How to Start a Volunteer Anti-Drug Program

How to Start a Volunteer Anti-Drug Program in Your Community

(posted by Hopkins Technology)


ACTION, The Federal Domestic Volunteer Agency, in continuing its leadership role in drug abuse prevention, is pleased to offer this guide as a reference for anyone seeking to expand drug-abuse prevention activities in America.

ACTION is committed to preventing drug abuse before a young person begins experimenting. Our policy is to encourage the Prevention Education concept in the fight against drug abuse.

To accomplish this goal, children at risk of becoming drug users deserve not only love and our good intentions, but also unambiguous support from every part of the community. They deserve parents who are empowered to give their children clear direction, discipline, and the courage to refuse drugs. Traditional support mechanisms for families must reinforce the values, the attitudes and the life style for a drug-free America.

ACTION is committed to mobilizing America's volunteer resources to carry forward our drug abuse prevention policy, and, as enabled by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 (PL 99-570), ACTION seeks to carry out the spirit of the Congress in acting swiftly to deal with the spectre of youth drug abuse.

ACTION is also dedicated to preventing inadvertent drug abuse by America's senior citizens by encouraging programs that alert seniors to the dangers of abuse of prescribed and over-the-counter drugs.

ACTION grant funding strengthens and expands local volunteer activities through support of community coalitions. It seeks private-sector partnerships to ensure the continuation of projects beyond federal funding. ACTION's comprehensive strategy includes a vigorous public awareness and education campaign, training and technical assistance, coalition-building conferences in every state and the distribution of this guide.


Before discussing the development of any volunteer program, a few basics must be covered. In order to perform all of the tasks outlined in this manual, you must be able to answer "yes" to all of the following questions:

  • Do you have a board of directors or governing board?
  • Are you a private, non-profit corporation or public agency?
  • Do you have a tax-exempt status? [501(c)(3)]?
  • Is there an accountant to assist your group when needed?
  • Is there a lawyer who will assist your group when needed?

(The last three points, while not mandatory to begin or run a project, ARE required before you can receive grant resources. For the purpose of this manual, it is assumed that, as part of your overall goal, you will be applying for grants.)

If you answered "yes" to all these questions, you are ready to proceed. Remember, this manual will give you examples, many in great detail, but they are only examples. The purpose of this manual is to describe the principles of organizing, fundraising and volunteer management. It describes model programs that utilize these flexible principles and encourages you to rely on your own creative thinking and that of others who share your goal of a drug free America.

You know a problem exists. You have seen it on television, you've read about it in the paper, you have heard about it from your colleagues, your neighbors, even from your own children. You know now is the time to act, to pull together the resources in your community and approach the issue responsibly, effectively and compassionately. But how to do it? You know there are many groups out there with programs that address drug abuse, but who are they, where are they and how did they get started? You know your local, state, and federal governments have information and resources - funds - but how can you tap into that system to make your own project take off?

You know several equally concerned local business owners or church officials or politicians or service organization members who you would like to see involved in a drug-abuse program, but how do you approach them and get them on board? You know that every good community effort benefits from the most enduring American resource, the volunteer, but how can you get volunteers to help with your project? Where do you find them and how do you manage their work? How do you keep them going when the going gets tough?

You also know that television Channel 7, or maybe Channel 4 aired an anti-drug documentary last fall, and that your local radio stations often run public service announcements for many community groups. How can you get publicity for your project? Who do you talk to at the paper? What goes into a press release? There are, it seems, so many questions that need answers before you can get started, that it all starts to look rather overwhelming. You end up asking yourself, "Do I really want to do this?" Of course you do, because you know you can make a difference; you can help remove the terrible burden drug abuse places on the young, the old, the affluent and the poor, the big cities and the small towns, the local neighborhood and the nation.

This manual will guide you through the first steps. It is designed to lead you through a logical progression, from defining the problem, to setting a goal, to setting up a volunteer organization, raising funds and getting publicity. Along the way, the guide will point out some of the pitfalls to organization creation and management and help you navigate around them. It will help you sort through the maze of acronyms and phrases and publications like HHS, OSAP, DEA, block grant and the Federal Register. Most of all, this guide lets you know that you are not alone in your desire to tackle and eliminate drug abuse in America. Since 1983, ACTION, the Federal Domestic Volunteer Agency, has alone awarded nearly 60 grants totalling almost two million dollars to local parent and community-based organizations similar to the one you are contemplating or have set up. In 1987 alone, ACTION funded 40 demonstration grants for more than one million dollars at an average $34,000 per grant. What is most encouraging is that these grants were matched almost dollar for dollar by private, local or state funds. This "matchability" should tell you that no program is too small or too remote to merit strong local support.

The map that follows illustrates the range and variety of ACTION's anti-drug abuse project grantees; it shows who is doing what, and where they are doing it. Keep in mind that these are only ACTION grantees; if you were to include all other federal, state and local anti-drug projects, there wouldn't be room on the map. Following the map, the guide will highlight 12 of ACTION's grantees, from Project Choice, in Minong, Wisconsin, population 761, to the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens Foundation in Chicago, population three million plus. These projects are representative of the great work being accomplished by concerned parents groups and community organizations across the nation and may serve as a comparison for your project's community size and resources.

Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens Foundation
Over Medication: Senior Citizen and Drug Abuse
Chicago, Illinois, Established 1987
60 Volunteers
ACTION Funding: $35,000
Applicant: $20,220
Total: $55,220
One-Year Project

The Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens Foundation was established to promote the social welfare by advancing the interests, well-being, cultural, civic, educational, social and economic opportunities of the elderly residents of Illinois. The Foundation was established to promote the social needs, interests, status, opinions and problems of Illinois' elderly. In addition, the Foundation promotes educational activities to assist the elderly in meeting their needs, understanding issues and options available to them, improving their capacity to be wise consumers and avail themselves of services. The Foundation's education work takes the form of wide distribution of prepared materials, research projects, forums, workshops, presentations, training sessions, and communications through the mass media.

The overall goal of this project is to reduce the number of older citizens in Illinois who abuse or misuse prescription or over-the-counter medication. To accomplish this, the following goals have been identified:

1) To provide 200,000 Illinois senior citizens with drug abuse/misuse prevention information through eight volunteer-managed satellite centers.

2) To develop an educational program for Illinois' senior population on the abuse and misuse of pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs.

3) To train 60 senior citizen volunteers to help plan and conduct this educational program.

4) To generate community support for the project. 5) To provide recognition of the work or our 60 volunteers and the professionals who have assisted with this project and, 6) To generate 7800 hours of volunteer service in providing drug abuse/misuse educational forums across the state.

The Foundation will develop an educational program utilizing written and audio-visual materials to be presented to seniors' groups by trained volunteers. The Foundation will also plan seven community seminars in 76 different areas of the state.

Project Choice
Northwoods Medical Co-op
Minong, Wisconsin, Established 1976
25 Adult, 25 Youth Volunteers
ACTION Funding: $35,000
Applicant: $31,694
Total: $66,694
Two-Year Grant

The North Woods Community Health Center (NWCHC) is a service of the North Woods Medical Cooperative (NWMC). The cooperative was organized as a non-profit organization in 1976 in response to the extreme lack of available medical care in the Minong-Gordon-Wascott area communities in rural Wisconsin's Douglas and Washburn counties. The CHC's service area is designated as a Medically Underserved Area and a Health Manpower Shortage Area by the Public Health Service. Besides having very few physicians for the population, these designations indicate high unemployment and poverty. Funded, in part, by PHS Rural Health Initiative in 1980, the CHC has provided ambulatory medical care, health education, economic access to services, and a limited drug-abuse program.

Project CHOICE seeks to fill a void in the community through its two-fold approach to drug abuse prevention. One very important aspect of the success of Project CHOICE is the hiring of the project coordinator with ACTION grant funds.

First, Project CHOICE will make available to the target population activities that are positive alternatives to alcohol and other drug abuses. These activities will be operated with the help of a core of volunteers who will be recruited, trained and placed by the Project CHOICE coordinator.

Second, Project CHOICE will use seminars, lectures and presentations to help educate the target group, parents and other community members about drug abuse issues and concerns. In addition, communications skills, family living skills and parenting issues will be addressed. The project coordinator will recruit, train and place a group of volunteers to facilitate this part of the program.

In summary, Project CHOICE will serve the community's needs by organizing the potential of the community itself. Project CHOICE will continue without Federal funding by enabling the community to use its own resources to provide positive alternatives to drug abuse and help strengthen the family unit.

Safe Homes Program
North Platte, Nebraska, Established 1986
100 Volunteers
ACTION Funding: $10,929
Applicant: $7,294
Total: $18,223

SAFE HOMES is a program that enlists parents, schools, students, and communities in the fight against drug and alcohol abuse. Parents who volunteer to provide a home safe from drugs and alcohol are the core or the program. Volunteer SAFE HOMES parents agree to cooperate with schools, law enforcement, and young people to create a healthy atmosphere in which the use of drugs and alcohol is no longer considered the "norm." Parents with children ages ten and older participate in this program. Ten rural communities have expressed an interest in this program and will be the target communities. The anticipation is that an average of 100 parents will be involved in each community. This program would than have an impact upon an estimated 2,000 young people.

The program's message of saying "no" to drugs and alcohol is intended to strengthen the family. From model programs, it has been found that the SAFE HOMES families have strengthened the bond between parents and children and have increased the respect children have for their parents. As students, parents, school, and communities develop the program, the structure will be in place to begin developing positive alternatives for youth.

From contacts in the various communities during our planning process, school administrators, law enforcement personnel, PTA/home school associations, clergymen, and local government officials have expressed a willingness to support the SAFE HOMES program and have expressed a concern regarding the need for this type of programming.

In August, 1986, the Prevention Center was established. The purpose of the Center is to coordinate substance abuse prevention efforts within the region. The primary focus of the Center is to provide technical assistance to schools and parents. During the past eight months, the primary activity of the prevention program has been to support the development of substance-abuse prevention programs in the school systems of the region. Seventeen of the 41 school systems in the region have implemented the "Starting Early" curriculum. A volunteer group in North Platte has developed a puppet program for lower elementary grades that addresses alcohol and drug prevention. A volunteer group in North Platte is presently studying the possibility of developing the SAFE HOMES project.

Community Linkages, Inc.
Chicago, Illinois, Established 1983
ACTION Funding: $16,948.89
Other: $9,927.81
Total: $26,876.70
One-Year Program

Community Linkages provides services to youth, ages 10-21, who reside in economically depressed, minority neighborhoods in Chicago. The services are currently provided to more than 5,000 youth in 22 elementary and secondary schools. The overall purpose of Linkages is substance abuse prevention. The ACTION grant will allow the program 10,000 service hours. The volunteers will provide education and information in substance abuse to school-age youth, families, PTAs, community organizations and agencies (eight new volunteers will make presentations). Included in the programs will be: a 12-week drug prevention/intervention planning course for 7-8 year old girls; adult awareness forums; network meetings of civic, community-school organizations and trained volunteers as well as youth awareness forums.

South Bronx Ministry Neighborhood Development Corporation
Peer Counseling/Family Support
Prevention Program
Bronx, New York, Established 1987
15+ Volunteers
ACTION Funding: $34,500
Applicant: $3,107
State: $26,550
Other: $5,000
Total: $69,157
One-Year Program

The South Bronx Ministry Neighborhood Council was founded by eight Lutheran Congregations to address problems in the South Bronx community. The board is made up of members of each neighborhood congregation. Funding comes from government contracts, church, foundation and corporate grants, and member contributions.

ACTION funds support the peer counseling and family support aspects of this overall drug abuse prevention program, which is implemented in several neighborhood-based congregations. The overall program includes intervention and referrals, and community organizing against drug sales, as well as prevention programs.

The peer counseling and family support aspect of the program will directly affect 250 youth and 75 families in five selected neighborhoods. Those who will benefit indirectly are residents of the five neighborhoods. The goals of this project are:

1) To form five parish centers of drug abuse awareness and referral.

2) To raise awareness of drug abuse among 250 at-risk youth, and to provide healthy alternatives to drug abuse.

3) To create a network of trained peer counselors (teenagers and young adults) who will work with a targeted youth population in a specific neighborhood, and who will be available to speak to churches, schools and other community groups.

4) To strengthen 75 families by establishing parents and youth support groups and by referring members to job training, educational and counseling resources.

Approximately 80% of the population directly involved will be affected positively by the project. The neighborhood at large will benefit in terms of increased stability. A variety of approaches, in both Spanish and English, will be used.

Drug Research and Education Association in Mississippi, Inc.(DREAM)
Jackson, Mississippi, Established 1984
ACTION Funding: $40,000
$50,000+ Private Matching Grants

The ACTION grant assisted DREAM in hosting statewide workshops for young people and encouraging them to join in the "Team Connection Project" (a positive, alternative youth program).

As a direct result of these initial workshops, Teen Connection grew in membership from a few to over 400 young people. Currently the project boasts over 1,000 students with a projection of 3,000-5,000 this year. The increased enthusiasm by the students has indirectly affected the growth of the parent group movement in Mississippi as well.

For example, in Meridian, the volunteer group grew from 15 to over 400, and in Westpoint, the group increased from 25 members to over 60. In every case across the state, the entire community has rallied to support local groups' prevention efforts.

This past year, DREAM produced a one-hour documentary for television which was aired on all three statewide networks, held a drug-free concert with the Beach Boys, and hosted 2,500 young people at a statewide conference.

This group is not only totally self-sufficient but has expanded its efforts far beyond the original commitment to ACTION for a series of workshops for youth. DREAM has attained this status through a yearly donation of approximately $50,000 from the W.E. Walker Foundation. Additionally, DREAM receives many private donations ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. They rely heavily on almost all of the major resource groups.

Substance Abuse Prevention Program Family Crisis Service
Tucson, Arizona, Established 1987
250 Volunteers
ACTION Funding, $35,000
Non-Federal: $45,000
One-Year Program

Families in crisis and families in mediation as a result of domestic violence are at a point where support can make all the difference in their futures. Providing families the support, information, advocacy and resources when they are most likely to use them is a major factor in beginning a positive, rather than negative, family behavior pattern. This program supports the non-use of drugs or provides the help necessary to deal with the problems faced by an addicted family member.

A specialized four-hour training program will be developed, spotlighting the effect of substance abuse on the family, individuals and community. In addition, techniques will be taught and resources developed to provide alternatives to the patterns of substance abuse. Volunteers will be taught how to integrate the information into the client plan.

All volunteers are trained for at least 30 hours before they begin to function as part of a supervised team. Potential volunteers must undergo a thorough background screening due to the sensitivity of their work. The current volunteer pool of 150 volunteers as well as an additional 100 new volunteers will receive this training. The goal is to reach approximately 15,000 people over the coming year.

The success of the program will be measured by follow-up phone calls to a sampling of families. Volunteers will provide follow-up services to the program.

Indiana Federation of Communities for Drug Free Youth
Zionsville, Indiana, Established 1983
ACTION Funding: $20,809
1986 Non-ACTION Funding: $52,472
One-Year Project

The project was funded to establish a permanent office for the Federation to respond to requests for help, produce a quarterly newsletter, establish a traveling panel of speakers, train statewide prevention volunteers and conduct a parenting conference.

The Federation office was established in Indianapolis, with the Indiana Bell Telephone Company providing space and utilities free of charge. The quarterly newsletter was produced and sent to 4,000 addresses including 2,000 schools. The initial workshop on parenting attracted 78 participants. Twenty-one of these participants returned to their communities to conduct workshops. The traveling panels of speakers visited 19 communities during the grant. A second workshop was held on suicide and was attended by 170 persons, far beyond the Federation's expectation of 25 participants. The statewide conference held in 1984 grew to 160 participants.

The project has continued, following the completion of the ACTION grant, through a $35,000 grant from the Community Services Block Grant Program. The state has been divided into four regions, with a volunteer coordinator in each region. The 1985 statewide conference attracted 265 participants. Impending conferences for school teachers are planned for the northern, central and southern regions of the state. National spokespersons will participate in these conferences. At present there are about 170 parent groups organized in the state and linked to the Federation. In 1986, the project was awarded $52,472 under the state's Community Service Block Grant to continue for a second year.

Marshall County Substance Abuse Prevention Program
Marshall-Jackson Mental Health,
Guntersville, Alabama, Established 1987
ACTION Funding: $34,992
Applicant: $27,520
Two-Year Program

The overall purpose of the Marshall-Jackson Mental Health Program is to provide quality mental health care, including preventive, diagnostic treatment and follow-up services. Professional services are delivered through several divisions: substance abuse prevention, consultation and education; residential and outpatient substance abuse treatment; adult outpatient counseling; family and child services and day treatment. Two major accomplishments of the Marshall-Jackson County Mental Health Program are

1) substance abuse prevention - a priority with administrative and board members, and

2) family therapy - the primary mode of treatment for all problem areas. The Superintendents from the five school districts in the county and law enforcement officials are also active participants in the project. Some of the school districts have designated their share of the Department of Education's funding to the school districts to support the county-wide coalition.

