Orientation is the process of introducing volunteers to the organization. It creates a comfortable environment and provides an understanding of how Extension works. Extension volunteers will contribute more effectively when they understand Extension, its background, systems, operations, procedures, and the manner in which their volunteer duties contribute to the purpose of the organization. Volunteers should be provided:

  • Information and knowledge of the Extension organization and its programs
  • How Extension brings service to the community
  • Role volunteers have in relation to the Extension Service and the community.

Orientation is critical to achieve an informed, productive volunteer who feels a part of the organization.  In the absence of orientation, volunteers often leave the organization because they have not developed a bond with the organization and its staff.

Orientation often reduces a newcomer’s anxiety.  Orientation should allow time for informal socialization with other volunteers and paid and non-paid staff.  This socialization allows volunteer to feel a part of the organization and establishes a friendly atmosphere where they feel confident to ask questions and to seek assistance.

All Extension volunteers participate in an Extension orientation program prior to the commencement of work. This information is given orally-- individually or in a group- and paper copies of the information discussed are included in the volunteer’s orientation packet to permit further study.  An outline for a county volunteer orientation program is included at the end of this section.

To aid in orienting volunteers, a series of Volunteer Orientation Fact Sheets have been developed in are included in The GEMS Toolbox/Educate/Orient.  They can be accessed at: http://4-h.ca.uky.edu/content/gems-toolbox  Orientation Fact Sheets have been developed for the following topics:


  • 4-H Cloverbuds
  • 4-H Curriculum
  • 4-H Honors Program
  • 4-H Recreational Activities
  • Developing a Constitution and By-laws for Your Club or Council
  • Developing Communication Skills
  • Effective 4-H Club Meetings
  • How to Involve 4-H Members' Parents
  • Identifying and Recruiting Volunteers
  • Involving Parents
  • Judging 4-H Projects
  • Positive Youth Development Factsheet for Communications Curriculum
  • Recognizing 4-H Members
  • Valuing Diversity in 4-H
  • What Is 4-H Youth Development


Orientation benefits

"Orientation" involves giving volunteers an adequate background on the organization, its operation, and its procedures. Orientation is required because the volunteer needs to be made a part of the organizational environment, a process which requires the volunteer to understand what the organization is and how it operates.

There are many benefits gained by orienting volunteers.  Orientation:

  • Makes volunteers feel welcome and appreciated
  • Informs volunteers of policies and procedures
  • Helps them understand the importance of the task the volunteer will perform and its role in contributing to the mission of the organization
  • Helps volunteers understand what to expect
  • Introduces the supervisor and the expectations of the position

An effective orientation program will provide the volunteer with the following types of information:

  • Description and history of the organization.
  • Description of the overall programs and clientele of the organization.
  • Sketch of the organizational chart of the organization.
  • Orientation to the facilities and layout of the organization.
  • Knowledge of general policies and procedures (due dates, meeting reports, enrollment deadlines, client protection standards, etc.)
  • Description of volunteer management system.

The purpose of orientation is to provide the volunteer with a context within which to work. The better the volunteer understands what the organization is and how it operates, the better the volunteer will be able to fit his or her own actions into proper methods of behavior and to display initiative in developing further ways to be helpful to the organization. The organizational chart can be accessed at:


The volunteer orientation model (O.B.O.E.) can be adapted to fit any Extension program or non-profit volunteer organization.  Divided into four main topics, the orientation program is easily presented in a 90 minute session.  Orientation topics of the O.B.O.E. model include: an Opening, Background, Organizational safeguards, and Evaluation.

Components of the orientation program include the welcome, introduction and mixing activity, the history of Extension, mission and values of Extension, the organizational structure, volunteer expectations, risk management, communication channels, resources, program evaluation, question period, evaluation and a tour of the facility.

The Opening component sets the stage for the orientation session. A warm overture of welcome is extended to the participants introducing the outline for the session.   The opening should also include an ice-breaker allowing the group to bond, fostering the development of a harmonious support system among the volunteers.

The history of the organization, its mission and values, and the organizational structure are accompaniment pieces of the Background component.  This is where the professional can arrange the program to fit their own organization.

Organizational safeguards include volunteer expectations, risk management strategies, effective communication channels, and available resources.  This topical section protects the volunteer, the clientele, the organization as well as the volunteer administrator from risk; and also serves to establish parameters in which the volunteer is expected to perform.

The orientation program concludes with the components of program Evaluation, a question period, evaluation and a tour of the facility, all of which are included in Evaluation. This section, which establishes the rhythm of the program, provides the opportunity for participants to clarify, question and determine the success of the program and its impact upon the volunteer participants.

Culp, III, K., Aldenderfer, A.E., Allen, L.A., Fannin-Holliday, S.G., Ford, R.C., Goodwin, C.A.  (2005). Orchestrating volunteer orientation: Introducing the O.B.O.E. model.  Journal of Extension [On-line], 43(6) Article 6TOT5.  Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2005december/index.php

Volunteer orientation provides an overview of the organization, including the structure of Extension and 4-H Youth Development, and the organizational vision, mission and purpose, as well as the volunteer’s role in delivering the program and helping to achieve the programmatic vision, mission and purpose.  Orientation should be brief; lasting no more than 90 minutes.  A sample Extension Volunteer Orientation agenda follows.


Sample Extension Volunteer Orientation Agenda 

10 min            Welcome & Get Acquainted Activity

10 min            History of Extension

                                    Morrill Act (1862)

                                    Hatch Act (1887)

                                    Morrill Act (1890)

                                    Smith-Lever Act (1914)

                                    Kentucky joined the partnership with KRS 164.100 (1916)

                                    Dept. Reorganization Act (1994)

5 min              Kentucky CES has five program areas

                                    Agriculture & Natural Resources

                                    Family & Consumer Sciences

                                    4-H Youth Development

                                    Community & Economic Development

                                    Master Gardener

                                    Fine Arts

5 min              Extension’s Structure, Vision, Mission & Purpose

10 min            Tour of facilities

10 min            Extension’s Vision, Mission, Purpose & Values

10 min            4-H’s Vision, Mission, Purpose & Values

5 min              Communication Channels and Available Resources

10 min            Client Protection Standards and Risk Management Strategies

                                    Client Protection & Risk Management Committee

                                    Five Strategies for Managing Risks and Reducing Liability

                                    Volunteer Expectations

                                    Youth Behavior Guidelines & Discipline Standards

                                    Liability Shields

5 min              Volunteer and Program Evaluation

10 min            Goal Setting

5 min              Questions