How MAVA helped the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness start a volunteer program!

February 8, 2012

I had heard of MAVA a few years ago when I was working for a nature center and their volunteer coordinator was part of this group.  Then I went to work for the Friends, where working with volunteers was not a high priority for the organization. Even at that time we were getting calls and emails about people wanting to help.  We are a small shop, just five people, so the thought of someone having to take on and coordinate projects for multiple people seemed really daunting.  But as my role as Membership Director has evolved here at the Friends, I realized that volunteers are a huge part of a member base and  it is one of the best ways to bring people into the organization and hopefully turn them into either donors or lifelong advocates for our mission.

This led me to doing some more research on MAVA and figuring out what they were all about.  I became a member and started receiving their monthly e-newsletters which in turn led me to the Volunteer Resources Leadership series.  I took the course, got my certification, but then still did not know where to go from there.  It seemed like a really huge task and I did not know if I had the time to take this on.  Then at a couple of staff meetings we started making a wish list of all the things we would love to get done if we had more people in the office.  During this same time, I was introduced to a MAVA board member who was willing to take the time to have one on one planning sessions.  We layed-out a timeline with tasks to get a program off our to do list and turn it into a well oiled machine that now has ten volunteers doing everything from database entry to calling local organizations promoting our film on sulfide mining.  If it was not for MAVA and a board member willing to take a few hours here and there to coach me on what a volunteer program looks, which really is not as scary and big as I originally thought, the Friends would not be able to do all the work that we are now being able to accomplish before this program began.

I recommend to anyone who is trying or wants to start a volunteer program at their organization, to check out MAVA and reach out to someone in their office.  They have the resources, connections and the ability to help in a way no other organization can.  Again, thank you MAVA. You are a valuable resource that can not be replaced.

Submitted by Sacha Casillas, Membership Director, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness


Students Seeking Experience from Internships

February 2, 2012

Students seek unpaid internships to gain experience. After all, internships do look good on resumes and college students are hoping to land that perfect job after graduation. There are laws that companies, as well as students, need to keep in mind when accepting unpaid interns however. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, students can participate in an ‘unpaid’ internship if they meet the following criteria:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the                       intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent   in the internship.

(U. S. Department of Labor website, April 2010). Currently, guidelines for unpaid internships are being reviewed.

 Students should factor in expenses that will occur during internship-paid or unpaid- including, but not limited to: transportation, clothing, meals and possibly a place to stay if you need to re-locate during your experience.  If a student can find an internship that does give them a great experience that they cannot gain elsewhere, it can be a win-win for the student and the organization. So, if that is case-go for it.

  Elizabeth Fluegel is a student at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter where she is a Sociology/Anthropology and Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies Major with a Studio Art Minor. Elizabeth started a month long internship with Hammer Residences Inc. Hammer is a non-profit organization that provides adults and children with developmental disabilities the opportunity to live life to its fullest. Hammer provides stable, secure home environments that deeply enrich the quality of life for the individuals we support. We were able to catch up with Elizabeth and ask her some questions regarding her internship:

What made you want to do an internship?

I really initially wanted to volunteer with Hammer. This transformed into an internship through my school by gaining more hours with Hammer. I was really interested in Hammer as an organization and had heard very good things about it and this blossomed into an internship that I adore.

Will this help you with your education or degree?

I will be getting a college credit for completing responses and papers. And, I will be obtaining a certain number of hours with Hammer. It directly relates to the concepts of my Sociology/Anthropology and Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies majors, however it is not a requirement for either degree, but rather something I found for myself that will help my general education.

Why were you willing to complete an unpaid internship?

The experience for me was more important than monetary compensation.  Now that I have an in depth look at Hammer, I am able to see the potential of a future with Hammer and that would not have been possible without this unpaid internship.

What were you hoping to gain from your experiences? What did you want   to gain from the internship?

My biggest goal from this experience was helping others and making a difference. I initially had wanted to volunteer with a program I had heard good things about and this transformed into an internship. As this change occurred I was able to pursue not only making a difference but broadening my flexibility, communication and leadership skills.  The most important thing in indicating my success will be my abilities to make differences.

What have you learned thus far? What do you hope to gain?

So far I have learned a great deal about my goals of leadership, flexibility patience and communication. I have also been able understand the different needs of individuals and how that plays into what they need from me,  along with simply being open-minded  to conversations I never would have expected before this experience. I have been able to positively affect the lives of the individuals I worked with.  

 Thank you, Elizabeth for coming to Hammer. We were happy to give you the experience you were looking for.  We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

-Submitted by Katie Bottiger and Elizabeth Fluegel, Hammer