The goals of the project are to establish a Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition to access local problem areas and make recommendations designed to make the greatest impact on identified needs; to involve as many young people and adults as possible in county-wide activities and area projects designed to help others to utilize ideas, skills and the energy of young people and to effectively guide them into adulthood. The community will be mobilized to recognize an act upon two priorities - strengthening family relationships and providing drug-free alternatives for families and youth.

Office of the District Attorney
Cortez, Colorado, Established 1985
100 Volunteers
ACTION Funding: $34,500
Applicant: $3,150
Local: $16,380
Total: $54,030

ACTION to Prevent Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Montezuma County, Colorado will incorporate the DARE To Be You prevention program to provide family strengthening activities, life skills, and mechanisms to help youth find positive alternatives to drug and alcohol abuse. Four communities in the country will participate, including the Ute Mountain Ute Indian community of Towoac. Emphasis will focus increased responsibility, communication and peer resistance skills and decision making skills - in other words, just saying "no." The program will also develop family communications and support systems, and improvement of community role models.

Four teams of community volunteers representing a cross section of each community (including adults from many organizations, teen leaders, and senior citizens) will be trained, provided technical assistance as part of their training, and given materials to provide strategies, activities and workshops to 8-12 year olds, teen groups, parents and other adult role models. The volunteers will be monitored over the year for quantity and quality of programs provided and target audiences reached.

In addition, the training model will be tested with high-risk teens and their parents. A series of teen workshops will be developed through the juvenile diversion project, the areas alternative high school, and youth serving organizations at Towoac, the Ute Mountain Ute tribal community.

An evaluation component will test the effectiveness of the project on high risk youth.

Families in Focus, The Cottage Program International
Salt Lake City, Utah, Established 1973
150 volunteers in a community-based organization
ACTION Funding: $35,000
Applicant Funds: $30,032
Local Funds: $38,801
Other Funds: $71,500
Total: $175,333
One-Year Project

The Cottage Program is a community-based organization with 15 years of experience in the prevention of alcoholism and drug abuse. The Cottage Program recruits and trains hundreds of volunteers in Salt Lake City annually and is responsible for the mobilization of several hundred more across the State.

The Cottage Program consists of two important clusters of activities: basic Cottage activities and community mobilization activities. The former constitutes face-to-face and other interactions to reeducate the community, while the latter includes those activities designed to involve local resources sufficient to accomplish program objectives. The two key components of the Cottage Program are targeted electronic and personal outreach in preselected neighborhoods and the small group process. Together, our Families in Focus Family Friendship Circle (FFC) Program and the Cottage Meeting Program provide an effective vehicle for accomplishing these prevention activities. Neighborhood campaigns are conducted by volunteer cluster groups across the State of Utah. In fiscal year 1986, 1,941 volunteers provided over 29,000 hours of services to 119,000 individuals. Over the past several years, the Program has identified over 27,000 families with a history of substance abuse, thus enabling direct access to them and other high risk youth.

The Cottage Program provides the primary support for the statewide Voluntary Alcoholism Health Association (VAHA) including the statewide 800 toll-free "life line." FFC members work in close coordination with VAHA. As a benefit of their membership or participation in volunteer activities, these families receive quarterly prevention materials on various aspects of preventing substance abuse.

The Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service (CES) is part of a nationwide system. It is devoted to practical, applied education for real-life problems. Campus-based personnel, through their network of field offices in every county in Utah, coordinate the efforts of over 8,000 volunteers working with over 57,000 youth. Now, a unique opportunity exists to network with this rich new reservoir of volunteer resources to prevent substance abuse among high-risk youth.

Families in Focus will select and train 150 volunteers to provide in-home prevention services to 450 high risk families. FFC volunteers will be trained and matched with families an adolescents to help them learn how to alter unhealthy behavior patterns which are predictive of alcohol and drug abuse. Select members of the 4-H Youth for America and 4-H volunteer leaders will receive training and work directly with youth at risk. Youth for America will be formed into a subgroup, Youth Against Substance Abuse (YASA), which will assume the responsibility for community education, i.e. religious groups and public schools.

This program intends to expand the FFC program, expand YASA education service and train 150 volunteers.

Against Crime Together In Our Neighborhood (ACTION)
Tampa, Florida, Established 1985
ACTION Funding: $35,000
Applicant: $18,955

The project will use team leaders and professionals, resident councils and volunteers who will work as drug/alcohol abuse teams of educators in the target area. The project will advertise through a variety of media. The drug/alcohol abuse prevention education and training initiatives will be offered in the public housing projects, through established Resident Councils, to survey, identify and recruit the residents of each of nine targeted public housing areas and other low-income neighborhoods to participate in their projects. They will also be asked to assist the local feeder schools in the registration of these prospective student-participants in enrollment and retention in after-school programs.

Begun in 1985, ACTION, Inc. was established as a community-based, self-help advocacy agency with a special focus on inner-city public housing tenants. It acted through the development of a homeless youth center, a drop-out prevention program, an offender placement program, and values counseling.

In response to these needs, ACTION, Inc. will organize two teams of professionals from the drug, alcohol, and mental health professions, law enforcement, education and ACTION staff volunteers. Each team will travel to specific public housing areas and conduct a "town meeting on Drug/Alcohol Abuse Prevention" twice weekly for the first month, covering 16 sites during that time.

VISTA Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program
Montgomery, Alabama, Established 1982
ACTION Funding: $237,918
Three-Year Project

In April, 1982, 31 Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) volunteers were assigned to the Alabama Department of Mental Health, the single state agency for alcohol and drug abuse prevention.

Individual VISTA volunteers were assigned to mental health centers throughout the state, operated by the Department, to organize volunteer parent groups to stop the use of illegal drugs by youth in low-income communities.

During the three years the project was in operation, 56 low-income volunteer parent groups were organized. The VISTA volunteers were initially trained by the organizer of low-income volunteer parents groups in Washington, D.C. and periodic follow-up training sessions were organized by the local mental health centers responsible for the volunteers' daily supervision. A Drug Awareness Day was organized in Tuscaloosa, and more than 1,000 people participated in the activities.

The VISTA project was highlighted at the First Annual Governor's Conference on Drug Awareness at which Mrs. Reagan was a keynote speaker. The project ended in April, 1985; however, many of the parent groups have continued on their own and have developed successful anti-drug abuse campaigns.


These programs all have one thing in common: motivated, confident and tenacious founders who, like you, set out to confront drug abuse in their neighborhoods, communities and states. They are successful in their programs because they took a logical series of steps to plan, organize and then proceed with their projects. To begin with, they all defined their goals realistically. They asked themselves, "What do we want to do, ultimately, and what can we do now, with what we have available?" Defining a long-term goal and breaking it down into a series of achievable, increasingly challenging milestones is key to any successful project.

If your goal is to eliminate drug abuse in your state, but you have only a few partners - your husband, your wife, or a small group of friends who want to help - you should keep the ultimate goal in sight, but set up intermediate or stepping-stone goals that will lay the groundwork for long-term success. Starting a project to eliminate drug abuse in your neighborhood school, for example, is well within the reach and resources of even the smallest organization, and it will be an important first entry in your organization's resume. It is also a goal that builds your credentials and credibility, which are, by the way, two very valuable items in garnering financial support.

Breaking down the long-range goal into achievable milestones, though, requires the most elementary step: defining the problem or, simply, getting the facts. Rhetoric about drug abuse abounds. The media pronounces new statistics or opinions regularly, and adults and children apply them in their daily conversations without really knowing how the information applies to their neighborhoods, schools, cities or states. It is critical to the success of your program that you sort through the data and collect what you believe to be accurate to make your case. The support you seek, the volunteers you bring on board, the applications you fill out when applying for grants all assume you have done your homework and that you are objectively seeking solutions to a well-defined problem.

Where can you go to get the information to support your project?

In this guide's appendix are listed many state and federal sources of information about drug abuse. At the local level, you might begin at city hall or at the county council or with your city or county health and law enforcement departments. Ask for interviews with these departments' public affairs officials, or, if you live in a relatively small, or rural locale, the heads of the departments themselves. Take the role of an investigative reporter and ask the who, what, whys and wheres of the drug abuse problem. Talk to school principals, guidance counselors and members of the student government. These are all people who share your concern and who deal with or are associated with drug abuse. You want to know the history of drug abuse in your community; you'll need to know what kinds of drugs are being used, how young people are gaining access to them, how many kids are involved and what effect drug abuse is having on the community.

