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