Winter 1991 // Volume 29 // Number 4 // Feature Articles // 4FEA2

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Leadership Involving Volunteers

The L-O-O-P model (locating, orienting, operating, perpetuating) is a management tool that helps leaders who work with volunteers organize their efforts meaningfully. When the four sequential phases of L-O-O-P are used to manage work with volunteers, projects are completed more efficiently and effectively and are more likely to stay focused and help achieve Extension's mission.

Kathryn M. Penrod
Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth
Associate Professor, 4-H Department
School of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

Leaders and L-O-O-P

An Extension educator who's guiding volunteers is showing leadership. Sashkin and Burke report leaders direct their actions to influence others in socially acceptable ways-ways that benefit others and the organization rather than merely contributing to the leader's personal status or material condition.1

Research on effective volunteer work in Indiana led to the development of the L-O-O-P model,2 acronym forLocating, Orienting, Operating, and Perpetuating. This leadership model is a structured way for Extension educators to guide volunteers. When volunteers are eager to learn and share their talents, the Extension educator feels a double sense of accomplishment: the programs flourish and volunteers benefit.

Actively involving volunteers in program design and implementation is easy for some leaders, but frustrating for others. Morrison3 and Wilson4 discuss many models that describe steps or strategies for involving volunteers, demonstrating leadership, or managing volunteer programs. The L-O-O-P model includes these key factors in a systems framework. Everyone who works with volunteers, including volunteers who guide other volunteers, must realize, understand, and apply the concepts of the model to achieve involvement and program quality.

When those implementing a project use L-O-O-P as a guide, the project will be on target. They are able to link volunteers with organizational mission, project goals, personal interests, significant accomplishments, and appropriate recognition. Consequently, using L-O-O-P enhances program success and volunteer growth.

L-O-O-P-An Explanation

The L-O-O-P model, shown in Figure 1, includes four concepts, each representing one phase in the sequence of the management process. Arrows between concepts indicate that these activities aren't independent of one another, but blend together.

LOCATING Volunteers

Locating others to be involved is critical to the long-term success of a project and a major concern for leaders.

The selection process involves identifying volunteers to do particular jobs within the organization. Volunteer selection can be based on criteria such as group needs, volunteer skills, interests, or ambitions, and specific task requirements. Intentional selection of appropriate volunteers to be responsible for jobs for which they're most suited is important.

The recruitment process involves obtaining a volunteer's agreement to undertake tasks for the organization. Steps in the recruitment process include portraying a positive organizational image, approaching a potential volunteer for a specific opportunity, learning about the volunteer's needs, matching the volunteer's needs and interests with the appropriate organizational tasks, and getting agreement from the volunteer to participate in a meaningful way.

The locating step of L-O-O-P suggests the Extension educator compare the goals of the program with those of the individual. The leader should envision volunteers doing jobs they're happy doing, ones they're well-suited for, and ones important to the outcome of the project. The L-O-O-P model gives a leader direction when volunteers are first asked to join a project effort.

ORIENTING Volunteers

Leadership requires guiding and inspiring volunteers to get things done effectively and efficiently. Those involved may not know much about the organization's goals or the intent of the protect. A leader must use this initiation time to ensure volunteers know about the organization and the specific project. An orientation will tell volunteers how their skills and energy will be invested. Both informal and formal orientation should be used with clear purpose and care.

The informal orientation is the collection of varied information from other than a structured setting, which a person has collected before volunteering. Information is gathered from experience, statements in newspapers, informal conversations held with current volunteers, comments made during the recruitment process, and from Extension newsletters, fliers, electronic media, and bulletins. This process gives volunteers an initial view of their potential role and the organization's focus. If the informal orientation is influenced by inaccurate information, it won't accurately represent the organizational goals. A leader should discover an individual's knowledge and beliefs, and then begin to structure both the informal and the formal orientation process to accurately communicate the organization's goals.

The formal orientation process is a structured and focused set of teaching and learning activities that help prepare the volunteer for a specific role. These activities may include explaining organizational by-laws, operating procedures, related policies, benefits, volunteer expectations, organizational goals, structure, and objectives. During formal orientation, a leader should share written materials, conduct prepared presentations, and get feedback through dialogue or evaluation to be confident that those involved have accurate information about the organization and the job to be completed.