The same methodical approach is appropriate for any problem definition; the inadvertent abuse of over-the-counter and prescription drugs by senior citizens is also a serious problem, and one which, if you have a goal to address it, requires the same research techniques. Talk to your neighborhood pharmacist and/or pharmacists' association as well as ACTION offices, State offices on aging, university aging centers and gerontological societies for background information on senior drug abuse. Seek out local health officials who specialize in senior citizen health care to help you understand the scope of the problem. These are just examples, but they serve to illustrate the key to overcoming drug abuse: know the problems in order to develop the solutions.

Once you have collected sufficient information to support your own concept of your program, it is time to pull it all together and draw up a plan of action. You have the facts, figures, references and contacts under-pinning your project; your overall goal is clear and you have defined achievable milestones toward that goal. Now what?


If you already have formed an advisory council or project board, you have already shared your findings and conclusions as a team. If you have been working without such a group up to this point, now is the time to create one. It is important to the longevity of volunteer organizations that they have a core of responsible, respected and interested citizens - young people as well as adults for a positive balance - willing to serve as the organization's anchor. The council need not be comprised of the most affluent, most social or most high-profile professionals. While influential "names" look good on letterhead, the stability and sincerity of those who form the nucleus will carry the organization through the rough times. Your priest, pastor or rabbi, the family doctor, your attorney or a recommended colleague, an accountant known for his or her work with similar organizations, the local school principal, the manager or owner of a well-established business - they all have much to recommend them for positions on your board. And because drug abuse crosses all social and economic segments or society, each one of your board members or advisors has a vested interest in helping the organization achieve its goal.

See also Growing Up Drug Free: A Parent's Guide To Prevention

Most successful people enjoy - and are flattered by - requests for help. Don't be shy about asking someone to serve on your council. The old saying "If you want something done, as a busy person," is absolutely true when setting up a volunteer organization. In addition, building a core with successful professionals will also provide your volunteers with men and women they can respect and to whom they can look for encouragement.

You now have: A long-range goal (eliminate drug abuse); one or more short-term goals or milestones (stop drug abuse in the local school); information (results of meetings, pamphlets, guides, library research, etc.) and; an advisory board or council. The next task toward building a long-lasting program is the development of a work plan - a thorough outline of objectives and the needs, budgets, resources and things-to-do to accomplish those objectives. This is where you turn your den, office, conference room or other work area into a project planning room. Invest in a supply of poster board and marking pens, of, if you have access to one, a write-on/wipe-off wall planner or similar planning board. This is not a "need" so don't be extravagant if poster board or large newsprint tablet is available.

The goal is to construct a flow chart(s) that will serve as guides for you and the advisory group, and which will also, in simplified form, serve well to illustrate your program to volunteers, potential contributors, sponsors and the press. A flow chart or other planning device should not reflect a rigid concept. Few, if any, organizations start up and make it through the first year or two without course changes, crises, additions to the goals, variations in staff, or fluctuations in income. Be prepared to be flexible, but at least start out with a logical schematic that encompasses your best planning.


On the first board, write your "ultimate" goal. For the purposes of example, print: "Eliminate Drug Abuse in the State." Now, tack that board up high where it can easily be seen and not forgotten. On a second board, repeat that goal, but put it in a box labeled "Goal" and center this goal near the top of the board. It is to this goal that all your subsequent boxes will be subservient.

The remaining boxes will define the objectives, methods, activities and costs associated with the program. The examples on the next two pages are illustrative only, but can serve as guides to any work plan.


Objectives are the ways in which you believe your purpose will be achieved. For the purpose of addressing drug abuse in your local school, two objectives would be: community awareness and student participation. There are many more, but to keep the chart simple, focus on these two objectives.


In order to meet your objectives, you need to apply methods: "methods" describe what your organization "does." The methods to achieve community awareness include press conferences, printing and distributing flyers, speaking before civic and service associations, and hosting a fundraising dinner. Similarly, methods for increasing student participation might include sales, contests, dances, and the creation of a drug-crisis "hot line."


Activities are the heart of the organization: once you have defined what activities will support your methods - what your volunteers can do and/or what resources must be applied to achieve your objectives - you can lay out the logistics of the organization: the number of volunteers needed, the phones, paper, pens, pencils, typewriters, and copy machine rentals necessary to support it all. Actions are action steps and they enable you to develop both a work plan and a budget.

Remember: do not overextend yourself during this first phase of the organization. Take a realistic look at the problem and develop an efficient, reasonable work plan. You can always expand on a good plan.

Budget Plan:

With the goal, objectives, methods and activities in place, you can now plan the organization's budget. By attaching costs to each of the activities you will see the budget emerge. Always consider donated materials and in-kind services in lieu of actual expenses, but for the purposes of the planning chart, write in the value of everything needed to support your activities.

Year-Long Work Plan:

Now you have all the information you need to develop a year-long work plan. This is a monthly breakdown of your activities that will keep you organized, and also give you something comprehensive to show potential contributors - businesses, civic groups and foundations.


1. Set Your Goal (Eliminate Drug Abuse)

2. Define Objectives (Stop drug abuse in local school; Create alternative program for at-risk youth in community)

3. Lay Out Methods to Support Objectives (Set up local hotline; publish anti-drug abuse newsletter.)

4. Develop Activities That Support the Methods (Bake sales; auctions; door-to-door solicitations; banquets; conferences, etc.)


The year-long plan is the jumping-off platform for the two most critical early management operations: Fundraising and Volunteer Recruitment. These operations are dependent on each other; fundraising provides the financial support necessary to keep your volunteers working, and the volunteers' work justifies the need to raise funds. In addition, volunteers are often the most effective fundraisers. They are certainly integral to any fundraising activity.

In the early stages of the organization's life, you and/or the program's initial supporters will be solely responsible for getting the funds you need to begin. In all likelihood you have already contributed some or all of the initial operating expenses and materials. That is called "sweat equity" for obvious reasons. With the year-long plan in hand, it is time to consolidate your efforts and get about the business of raising the funds and services that will fuel the project, and recruiting the volunteers who will make it go. To a great extent, these two operations are concurrent, but this guide will separate them for clarity.

There are some fundraising tasks that can be handled by one or two people - usually the organization's founders - and others that really require volunteers. Proceeding in a logical order, this guide will break down the fundraising/volunteer recruiting operations into three chapters:

  • Start up Fundraising and Grantsmanship
  • Long-Term Fundraising
  • Volunteer Recruitment

Start-up Fundraising

Step one in any fund-raising effort is determining needs. As you developed your year-long plan, some short-term, or start-up, needs became apparent: office supplies, something to type upon, a phone, copying expenses and the like. Most of the materials needed to get a basic volunteer program office up and running can and should be donated, including office space, telephones and copying machines.

This raises a new question. Should you ask for the money you need to buy an item, or ask for the item itself? In other words, which items can you Probably have donated "in-kind," which ones Possibly in-kind, and how much cash will you need to raise for the rest? To find out, refer to the poster boards again and list your "needs" in the first four columns, then label the other columns, "Probable in-kind," "Possible in-kind," and "Cash."

To decide which is appropriate, use your common sense and think of what is most available in your community. One item's cost can be divided up, listed in two columns. This means that you anticipate getting half the cost donated for a particular item - printing, for example.

A. Probable In-Kind

List the items you have from your "Probable in-kind list, followed by the cost, if they were purchased, and at least three potential donors.

Movie (for example, "Epidemic I or II")
Approximate Cost - $500.00
Potential Donors: School District
Civic Group
City or County Health Department

Project Rental/Purchase (16mm)
Approximate Cost - $480.00
Potential Donors School District or School (possible open loan)
Audio-Visual Supply Business (used model)
City or County Health Department

Office Space
Approximate Cost - $6,000.00
Potential Donors City or County Government
School District
Local, Unused Store Front
Business Office

B. Possible In-Kind Do the same for items listed under "possible in-kind." Add "Or cash needed" to the list of potential donors.

Hand-out materials (Basic information on issues plus summary of group)
Approximate Cost - $240.00
Potential Donors: Local Print Shop
Local Newspaper
Business with Printing Capability
Or Cash Need

Drug Information Sets (For general distribution, requests for information, etc.)
Approximate Cost - $1,000.00
Potential Donors: Local Print Shop
Local Newspaper
School District
Or Cash Need

Conference Room Rental
Approximate Cost - $500.00
Potential Donors Hotel
City or County Auditorium
Or Cash Need

Newsletter Preparations (Lay out, typeset, paste-up)
Approximate cost - $600.00
Potential Donors Local Print Shop
Local Newspaper
School District or Business with Appropriate Capability
Or Cash Need

Newsletter Printing
Approximate Cost - $1,200.00
Potential Donors Local Print Shop
Local Newspaper
School District or Business with Appropriate Capability
Or Cash Need

The Pitch

What do you say when you're sitting down in someone's office and t they've given you 15 minutes of their time to make your case? The keys to a successful pitch for donated time, space or materials are:

  • Upbeat, sincere and professional presentations. Know your facts and be prepared to back them up. Nicely printed, one or two page summaries of the work plan will add to the presentation.

