While attending our PTO Expo in Marlboro, Mass., yesterday, I had the pleasure of chatting with two women, one of whom was the outgoing president of her group and the other was the incoming president. The outgoing president said she had been looking for someone to take over for a long time (we all made a few jokes about how fun that can be!) and now she was working with her replacement, spending time with her and helping her along.

Too bad it can’t always be that way. Seems like when we can come up with some kind of mentoring, job-shadowing, or job-sharing approach to bringing new volunteers into the fold, we are all a lot better off.In one of our recent and informal Facebook polls, we asked our community how they learned the ropes when they first became volunteers. About a dozen of you said you got help from a veteran, which was great to hear! But just as many reported that you didn’t receive any help. A little disheartening.

In this same poll, several of you also said you got some on-the-job training, while others said they learned by observing what others did. But a few also said they learned by “making it up” as they went along.

It’s tough being a new volunteer and it is so great when a more experienced person reaches out. Many of us can remember that feeling of being a newbie and not really knowing what to do. Hey, when I first joined the PTO at my daughter’s school, I was so clueless that I felt like the board spoke its own language. As silly as it sounds now, I didn’t know what the PTO president meant when she said, “We’re starting magazines this week.’’ Starting what? Collecting magazines? Reading them? Of course, she meant starting the magazine fundraiser. But I had no idea.

So, here’s to the buddy system! If you are interested in mentoring ideas or other tips for helping new volunteers, check out this article about orienting new members. Also, this story offering a new volunteer’s perspective gives great insights!  This Idea Bag item gives suggestions on how to manage volunteers so they enjoy what they are doing and everyone is productive.