Winter 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 4 // Ideas at Work // 4IAW1

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Using Volunteers


Sue Andrews
Cooperative Extension Agent
Cooperative Extension Association of Bromme County
New York

Jeanne M. Hogarth
Assistant Professor, Consumer Economics and Housing
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Cornell University- Ithaca
New York

To Improve Effectiveness

Extension clientele are busy people. The increase in dual-earner families and single-parent households forces Extension to consider ways to deliver programs to households already concerned about balancing work and family life. People too busy to come to evening meetings or unable to attend "lunch-and-learn" programs at worksites can benefit from information Extension has to offer, if only we can determine how to reach them.

Learn-at-home course materials are commonly used to deliver programs to these households, but their effectiveness is questionable. It's too easy to toss the latest mail lesson on the "to-do" pile and never get around to reading the material or implementing any suggestions.

With these thoughts in mind, we piloted a money management program using volunteers in conjunction with a learn-at-home course. Volunteer "master money managers" were recruited from the community and provided with 22 hours of training in budgeting, credit, consumerism, savings, counseling skills, and information on the needs and development patterns of young families.

Toward the end of the training, a seven-part Financial Management Mail Series was advertised, targeted at young families in the county. A master money manager was assigned to each family. Each lesson had a "due date" on which the volunteer would telephone the family to see if they had any questions about the lesson materials and to offer clarification and assistance. This helped motivate families to read the lessons and fill in the worksheets.

Evaluations from both volunteers and program participants were positive. Indications are that contact with counselors in conjunction with the learnat-home format resulted in changed financial management behaviors.

Our success in using volunteers to reinforce learn-at-home materials has encouraged us to seek other ways to use them to improve program effectiveness. We plan to offer a one-on-one counseling session with a master money manager as a followup to our standard class on budgeting. Our hope is that such a follow-up will reinforce the information presented in the class and improve financial management practices.