  • Acknowledgement that the individual or business you are addressing has a vested interest in eliminating drug-abuse in the community. Remember that businesses are penalized by drug abuse, too.

  • A sincere offer to include the individual or business in the program in the long run. Everyone likes to feel needed.

  • The possibility of sponsoring a community awareness event.

When making direct appeals for funds to pay for office or operating expenses that you cannot get donated, the same keys are used to open funding doors, but there are some additional strategies. For example:

  • Be specific; don't ask for $1,500 to cover "general costs." Ask for 12 months of basic phone service, or half-a-year's basic copier cost. The point is to ask for support for a service that lets the individual contributor say, "I paid for their phones," or, "We're taking care of their copying expenses."

  • Be sure to follow your meetings with a letter thanking the people with whom you met, regardless of the outcome. The individual or business that didn't contribute today, may be able to do so tomorrow.


You have begun to get the office underway - you've had several meetings with your board of directors or advisors and put together a year-long plan that you believe accurately reflects the organization's financial needs for the next 12 to 24 months. For example only, it appears that your first year's expenses will be about $22,000, including the basic start-up costs of $6,000. Of the start-up costs, you have been able to get all but $1,500 donated in materials and/or services, and you successfully raised the $1,500. Still short $16,000, and lacking the volunteer base to stage large fundraising functions, you have to turn to fundraising efforts that can be performed by you, or the founders, with your still-limited resources. In general, direct mail campaigns and grant applications are the avenues of choice, but, since direct mail is also an ongoing, long-term event, we'll address that after volunteer recruitment and concentrate on grant applications on the following pages.

While grants are considered by some to be almost mystical in nature, they are, in fact, so wide-spread as sources of funding that they are available to the smallest program imaginable, pumping out hundreds of millions of dollars every year to groups ranging from those wishing to save rare salamanders to those exploring the inner workings of atomic nuclei. Federal, state, and local government grant sources and private foundations are in place to encourage initiatives by groups such as yours, continuing the American entrepreneurial tradition with the philosophy that the development of your program will benefit society. Though a grant may seem to be a "no-strings" proposition, successfully applying for one demands sufficient documentation up front to justify their distribution. The need for detailed documentation is just another reason for you to develop a realistic and detailed year-long plan. A discussion of all the possible permutations and combinations of grants requires several volumes of reference books, limiting this guide to federal grant techniques and some general comments about state and local grants. However, there are some basic points that apply to all grant and foundation applications:

  • Read the instructions, then re-read them.

  • Follow the instructions faithfully and address all points in the application. If you cannot respond to a certain point, provide an explanation.

  • When writing a proposal or narrative:

    -Keep it neat, clean and easy to read. Stay away from gimmicks, "cute" paper, theatrical type-faces, and any other tempting inventions of graphic-oriented word processing.

    -Write in English. Avoid bureaucratese at all costs.

    -Make it brief. Say what you have to say and say it clearly, avoid adjectives and redundancies, and end it.

    -Do not beg. Be in control, be assertive, but don't be flippant.

    -Be positive. Avoid descriptions of any negative aspects of your organization - stress only the positive.

    -Avoid unsupported assumptions. Just because you know the program intimately, you must assume the grantor does not and be prepared to supply documentation to support your claims.

    -Don't patronize the grantor. Your application is, itself, evidence that you are interested in them.

    -Don't overkill with data, charts, graphs or maps. If the grantor wants to know more, you will be asked.

To take advantage of the grants' market, you need to know what grants are out there. For Federal grants, the best source is the Federal Register, which is the publication of record for all Federal government agencies. Published by the Government Printing Office, you can subscribe for $340 per year, or $170 for six months. See the appendix for further information. In the Register you will find interesting esoterica such as agency name changes, requests for proposals (RFP's) for all manner of projects, and, of interest to you, grant announcements. Most local libraries have access to the Federal Register, or, if you live in or near a city with a Federal building, you can contact staff there for access to the Register. Additional sources for the Register are colleges and universities, ACTION Regional or State offices and large social service agencies. The Register lists all Federal agencies alphabetically, with each listing further broken down into "Notices," "Rules and Regulations," and "Proposed Rules." Grants come under the heading of "Notices," with the subtitle, "Availability of Funds." Following is an example of a grant notice from ACTION. Note that this particular notice has expired and is reproduced as an example only:

The agency address and phone number are listed at the end of the notice, and it is to this address you should mail your request for an application. The request should only be that: a simple letter asking for an application. The chance for creative writing will come in the mail with the application. There is also a phone number. You can call to request an application from any given agency, but a mailed request is preferable. What you will get back is reproduced, in part, on the following pages.

The following reproduction of a Federal Assistance application illustrates the complexity of the form and the need to follow the instructions. When filling out a Federal Assistance form or any similar state or local grant application, adhere to the general rules mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. Your application is going to be reviewed by any number of individuals and, in some instances, "scored" according to the individual agency's criteria or that particular grant. By holding to a simple and clear writing style and following the application's directions, you may or may not enhance your chances of success, but you will endear yourself to those who review the application. By the way, you can ask if there will be a scoring applied to the grant applications. If it will be scored, you should ask for the scoring criteria.

Some additional points to consider:

  • Obtain your state agencies' mailing lists for state grants.

  • When considering any application, be sure that what your project is offering is germane to the mission of the agency or foundation to which you are applying. Know your market.

  • The importance of having a third-party endorsement attached to your application cannot be overstressed. Another group's support of your program - particularly if that group is a well-established business or association - lends credibility to your effort and is a sign that you are already capable of marketing your project.


The Direct Mail Campaign

This method of fundraising is relatively inexpensive but requires a great deal of time and effort. Put simply, a direct mail campaign is sending letters requesting financial contributions to a specific, and carefully chosen, list.

Try to get the stationery and the printing donated. It is assumed that if you use a word processor, you will be able to get it donated.

1. The trick is to capture the reader's attention. You want those who read your letter to send you money. Now, you need to decide who you want to sign your letter. This is vital to the success of your mailing. Picking a few names in your area who are in the public eye, respected, liked by "everybody," and willing to help, especially where kids are concerned.

Some examples of this kind of person include sports stars, newscasters, public officials (non-partisan), and benefactors. Do not choose someone to sign your letter who will antagonize the majority of your audience. Ask your signer if you may send the letter out on his personal stationery - no address, just his name printed on the top of the sheet.

As an option to using personal stationery: if your advisory board is comprised of respected and known community members, use your organization's stationery with their names printed along the left-hand margin.

2. Almost at the very moment you decide to launch a direct mail campaign, start compiling a mailing list.

Gather membership lists of your organization and other groups to which your members might also belong. Add groups with some affinity to your purpose and goals, such as the medical society and auxiliary, and pharmaceutical societies. Be sure to consult with legal counsel about any restriction placed upon the use of various lists for fundraising.

There are businesses which produce and sell mailing lists comprised of specific kinds of groups. Set a target for the number of names you need. If your organization is located in a rural or lightly populated area, 100 names for the first mailing is a good start. For groups near or in large cities, a 500-name list is appropriate. Add names until you have an appropriate list. Once the list is final, start getting the envelopes typed. This is where volunteers come in handy. DO NOT USE LABELS! At this point, make a decision about return envelopes. They cost a bit more but can result in bigger gains for your efforts. If you do enclose self-addressed envelopes, don't put stamps on them. Consult your local post office about business reply mail.

3. Decide whether or not you want to "personalize" each letter, using a word processor. If you do this, remember that each letter will then have to be signed individually, or have the signature printed - which can be costly.

4. Draft the letter! You will note some important characteristics of this letter. Toss in some one-line, "grabber," paragraphs. First describe the problem, and then present your group as a solution. Ask directly for a contribution, spelling out a few areas where their money can be used. Include a P.S. to ask once again for the contribution TODAY. When you list possible amounts, do not put them in order from smallest to largest, mix them up.

Be sure your letter is upbeat, but serious in tone and repeat the name of your group several times.

5. Take your draft letter to your signer and, once he or she has approved and signed it, it is ready to print. Any group worth its salt ought to be able to get the printing of a fundraising letter donated or done at cost.

6. There are three basic points to remember when following up on your mailing: Send a thank you letter. Send one to everyone on your list. If, after two mailings, you receive no response from a particular individual on your list, purge the name. Replace every two purged names with three new ones.

7. Send a mailing approximately twice each year, once in early March and once in mid-October. At all costs, avoid the holidays and the summer.

Large Events

Large fundraising events can range in complexity, from a fundraising dinner to a concert with the main sponsoring group benefiting from ticket sales and smaller groups raising funds by running the concession stands.

The Fundraising Dinner There are two vital components of a fundraising dinner: marketing and style. Marketing determines the dinner's success and style determines whether or not people will return to your next dinner.

1. Form a small planning committee for the dinner. One person will be in charge of the overall planning; another oversees the speaker, entertainment, and "extra touches" such as table centerpieces and decorations. The most critical job goes to the marketing coordinator and the last of the four oversees printing. First, decide when, approximately, the event should be held. Try for late September/early October. If you absolutely have no other alternative, late April might be acceptable.

Once the date is chosen (with at least two options), it is time to line up a speaker and a location. Your speaker is very important. He or she can be major "draw" or a liability. Try to pick someone who does not appear in your area often, but is well known.

Brainstorm with your group to come up with a list of potential speakers. With a little research you should be able to secure addresses for those potential speakers on your list. Write to each of them but do not formally invite them; your first letter should determine simply whether they are available for the date(s) of the event and what, if any, fees are involved. Based on the returning correspondence or phone calls from the speakers, or very likely, a member of their staff, you may then send a formal invitation.
Note that there are many organizations that operate speakers' bureaus or maintain listings of local- or regional-area speakers. ACTION also maintains a drug-abuse speakers' bureau, referenced in the appendix. Although the chances are slim, some of the speaker's fees might be donated to your cause. Ask! If it is not already clear, you should always try to get whatever you need donated.

Simultaneously, call several good hotels in your area to ask if their ballrooms are appropriate and available. There are many other choices for large indoor facilities, including fire stations, school or church multi-purpose rooms, service organization halls, etc.

2. Print your invitation and tickets. To sell the tickets, your marketing coordinator should form a "ticket tree." If your goal is to sell 500 tickets, he should form a ten-person committee who will be responsible for selling 50 tickets each.

3. The chairman of the dinner should work with the marketing coordinator to communicate with the press before the event. A table should be set aside at the dinner as a complimentary press table (in the back) and news releases should be written before and after the event. This is a very good opportunity to flavor your press release with anti-drug abuse quotes from the White House and/or state or local government representatives. Listed in the appendix are some Federal resources for anti-drug policy language.


Many groups require a fee for newsletter subscriptions. Others advertise a need for "members," requesting more in contributions. Some organizations appeal to a potential "joiner's" sense of status by offering "gold, silver, and bronze" memberships at varying costs. Others use words like "sustaining" or "life."

This kind of technique works well for libraries, museums, and restoration societies, where status plays an important role.

Special members get special treatment. It is just that simple. So, if you want to be successful in developing high priced, "special" memberships, be sure that you have something to offer, and make it clear what that something is. Otherwise, stick with membership costs which correspond to the member (individual, group, etc.) and at least cover the costs of your newsletter, once you have a track record with it.

Contributions From Business/Civic Groups

This is probably the most common method drug prevention groups use to raise funds, primarily due to the large number or civic groups, associations, and organizations who have declared drug prevention as a major focus during the past several years.

Many groups have found a trip to the local service club good not only for educating more people, but also for getting "emergency" contributions.

When making a presentation before a civic or business group, be upbeat and professional. Begin by talking a little bit about the group, then put in close-to-home terms exactly what the drug program is in your area. If possible, have as a speaker a former drug abuser. The "true stories" pitch, when authentic and delivered sincerely, is a great motivational tool and may help the "deep pockets" in the audience reach a little deeper.

At the end of the presentation, give the group specific ways of helping you. Before you can raise funds, though, you must ask. A lot of people new to fundraising are embarrassed when asking for money. But remember, these civic and business groups will probably think less of you if you do not ask. They expect it and many, not knowing what to do for a specific project, need to find a group like yours to whom they can make a contribution and thus fulfill a national requirement.

Small Events

Small events are those which take one month or less to plan and stage. With any event involving sales to the public, especially where food is concerned, talk to your city or county office and obtain proper permits, if necessary.

Spring Auction - An auction can be a successful fundraiser for your group and become a fun annual event by stressing family participation. The auction should be held at a local fairgrounds, school, or similar facility. Find an authentic auctioneer or local celebrity to sell donated materials and, as a perfect compliment to the auction, schedule a youth talent contest to entertain the crowd between sales.

Items for the auction can be found from a variety of sources.

One or two big items could really increase the money you make, a trip or a television, for example.

Advertise the auction/talent show by printing simple fliers. Have a concession stand on hand to raise even more funds.

Autumn Harvest Festival -
In mid-October, a "harvest festival" is a great way to make money and have fun. Almost every home gardener has an overabundance of some vegetable each year, usually tomatoes or zucchini, which could be donated along with home-made crafts and other items to set up a weekend market, or harvest festival.

Pick a site which is highly visible - on a major street, for example. Talk to a local rental agency and ask them to donate a canopy tent for the weekend. To market the festival, print low cost fliers, distribute them door-to-door in nearby shopping centers.

Once again, make sure you talk with local authorities before you begin planning such an event to make sure you have the necessary permits. Also, in order to ensure security, have at least four or five group members there at all times.

The Year-Long Fundraising Plan

The year long fundraising plan is a simple document which takes all of the fundraising activities you intend to have for the year and breaks down each one into monthly responsibilities.


Now to the heart of your organization: volunteers - how to get them, how to keep them. There are several good reference works available to help you with volunteer recruitment and management, and they are listed in the appendix. This chapter will provide an overview of those techniques, but the keys to working with volunteers are the same keys used to work with anyone. They are:

  • honesty
  • common sense
  • respect
  • cooperation

You can make a lot of mistakes getting your program up and running - but if you maintain a close association with your volunteers, if you bring them into the process of planning, organizing and operations, they will pull the organization through the tough times. Conversely, the best planned and organized project - no matter how well conceived or funded - will not run if the volunteers are made to feel less than what they are: invaluable. Given that principal foundation, the effective use of volunteers requires the application of a number or basic management principles, including organization and planning. The approach involves the following elements:

  • Job development and descriptions
  • Recruitment
  • Screening, orientation, and training
  • Supervision an evaluation
  • Retention and recognition

A planned approach to managing each volunteer position involves effective implementation of all these elements in the order in which they are shown.

Developing Volunteer Job Descriptions

You already know what you want the volunteers to do...don't you? Writing a job description (drag out the poster board again) will not only give the volunteer(s) a clear picture of their role in the organization, it will give you a tangible reference tool and will reduce the likelihood of disputes over assignments and duties. It tells them what they will be doing and why they are doing it. If written properly, it will show each volunteer that his or her assignment is directly linked to the long range goal (remember the poster hanging high on the wall at headquarters?). In addition, as you go through the regular process of volunteer evaluations, the job description is the template by which you will measure the volunteer's performance.

Key points to remember in developing volunteer job descriptions.

  • Be sure to involve staff and volunteers in developing their job descriptions. Only by asking for volunteer comments will you set activities and goals that are within the capabilities of each volunteer. In addition, participation in the creation of the role will enhance the cooperative atmosphere of the organization.

  • Make certain that your description of the proposed work to be done by the volunteers defines both activities and goals - what they will be doing and why. Let them know - often - how they help the organization achieve its mission of helping the community.

  • Remember that the job description is not a static document. It should be updated regularly to match any change in either the job or the volunteer.

Volunteer Recruitment

The methods for volunteer recruitment can be divided into two general categories: mass recruitment and targeted recruitment. Each has its merits, but for quality staffing, and getting precise fits to your job description, targeted recruitment is the method of choice.

Mass Recruitment - effective only when you require a large number of volunteers who will be expected to work for only a short period of time (such as a weekend special event), and who will be performing jobs that do not require any high level of skill or commitment.

Mass recruitment takes advantage of readily available pools of people: schools, senior citizen centers, churches, civic associations, etc. Flyers, handouts, bulletin board announcements, appeals through public service announcements and other media-related announcements, all are effective broadcasting tools for mass recruitment. With the exception of electronic media announcements, mass recruitment costs are very low - poster board you've got a lot of that), access to a copier (it's the one you arranged to have donated) to reproduce flyers, and shoe leather to walk your notices around town.

Just remember: the volunteers you find through mass recruitment are short-term resources. As happens often, you may attract long-term volunteers from that group, but let that occur naturally. You will find that in the net that brings in a large number of volunteers, a few will find your project to their liking and approach you for greater involvement. For the most part, though, address specific needs for long-term and specialized volunteers to targeted recruitment.

