What Is Already Out There?
Does it make sense to partner with current transportation service providers? If there is a regional or local transit service through your town or city, tagging on a volunteer driver component may be an option. Check with your local transportation authority to learn more about the options.
Some volunteer transportation programs have a service area that covers multiple towns. Are there natural partners in surrounding communities? Check with like-minded people, municipal representatives, social service providers, clubs, churches and others in those communities to find out if they are having similar conversations.
Who Will You Serve?
Is there a specific age group that you would like to serve? Over 60? Any age? Do you want to include children if a parent or guardian is present? There are pros and cons to consider when making this determination – will you have enough volunteers to provide a wide range of rides? You can start small and expand as your program becomes more established.
Who Will Do the Work?
There are many components to running a volunteer transportation program that need to be determined – policy and procedures decisions; public relations; driver recruitment, screening and training; rider recruitment, interviewing and communication; data collection; ride-matching; volunteer supervision; grant writing; and bookkeeping. Does the Transportation Committee want to hire a coordinator and/or a director to do all of the work or will you be relying on volunteers to do it? To help you consider the options, we've included a sample Ride Coordinator job description for your review.
What Will It Look Like?
Every volunteer transportation program is unique. As a result, you'll want to consider the following:
Do you want to provide rides to just medical appointments or do you want to broaden ride destinations to include the pharmacy, the grocery store, the hairdresser, social and/or volunteer opportunities, visit with friends, etc.? The possibilities are endless and will vary with the needs of your riders.
If you want to provide a stipend to your drivers for gas, etc., does this mean that you will need to raise money for that or do you need to charge for rides?
What safety protocols do you want to put into place re: COVID, your driver’s driving record, your driver’s and/or rider’s criminal record, etc.?
Will your ride provision just be weekdays or will you also provide rides in the evenings or on weekends?
Do you want to establish a maximum destination distance? Where might the service centers be in proximity to your town (i.e., a maximum of 30 miles one way from the rider’s home)? Be sure to consider how much you're asking your volunteers to do.
Don’t make assumptions about your potential volunteers. You would be surprised to find that many volunteers do not wish to or need to be reimbursed for their mileage or time. As volunteers, your drivers would not be reimbursed for their time. Receiving payment for their work may make them look like or feel more like an employee and you will have to think about payroll issues (taxes, etc.). Mileage reimbursement is something to consider. Another possibility is occasional gas gift cards to let your volunteers know that you appreciate them.