The orientation phase allows leaders to articulate the vision, mission, and goals at the beginning of a new volunteer's involvement, thus positioning the volunteer and related activity in an organizational framework.

OPERATING with Volunteers

The impact of leadership is the sum of individual accomplishments. Individuals must know what they've done, and may want to know they've learned something along the way. A leader who uses L-O-O-P brings attention to specific accomplishments and makes arrangements for related learning opportunities.

The educational process is a method for helping volunteers learn new knowledge and skills, and acquire new attitudes and aspirations. For many volunteers, an opportunity to learn and grow is important to satisfaction, and a strong motivating factor. A great deal of learning occurs during the orientation process and should continue as the volunteer participates in the organization. Through exposure to new ideas, people, or methods, learning is a type of payment for the volunteer's service.

The accomplishment process is important to the volunteer. A recent national survey of Extension volunteers found one of the most frequently reported gains was the feeling of helping others.5 Powerful impact results from recognizing volunteers' accomplishments because the volunteers then view their time, energy, and talents as contributing to an organization's success. Accomplishments include developing plans, implementing programs, completing evaluations, conducting meetings, involving people, fundraising, designing or completing projects, and improving lives. Volunteers sometimes don't give themselves credit for many of their accomplishments, so a leader should bring attention to specific achievements, especially those that highlight major goals of the organization.

Volunteers must know that something meaningful happened because they were involved. When a leader can arrange for both project accomplishment and individual growth, Extension's human development goals are achieved.

PERPETUATING the Involvement of Volunteers

One important leadership function is the continuation of a project until it's done or until effective transfer of human resources from one project to another has occurred. L-O-O-P shows that to maintain the involvement of others in a program, evaluation and recognition are needed. Evaluation is needed because volunteers want to know how they're doing. Recognition is important because volunteers need to know their work is appreciated and necessary.

The evaluation process is the specific feedback of the volunteer's performance. This process should be constructive, friendly, and directly related to the tasks the volunteer has done or tried to do. A clear set of expectations is a prerequisite to a relevant, meaningful, and constructive evaluation. A leader knows that the volunteer isn't being evaluated-the volunteer's performance relative to goals is. The person is being given feedback on specific contributions or shortcomings, with information related to enhancing future contributions.

The recognition process is critical to a volunteer's satisfaction. Volunteer recognition is a process beginning with the way a person is selected, recruited, oriented, and actively involved. A formal recognition process, however, is most meaningful if the volunteers are recognized according to their unique motivational patterns. Time, attention, and sincere respect of a volunteer's contribution is the best form of recognition. Pins, certificates, and meals are usually rated as the second most meaningful form of recognition. Any management strategy should provide multiple avenues for recognizing people throughout the project's implementation.

Perpetuating the involvement of volunteers is important for organizational growth. Both effective feedback and recognition are parts of the perpetuation process. Effective leadership strategies include a commitment to maintaining the involvement of those implementing a project.


The L-O-O-P model is a management tool that helps leaders who work with volunteers organize their efforts meaningfully. When the four sequential phases of L-O-O-P are used to manage work with volunteers, projects are completed more efficiently and effectively, and are more likely to stay focused and help achieve Extension's mission. Extension educators can manage the L-O-O-P and watch volunteer involvement grow and succeed.


1. M. Sashkin and others, eds., Measures of Leadership (West Orange, New Jersey: Leadership Library of America, 1990), p. 305.

2. K. M. Penrod, Research Abstracts 1987 NAE4-HA Annual Conference (San Diego, California: NAE4-HA, 1987), p. 32.

3. E. K. Morrison, Skills for Leadership: Working with Volunteers (Tucson, Arizona: Jordon Press, 1983).

4. M. Wilson, The Effective Management of Volunteer Programs (Boulder, Colorado: Volunteer Management Associates, 1976).

5. S. M. Steele, "Balancing the E's in Volunteer Programs" (Madison, Wisconsin: Continuing and Vocational Education, 1988).

Figure 1. The L-O-O-P model.