Targeted Recruitment - determining the particular type of volunteer that you are seeking, and then selectively marketing the volunteer job to qualified individuals, is targeted recruitment. It is the most effective recruitment method. Targeted recruitment is essential because it allows the volunteer manager to concentrate on recruiting quality, not just quantity. It is also a more efficient method of recruitment because a targeted approach can be tailored to the motivations of the type of volunteer being sought.

Targeted Recruitment involves the following questions about each major volunteer position to be filled:

  • What qualifications shall I look for?

    To answer this question, examine the job description written for the position. It will provide information regarding the skills necessary to perform the job, as well as information about such as the time frame required (evenings, weekends, short-term or long-term job).

  • What kinds of individuals or groups possess these qualifications?

    Examining the qualifications will give you ideas about possible types of volunteers who could fill the position. For example, if you are looking for a volunteer to help with financial management, consider accountants or bankers, through a local accounting firm or bank.

    Once you have identified a type of individual or group, it is easy to identify methods for reaching them directly. For instance, in the example cited earlier, you may need a volunteer with financial skills. Logically, an accountant comes to mind. To find an accountant quickly, look in the phone book, send brochures to the individuals listed, make contacts at a local accounting association, or send a representative from your speaker's bureau to give a recruitment talk.

  • What would motivate them to volunteer?

    Narrowing the range of potential volunteers also provides a better opportunity to target the volunteer recruitment pitch. Once accountants are identified, make an appeal that flatters their expertise. For example, if they are senior partners in an accounting firm, an appeal that suggests they could make future business contacts might be successful.

Volunteer Screening, Orientation and Training

Screening, orientation and training all deal with matching the appropriate volunteer to the correct job. Each of these areas depends on having an accurate volunteer description in place. The job description will tell you what qualifications are essential for successful completion of the work, what pieces of information need to be covered in the orientation, and what additional training needs to be given the volunteer.

Volunteer Screening:

Volunteer screening should consist of an interview with each potential volunteer. The purpose of the interview is to determine three things:

  • Suitability for a specific job. Is the volunteer qualified and willing to do the volunteer job?

  • Other interests or talents. Does the volunteer have additional abilities that might be better utilized by the organization in another capacity?

  • Marketing data. How did the volunteer hear about the organization and its need for volunteers? What motivated him or her to respond?

The actual volunteer interview should be face to face. The format and length of the interview will depend on the complexity of the volunteer job, the amount of responsibility to be assumed, the length of time, commitment, and the sensitivity required to successfully perform the job.

Volunteer Supervision and Evaluation. Volunteers, like paid staff, require feedback. Supervision and evaluation are the managerial processes through which this feedback is given. To carry out this process of providing feedback to volunteers, three steps must be followed:

  • Reach an agreement with the volunteer on the work to be undertaken and the results to be achieved. One method by which this is done is through the volunteer job description. Another method is through the assignment of more specific tasks to the volunteer.

  • Provide regular contact with the volunteer. This contact allows you to monitor the volunteer's progress and also provides opportunities to assist and motivate the volunteer.

  • Conduct period evaluations of the volunteer's work. The evaluation should be formal in nature and should consist of an honest appraisal of the performance. The evaluation should also allow for input from the volunteer. Evaluations can serve four beneficial purposes:

    -They allow you to recognize and congratulate those volunteers who are performing effectively.

    -They offer volunteers who are dissatisfied with their jobs a chance to express their problems.

    -They provide a good opportunity for spotting volunteers who are beginning to suffer burn-out or who are bored.

    -They create a structured forum for discussions with volunteers who are not working to adequate standards.

Retaining and Recognizing Volunteers. Retaining and recognizing volunteers are related topics. Each deals with motivating volunteers to remain with the organization. Volunteer retention can be enhanced by the following methods:

  • Have a meaningful job for each volunteer. Do not create make-work positions or positions that do not relate to concrete achievements.

  • Carefully match the appropriate volunteer to the correct job. When you find a mis-match, transfer the volunteer to a more suitable assignment.

  • Provide constructive supervision and evaluation to volunteers. Do not confuse volunteers with unclear assignments and do not leave volunteers uncertain as to what they have accomplished.

  • Periodically re-evaluate all volunteers for any changes in interest or roles they might have. Perhaps they and the organization will benefit from a reassignment.

  • Keep inconvenience to a minimum. Do not overwhelm your volunteers with paperwork or irrelevant items. Volunteers want to see their donated time utilized in helping people, not in dealing with the bureaucracy.

Volunteer Recognition

Volunteer recognition can be a more creative area. Just remember that recognition is a year-round activity, not just something to be implemented during National Volunteer Week.


Well, here you are. You've now got a goal, objectives, methods, activities, funds, a board of directors, your 501(C)(3) status and volunteers. What you need to round it all off is publicity. After all, what good is your light if you keep it under a bushel basket? You need to become a newsmaker in two-part sense; you need to Produce newsworthy material, and you need to Be newsworthy material. Just what is news?

The standard answer to the question is that news is whatever the editor decides is news. News is what the editor thinks will interest people today. News must meet the criteria of timeliness and interest in order to be "news."

There are two kinds of news: no, not good news and bad news. The answer is voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary news is that which you can create - the announcement of a project to rid a local school of drug abuse, is an example. Involuntary news is unplanned - the injury of a volunteer at a project site. For the former, you have the luxury of planning the release of the story; for the latter, you need a standing "crisis" policy that will let you or a designated representative of the organization respond quickly and appropriately to reporters.

Any news story includes at least one of the following elements: Timeliness, Novelty, Public Interest, Conflict, Tragedy, Humor, Human Interest, Proximity, Irony, Controversy, Money.

If it has occurred to you that the more elements a story has, the better that story will be, then you are beginning to think like an editor. As you consider putting your organization's name on the street, or airwaves, ask yourself how you can use any of these elements to your advantage, to get an editor to pay attention to your particular group. While some of what your group does will be news, it is publicity you really want.

Publicity is simply letting people know through the media what you are doing, and what it means to them. Don't let the word "media" intimidate you. The "media" are people too. Every day you are talking to people; you are communicating. When you start fundraising, recruiting volunteers, putting together your board or seeking contributions, you were communicating information to people about your organization and its plans and goals. You have been recruiting, motivating, rewarding, asking for help, inspiring donations, researching, educating and persuading. Why not let someone else do a little of that work for you?

  • Write a letter and you reach one or two people per letter, write a news release and you'll reach thousands.

  • Make a phone call and you let one person know; tape a message and radio can carry your message to thousands.

  • Visit a friend or official and you make an impression on one or two individuals; go on a local talk show or make a videotape and you touch hundreds of thousands.

In other words, you don't really need to do anything just need to do what you do a little differently and include a few folks who can help you.


Broadcast - refers to the electronic media-radio and television.

Media - all of the conduits an organization can use to tell its story to the public, such as newspapers, radio, television, magazines, billboards, posters and direct mail. Even hand bills on bulletin boards.

Print - refers to newspapers (daily or weekly) and magazines - not only commercial publications but also in-house publications of local industry, business, labor, non-profit organizations, civic groups, clubs, churches, etc.

Publicity - supplying information to the public through media not controlled by your organization. News releases and public service announcements are publicity devices.

Promotion - like publicity, promotion seeks to inform, but you are in control of the message. Advertising, for example, is a promotion tool So is your organization's newsletter.

Public Relations - the art of telling your organization's story, keeping the public aware of your work and how and why your organization is of benefit to the community. It includes the use of publicity and promotion.

Public Service Announcements - announcements aired by radio and television stations on behalf of non-profit organizations. They are often referred to as PSA's.

What's What in the Media and the Media Plan

Whether you live in a small town or a large city, there are many different ways to get your message out. Here are some of them:

  • Classified ads - help wanted
  • Radio/TV Public Service Announcements (PSA's)
  • TV talk shows
  • Radio talk shows
  • Radio news features
  • Newspaper features/articles on your project
  • Special events
  • Displays, exhibits in highly visible locations
  • Church bulletins
  • Posters (you'll get rid or that stuff yet) and flyers
  • Newspaper community calendars
  • Billboards

In order to take advantage of any or all of these elements, you'll need to develop a media plan that matches your year-long plan and anticipates what the media refer to as "lead times," or their own planning schedules. Because lead times vary from media type to media type, you need to have a sense of the lead times of each prospective media outlet or publicity vehicle. These lead times do not apply to "breaking news," which is usually reserved for front pages or papers, or lead-off news on TV or radio. A media plan supposes you have time to work with the media. Some general examples of lead times ar newspaper general news - 3-7 days; newspaper features - 2 weeks or more; weekly-newspaper features - 1-2 issues in advance; television news - 1-7 days; television talk shows - 2-4 weeks; large-circulation magazine articles - 1-4 months; large-city radio talk shows - 1-2 weeks; small town radio talk shows - 3-7 days; business/association newsletters - at least one issue in advance.

