The Island

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I am sitting with my coffee early Saturday morning reading The NonProfitTimes when I came across Susan J. Ellis, President of Energize Inc., article titled “The Organizational Chart: Decisions on Where Volunteer Engagement Belongs.”

This article got me thinking about my title – Volunteer and Communications Director and where I am “housed”.  In my 13 years in the field, I have maybe come across someone with my same title once or twice. I have a dual role, so I report to our Communications Officer and to our Chief Operating Officer.

In the article Susan talks about the benefits and challenges of reporting to marketing and public relations staff, human resources, placed within the executive offices or as an independent volunteer resource department.

There is no perfect placement for what we do, to show the value an organization places on the volunteer resource manager. From reading her article, I think it comes down to what makes sense for your organization based on your size and talents of your team.

For me, the dual title, can be challenging at times, but it makes sense and I am surprised more organizations, especially smaller non profits aren’t doing the same thing.  Where do you find your stories to share with the community? Who are the people most passionate to tell the story? Who can provide you valuable information about programs and services being delivered in the community?  VOLUNTEERS!!

I see communications and volunteer management going hand-in-hand. By telling the story of our volunteers and what they do in the community, I am helping recruit new volunteers and increasing retention and recognition by valuing the great work being done by our volunteer workforce.

I would love to hear the opinion of other volunteer managers. Where are you “housed”? What are your thoughts on a dual role?

The Orientation

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There is the in-person, group and the phone screening. Every organization has their own method and you have to figure out what the best method is for the culture of your organization.

I am a firm believer of the in-person orientation. It has its challenges since my territory includes 20 counties, but I try to make it work for my schedule and theirs.

This is the first touch point that a volunteer is having with your organization and I believe the personalization of a one-on-one orientation can be a critical component in the success of an agencies retention rate.

I tell people when they come in for the orientation that my job as a volunteer manager is to connect people with opportunities in the community and if they decided the agency that I work for is a good fit for them — bonus!

But if not, that’s ok. Based on what the volunteer is looking for I can help make educated referrals for them to pursue an opportunity that would be a better fit.

My philosophy is I would rather spend that one hour with them to see if they are a match for us, and if we are a match for them, than to have them start, not enjoy it, and just stop coming.

I also learn so much from the volunteer in that time. Why do they want to volunteer? Why did they pick this agency? Do they have a personal connection to the agency?  This information is invaluable in helping connect the volunteer with an opportunity in or outside of your organization. These personal connection stories are a gold mine to your agency communicator and fund development team in sharing the mission and the power of your agencies community impact with donors and other stake holders.

I have done thousands of interviews in my 13 years and I must admit, I still get excited for each one. Meeting someone new, wondering what sparked that interest to volunteer and how can I keep that spark going.

We Shall Never Forget

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September 11, 2001 is a day that none of us will forget. I still remember exactly where I was when I heard the news about a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. I was with the American Red Cross for six months and I was in my boss’s office, all of us glued to the television and trying to comprehend what was happening…..

A few hours later, and for many days, months and years after, when bad things happen, things we can’t imagine, I actually get to see good. I get to be that vessel of providing people opportunities to help — from giving of time, money or their blood.

That day on September 11, within a few hours, we had people out the door waiting to donate blood, giving money and wanting to volunteer because people wanted to help in any way they could.

That day started my passion for wanting to connect people with opportunities to serve in their community and that is why I am starting this blog. I have been in the field of volunteer management for over 13 years and the number one question I hear from people is “How can I Help?” Hopefully my blog can help connect people with their passion. I can help guide you to an opportunity or agency that you feel will be the best fit for you.

I also hope this blog will provide leadership for people in the profession of Volunteer Management.  Yes, this is a real profession and I want to be able to share valuable life lessons that I have learned to create stronger volunteer programs within our nonprofit sectors.

I think back to that day and that time period and I am proud of the way people gave and continued to give. Thirteen years later, we must never forget and we must continue to give back. I hope I can inspire and be your community time guider.