Volunteer Transportation Program:
First Steps

Every Journey begins with a single step

This section will help you to lay the foundations of your volunteer transportation program by providing insights on determining needs and scope for your program, considering partnerships, and whether to pilot your initiative or go "all-in" from the outset.

Note: Below, and throughout our site, underlined text indicates a live link.

Determining the need for a VTP

There are two tried and true ways to ascertain the need for transportation assistance in your community. One is a forum or series of forums, and the other is a survey. Often these tools are used to determine broader community matters or deficiencies but if you are just addressing transportation, the forum or survey can get to these details by asking specific questions about access to services, socialization, health care, food and family.  We've included a sample survey to assist you in this process.

Once you’ve determined the need, expanding community involvement, engaging volunteers, building your plan and launching your program will be your next steps.

Determining the Scope of your Program

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:

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.

Exploring Partnerships

Partners are critical in a successful volunteer transportation program. The broader your inclusion, the more brains to pick and hands to help. Partners to consider – Age-Friendly committees, municipalities, non-profits, libraries, churches, senior centers, community centers, health centers, businesses, Chambers of Commerce, service clubs, adult education and other liaisons that may be unique to your community.

Pilot project or "all-in"

Be realistic while keeping in mind that your community may be waiting for just what you are about to offer! It may make the most sense to begin with a pilot project. Give yourself 6 months to get everything set up and running, then reassess. At that point you can ask yourselves if this is working the way you envisioned, what tweaks might be implemented to make things run smoother and who should be involved that isn’t.

Access to Services SURVEY.docx
Ride Coordinator Job Description 11.2020.docx

First step Sample Resources:

Survey form & Job description

It's great when communities are willing to share some of the materials they've created so that we don't all need to reinvent the wheel (no pun intended!).  The sample Access to Services survey and Program Coordinator job description shared here will give you a great start on your planning!