The Tools of the Trade: News Releases and PSA's

The News Release: A well-prepared news release follows a standard format which tells an editor as quickly as possible why you are writing, what you want done, and when. The format is known as the "inverted pyramid," and it places the important facts of your story in the first few lines. If an editor doesn't have space for the entire release, it can be cut from the bottom where less important information is.

At the top of the pyramid, the first paragraph is the "lead." It is usually one sentence long, never more than two, and generally tells the "who, what, where, when, why, and how" (the "five W's and H" of your story).

The second paragraph is called the "bridge." A bridge is a means of transition from the summary information of the lead to the detailed information of the rest of the release. One function of the bridge is to explain any "whys" or "hows" not included in the lead.

The third and last part of the pyramid is the "body." The primary function is to explain the information given in the lead. In other words, the body "fleshes out" the facts of the lead with interesting and significant details. Remember, the facts in the body are presented in diminishing order of importance.

If you don't have news release stationery, use your organization's letterhead for the release. Your letterhead or a news release head reinforces your credibility.

If you have read this far and understand what's going on, you can consider yourself a reporter. It takes practice to write a good release, but here are a few helpful hints.

  • Use short words, short sentences, short paragraphs.
  • Give exact dates in a release, not "next Thursday"
  • Check and recheck your facts for accuracy.
  • Avoid the use of adjectives in a news release. Unless it's a quote, opinion is not appropriate in a release.
  • Spell out numbers from one to ten, then use numerals. Never begin a sentence with numerals.
  • Always proofread your release before sending it out. Correct any typographical errors.

Once your release is written, decide where to send it. If your project covers a large area, find out what newspapers cover the same area; then call each one to see who should receive your release. Larger, daily newspapers, have different editors and reporters who cover certain areas of interest, called "beats." On smaller, weekly newspapers, there is usually one editor who receives all releases. In either case, it is always best to have a name to send your release to, rather than just a general address.

Remember, newspapers are flooded daily with releases from corporations, government agencies and non-profit organizations; you have to do everything possible to ensure that your release gets read.

In addition to having an editor's name, another technique is to hand-write the addresses on the envelopes (assuming you have legible hand-writing). Still another technique is to call the editor/reporter whose name you have been given and discuss your event with him or her. Usually, the person will ask you to send a copy of the release, and when it comes across that person's desk, he or she may be more likely to give some attention to it.

Since newspapers usually have afternoon deadlines, it is best to call in the morning or as early in the day as possible. Generally, calls should be limited to particularly important or unusual events.

Keep in mind that editors and reporters are almost all working under pressure of tight deadlines, so keep your conversation brief and to the point and don't be offended if the person to whom you are speaking seems abrupt. They'll appreciate your professionalism in understanding their situation.

Public Service Announcements:

Now, let's talk about public service announcements, more often referred to as PSA's. "Radio and television stations air PSA's on behalf of non-profit organizations. If you wish to get a PSA about your volunteer recruiting drive or anti-drug project on the air, you should first call the Public Service Director at each broadcast station three weeks to a month ahead of time. Find out:

  • Do they accept scripts or do they want taped material? If they want taped material, will they allow you to visit the station and tape the PSA?

  • If they accept scripts, how far in advance do they want them?

  • What length PSA do they prefer - 60 seconds, 30 seconds, or 10 seconds?

If you are to write your own PSA's, bear in mind that broadcast writing is far different from writing for the print media. Broadcast copy is written and designed for the ear. It is personal and has a sense of immediacy.

There are four basic rules in writing broadcast copy: It must be Clear, Concise, Conversational and Correct. Also, broadcast copy uses the ACTIVE voice and PRESENT TENSE whenever possible. "The Midvale Youth Against Drugs will sponsor a fund-raising auction, Saturday, July 7," uses the active voice, as opposed to "An auction will be sponsored by Youth Against Drugs, Saturday, July 7."

Clear copy is easy to understand the first time it is heard. It is developed in a logical way and flows smoothly so that it is easy for the listener to follow. Concise copy does not include unnecessary words. The copy must sound conversational. One way to test your copy for conversational tone is to read it aloud. Make sure there are no hard-to-pronounce words or awkward combinations of words. Use contractions, just as you would if you were talking.

Once you're sure you've achieved clear, concise an conversational copy, make sure it is correct.

Broadcast PSA spots are generally acceptable in lengths of 10, 20, 30, or 60 seconds. A 10-second spot is about 25 words long, a 20-second spot is 50 words, a 30-second spot is 75 words and a 60-second spot is 150 words. It is a good idea to provide PSA's in all four lengths to a station. Check the example of a radio PSA that is included here. You may want to copy its format. As with news releases, always include a contact name and phone number.

The right kind of publicity will make it easier for your program to attract and hold its volunteers, find new donors and expand the scope of services you can offer to the public.

People like to know that their work is recognized and appreciated. No one deserves that reward more than your volunteers. A favorable story in your town's newspaper, an interview with volunteers and the teens they are helping aired in the evening news, program posters that seem to pop up everywhere - all help to motivate staff and volunteers.

Keep in mind that drug abuse issues are topical with the media in mind today. The American Association of Advertising Agencies projects that 9 out of 10 Americans over the age of 12 will be exposed to at least one of their many anti-drug public service campaigns during the next three years. You can use all this coverage as an umbrella for your program's publicity efforts. An editor or station news director won't have to be sold on the dimensions of the drug problem - just remember in preparing your publicity materials that an editor's or writer's interests and that of their readers and viewers are best served by focusing on the problems in your community and, specifically, on how your program is combatting drug abuse.

Finally, your efforts at getting your story out serve a greater cause. A counselor who works with teenage addicts was recently quoted in a Los Angeles Times article on the need for more publicity, "As long as the streets are full of drugs, kids should hear something about not doing them every time they turn on a radio or television or pick up something to read."


Now it's time to really get started. If this guide has done its job, you should have a general understanding of the task before you and a sense of progression. Following a ladder of logical steps outlined in the guide, you can take your organization to the top of that ladder, reach your goal of reducing drug abuse in your community and in America.

The men and women who began the projects outlined at the beginning of this guide share with you a vision of a drug-free nation. They have devoted more than just time toward that goal; they have devoted their spirits, hopes and dreams in the sincere belief that they can make a difference.

President and Mrs. Reagan have done much to get America started on the road to drug-abuse recovery; your goal of eliminating drug-abuse in your community will keep us on that road. Good luck.


Government Agencies

ACTION Drug Alliance 806 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20525 202/634-9759


NIDA-NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON DRUG ABUSE 5600 Fishers Lane Rockville, MD 20857 1-800-638-2045 - Prevention Branch 1-301/443-6500

This group has excellent publications; many are free. They contain information on drug abuse, specific drugs and their affects, what parents and schools can do, and legislative update. PARENTS, PEERS, AND POT II is excellent for awareness programs. Up to 50 free copies can be ordered.

ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE EDUCATION PROGRAM U.S. Dept. of Education 400 Maryland Avenue, S.W. U.S. Department of Education. The "School Team" approach offered in this program is designed to develop the capacity of local schools to prevent and reduce drug an alcohol abuse an associated disruptive behaviors. Five regional centers now provide training and technical assistance to local school districts that apply.

OFFICE OF JUVENILE JUSTICE DELINQUENCY PROGRAMS (OJJDP) Dept. of Justice Washington, D.C. 20530 202/633-3465


Every state has an official agency responsible for the prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol related problems. Contact your state agency or:

THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE ALCOHOL AND DRUG DIRECTORS 444 North Capital Street, N.W. Suite 530 Washington, D.C. 20001 202/783-6868


WHAT WORKS, SCHOOLS WITHOUT DRUGS U.S. Department of Education Information Office 555 New Jersey Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20208 1-800-624-0100

AMERICAN CAN! REPORT ON MODEL COMMUNITY PROGRAMS American Can Company American Lane, P.O. Box 3610 Greenwich, CT 06836-3610 203/552-2000

DRUG ABUSE AND DRUG ABUSE RESEARCH National Institute on Drug Abuse 5600 Fishers Lane Rockville, MD 20857 1-800-638-2045 Refer to DHHHS Publication No. (ADM) 87-1486

ABC'S OF PUBLICITY VISTA RECRUITING MEETING THE CHALLENGE ACTION Drug Alliance 806 Connecticut Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20525 202/634-9759

ACTION/DA Publication No. 987 ACTION-The Federal Domestic Volunteer Agency Washington, DC 20525

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