training starts with orientation, and can be accomplished one on one or in a larger group of new volunteers. The history of your organization and structure, services provided, calendar of events, projects, and list of officers and staff (if applicable) should be included. Provide a list of tools and resources available to the volunteer, and brainstorm with them about others. Make guidance and support available. Pair new volunteers with experienced volunteers. Furnish a list and phone numbers of other committee members. Provide details about the project to be worked on. If training is available outside your organization, make these opportunities known as well.

Plan for volunteer recognition/reward. Thank your volunteers every opportunity you get. Thank them again. And then thank them again. Mention them in your press releases. Thank them in your newsletter. Have a volunteer recognition celebration. Give out awards. Build an incentive system from number of hours served.

A diverse group of volunteers offers a strong network of talents, skills, ideas and connections. They have the resources and provide the services that contribute greatly to your group's success. A happy volunteer is a tremendous asset, and will spread your group's good word to many others.

(Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and association consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. Oden is author of "Growing Your Horse Business" and "Bang For Your Buck: Making $ense of Marketing For Your Horse Business."  She is the 1999 AHC Van Ness Award recipient for outstanding service to the horse industry. She can be reached at: (603)878-1694; email at; or visit her
website at

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