Here at Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota, our department has been in transition. My co-worker Molly Lamon has reduced her hours to casual status, and my Minneapolis “partner-in-crime,” Ben Reed, recently departed to take a managerial position at Abbott Northwestern. It’s been awesome to welcome my new co-workers, Kristi Kehrwald and Ingrid Schmeling, onboard: their enthusiasm, creativity, and fresh ideas have added a lot to our department already! Their presence has really made me think about the many things involved in our work as volunteer coordinators, and how difficult it can sometimes be to sum up the “heart” of what we do.
In preparing for new co-workers, it’s easy to get lost in the details of parking contracts, photo ID badges, or personnel forms. As I’ve been thinking more and more, though, here is my personal “top ten” list of the thoughts that I want to impart to my new co-workers!
10. With any spare time that you may have at home, work on your lunges & knee bends: you’ll be jumping out of your chair multiple times a day to answer questions, assist with lockers, provide directions, etc.!
9. Volunteer Services offices are great storage places for extra food. This being said, encourage volunteers to help with the actual food consumption; it’s easier than you might think to polish off five cookies a day! (Oops…did I just incriminate myself?)
8. Never underestimate the power of a sincere and heartfelt “THANK YOU.”
7. Working in Volunteer Services gives us the unique opportunity to connect with a wide variety of individuals and departments across our organizations. So, on those days when the phone won’t stop ringing, take a moment to be grateful for special requests and projects (no matter how tedious they seem at the time!). These opportunities allow us to meet so many different people, and assist so many different departments.
6. At the same time, it’s okay to say “no” to projects or requests that aren’t in your volunteers’ best interests. Sure, it might be nice to have someone hold a broken door open for three hours, but would you want to be that person? Odds are that your volunteers won’t, either. Keep tasks and projects as rewarding and meaningful as possible, or break them down into manageable pieces so that one person isn’t stuck filing and collating for hours (unless, of course, that’s what they really want to be doing)!
5. Distractions are not necessarily bad. If you’re in a middle of writing an important e-mail and a volunteer walks in, it’s equally important to take a break from what you’re doing to say “hi.” People are more important than paperwork.
4. Along with #5: building relationships is key to success in volunteer management. Take the time to ask volunteers about themselves: their interests, hobbies, families, and future ambitions. It’s fun to have things to check back on with people from week to week, whether it’s their latest test or their most recent “grandkid pictures!”
3. Technology can be incredibly helpful in making our jobs easier. There’s no substitute for face-to-face communication, but be creative in thinking what “tech tools” you might be able to use to connect with your volunteers: Facebook, YouTube, blogging, etc.!
2. Everyone has been the “new kid” at least once in their lives. Remember what that feels like when you bring new volunteers onboard: presenting a patient, encouraging, and welcoming demeanor does a lot to put people at ease.
And finally, the number-one tip for new volunteer coordinators, in the words of my former co-worker, Ben:
- 1. Smiling + being yourself + listening to others + being human = SUCCESS.
Submitted by Jenna Barke, Volunteer Coordinator, Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota