The Value of Skilled Volunteers

More than ever, it is a time of wearing many hats. Of multi-tasking and added responsibilities. Of doing more than we thought was feasible. All of us as volunteer managers recognize that our organizations could not function without volunteers, and we rely on these volunteers to do everything from mailings to tutoring to preparing meals to taking leadership roles.

My challenge to you, however, is to think about the skills you’d like to have, or the type of staff you’d like to hire, and try to find a volunteer to fill that role. In managing the everyday responsibilities of the Volunteer Center at Community Thread, I have often thought, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we had a volunteer who would do such-and-such?”  Several times when this thought has popped up, I’ve dismissed it, thinking there was no way we’d ever find a volunteer with those particular skills. However, I’ve learned that it never hurts to put it out there. Deciding to post the position on social media, our database, and our website has yielded some wonderful skilled volunteers for our organization! Another terrific way to identify skilled volunteers is to learn what some of your current volunteers do for a living and what their hobbies are. I find that most volunteers are thrilled to contribute where their skills lie, even if that means volunteering in a different way than they originally signed up for. Here are a few of our success stories in implementing skilled volunteers.

Graphic Design-Community Thread is small and does not have a Marketing Manager or a staff with skills in graphic design. We had a volunteer sign up to help seniors stay in their homes by offering cleaning help once a week. However, I noticed on her volunteer application that her work history was in graphic design and event planning. I asked her if she might be willing to design a few logos for some of our annual service days, and she was extremely honored to be asked. She has so far designed logos for our Spring Into Service event and our Rake a Difference Day, making our marketing materials much more attractive!

Blogging-Our new volunteer opportunity database-www.communitythreadconnect.org-came with the feature of having blog content feed into the front page. Since we previously didn’t have a Community Thread blog, I was suddenly tasked with creating and updating a blog for our organization. On a whim I posted on facebook for a volunteer willing to try various volunteer opportunities and blog about her experiences. A few days later I was contacted by a college student excited to fill the role, and she turned out to be a very talented writer! Her blog posts have yielded more traffic to our blog than any of our other posts.

Photography-I had been hoping to find someone who could take quality photos for our marketing materials. I found out that one of our Holiday Bureau sponsors was a professional photographer, and asked her if she might be willing to volunteer her time as a photographer for some of our events. She was more than willing to help out, and has since taken pictures at several of our events, created a video for our website, and conducted a photography tutorial for our staff members.

The combined efforts of these three volunteers has saved me a lot of time, and has helped increase the quality of our marketing efforts and our ability to tell our story. These are just a few of the many talented volunteers to come through our doors. When we utilize the unique skills of our volunteers, there is no limit to what we can accomplish!

Elena Ballam
Volunteer Center Program Manager, Community Thread
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