As a former English major, I am the unique individual who actually enjoys the editing process. Editing volunteer handbooks, however, can be a daunting experience. Our department is currently making “beginning-of-the-year” revisions to our handbook, making sure that every policy is as up-to-date and clearly-stated as possible. Here are several of the overarching themes in our volunteer handbook revision process:
- Social Media/Internet Presence
Our department has drastically increased our online presence (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) over the past couple of years. With the number of volunteers that we have, we’ve also found it much easier to communicate with volunteers through e-mail, Facebook, and blogging (rather than previously-used methods such as phone calls or newsletters). As such, we wanted to be upfront with volunteers about these changes by adding a paragraph to our handbook, as follows:
Volunteer Communications: Our primary mode of communication with volunteers is via e-mail. All volunteers are invited to visit our blog, the “Red Vest Review” (www.childrensmn.org/blog/redvestreview), for ongoing updates from our department. We frequently feature volunteer profiles, advertise special events, and keep volunteers informed of helpful tips or policy reminders. You can also become our “fan” on Facebook by searching for Children’s of Minnesota Volunteer Services.
In the words of the infamous Spider-Man, we also wanted to recognize that with great power comes great responsibility. While we hope that volunteers will follow our departmental Facebook page and other tools, we wanted to be clear on what the guidelines were for engaging with patients and/or families in this way. As such, we added the following policy:
Social Media: Tools such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Caring Bridge and LinkedIn, among others, may not be used to maintain contact with patients and families outside of your volunteer shifts. As a volunteer, your relationship with a patient or family should remain limited to your volunteer work: this means no e-mailing, “friending” on Facebook, or following on Caring Bridge. If you are invited to do any of these things by a patient or family member, please state that the hospital’s confidentiality policies do not allow you to do so. If a patient or family wants to share something with you (i.e., photos of your time with their child), please ask them to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org so that no personal contact information is exchanged.
2. Acknowledging the Rise of “Skill-Based” Volunteerism
We are fortunate at Children’s to have a wide variety of talented individuals seeking to donate their time. Our handbook previously contained a brief rundown of the areas in which volunteers can serve, but we wanted new applicants to know that we welcome inquiries from those with a variety of professional careers, experiences, and special skills. The following statement is new:
We are proud to offer a variety of opportunities to learn and gain skills, as well as share your own expertise.
3. Tightening Up Our Policies Regarding Job/School References
We have many student and adult learners in our volunteer program, and one of my job’s greatest rewards is watching them go on to exciting careers or graduate studies. However, our department wants to feel confident in the references and recommendations that we submit. As such, we added the following statement:
We ask that you complete 40 hours of volunteer service, in good standing, before asking for a reference.
These are just a few of the revisions that we made to our handbook to start the new year off right! I hope that these are helpful to those of you undergoing similar revision processes.
-Submitted by Jenna Barke, Volunteer Coordinator, Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota