The Multi-Talented, Multi-Tasked Volunteer Manager

March 28, 2012

So I’m going to write a blog, I’ve never written for a blog before, but this sounds kind of fun.  I get to pick my topic, the only real requirement is that the topic should be something that volunteer managers are interested in.  This shouldn’t be hard, I’m a volunteer manager!  So, what am I interested in?

I suppose that really depends upon when I ask myself this question.  If I ask myself this question in the morning, I might want to talk a little bit about how to organize my e-mail and how to learn to say no to some of the people that ask me to meet with them.  You see, the first thing that I do when I get to my desk in the morning is look at my e-mail and check my calendar.  Often times there are multiple meetings and multiple requests from staff asking for a volunteer.  Occasionally an e-mail from a volunteer with a time stamp of 5:55 the previous evening saying that he/she has a bad cold and can’t make it for their 6:00 activity, sorry for the late notice!!

It’s about this time of the day that my interest will change, volunteers start arriving.  The majority of volunteers that come into the volunteer lounge at Lyngblomsten like to chat, and my desk is strategically placed so that they can make a bee line right to me and chat with me.  I might hear how the weather is from one, a funny quip fromanother and how many different kinds of cookies the grandkids ate last time they were over to visit all in the course of 15 minutes.  But I’m still working on getting through the e-mails and, I forgot, there are a few voice mails that need to be listened to.  Just how do I get through all of this and remember from week to week about the wonderful volunteers?

Again, my interests change, time for a meeting!  Thankfully I prepared yesterday for the meetings today, so I grab the appropriate folder and head down the hall. I need to read a blog about how to organize my folders so I can find what I’m looking for!  What is the key for keeping a meeting on task and on the proper topic?  Agendas of course!  Being a very organized person, I like agendas.  If only all meetings had agendas. . .

Back to the office to take the notes from the meeting I was just in, entering  the next meeting date and time on my calendar.  If I left the meeting with action items, get them on my task list.  I guess now my interest is in recruitment.  The beauty shop needs a few volunteer subs for transport next week, one of the apartment buildings is looking for a popcorn delivery person on the last Thursday of every month and the one of the volunteer 500 dealers is still out with a broken wrist.  Thank goodness we have Volgistics and I can check my sets of volunteers that like to play cards, transport residents and deliver popcorn.   Wait, we don’t have a set for popcorn delivery, who can I call for that?!  Oh, one of the volunteers in the lounge tells me that there is no Diet Pepsi in the refrigerator; I’ll get right on that!!

A few phone calls and an  e-mail blast later I’m switching interests and talking with a staff person about a few new internship positions she’s wondering if we can fill.  Well, OF COURSE we can get those filled!  Let s schedule a time to sit down and outline what it is the intern will do, who will supervise, the amount of time we want the intern to spend with us, etc.  Since this department has never had an intern, I offer to write up a preliminary position description and send it prior to our meeting.  If the supervisor can look it over before we meet, we can make revisions to it during the meeting and get it posted as quickly as possible.

Whew, I made it to lunch time!  I think that in an average morning there are a few things that interest me, and probably many of my fellow volunteer managers.  Hopefully through this blog we can have a little fun, learn a little and be a little inspired.  Each month I’ll pick an “interest item” from my brainstorm blog and blog about it.  If you’d like to throw a topic into my flurry of ideas, let me know and I’ll be sure to add it to the “interests.”  If you have any advice for me, and other volunteer managers, please comment, we are all in this together!

Shelli Beck

Volunteer Coordinator

Lyngblomsten

Healthcare, housing and community services for older adults

sbeck@lyngblomsten.org


From Printing Press to WordPress: Sharing Volunteer News Through Blogging

April 28, 2011

Providing relevant news and timely updates to volunteers is a huge component of our work as volunteer coordinators.  Up until 2010, our Volunteer Services department at Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota shared this news in a quarterly print newsletter, “The Volunteer Star.”

As our department editor, my feelings about pulling together each issue were akin to watching a fifteen-inning baseball game:  I enjoyed parts of it, but overall, felt as though the entire thing took far too long.  In order to produce three “Star” issues in a calendar year, I collected submissions in April, August, & November. This system worked well in terms of advance planning (and allowing enough time between issues to fill up each page), but was problematic for events that occurred immediately after these publication deadlines.  For example, if we published a newsletter in the last week of April and held our annual scholarship dinner during the first week of May, this scholarship news wouldn’t be published until nearly three months later.

After collecting the content (articles, photos, statistics, etc.) for each issue, I submitted this information to our communications department, at which time a graphic designer formatted our issue and prepared it for printing.  We then shipped the proofs to a printing company in order to produce approximately 1800 paper “Stars.”

From beginning to end, the process took a great deal of time, money, and energy—and at the end of the day, we weren’t even sure how often people were reading the newsletter that we’d taken such great care to produce.  Our department decided that it was time for a change—and this change came in the form of transitioning the “Volunteer Star” newsletter to a WordPress blog, now called the “Red Vest Review.”

Our department has experienced the following benefits by transitioning from a newsletter to a blog:

1.  Cost Savings

            By utilizing an online blog, rather than a newsletter, our department has been able to save the hospital over $4,000 in annual producing and printing costs.  We are able to produce this blog 100% “in-house,” with no outside contracts for editing, printing, or graphic design.  Setting up a blog on WordPress (or a similar site, such as Blogger) is incredibly user-friendly, and entirely free of charge.

2.  Going Green!

In this age of sustainability and environmental awareness, our department increasingly felt as though we could not justify producing 1800 12-page newsletters, three times a year.  We transitioned into the blog initially by sending the “Star” out as an electronic newsletter; however, the 12-page, picture-filled document proved to be too large of a file for many computers to download.  Moving to a blog was a perfect solution:  we saved paper AND cut down on filling volunteers’ inboxes.

3.  Relevant, Accessible Communication Within Our Primary Demographic

Here at Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota, two-thirds of our volunteers are 25 and under, ten percent are under 17, and our average volunteer age is 29.  The majority of our volunteers at Children’s are students (or adults on the go!), and we’ve discovered that it’s much easier for them to visit a blog than it is to keep up with sending paper newsletters to constantly-changing addresses/campus mailboxes.

4.  Increased Ability to Communicate News in a Timely Fashion

Perhaps the best part of the “Red Vest Review” is that we are now easily able to communicate news & updates to volunteers in “real time.”  With this blog, we are immediately able to post pictures that we take, or write news updates within minutes.  We can easily print out blog entries for volunteers to take home, and, in fact, this has been a wonderful way to connect with volunteers of all ages.  We have an eighty-two-year-old volunteer who has been at Children’s for thirty-three years.  We highlighted her on our blog for Volunteer Recognition Week and printed out several copies of the article for her to mail to her family.  She was also able to share the web address with her children and grandchildren, which was an awesome way for the entire family to see her profile almost immediately after it was posted.  Our volunteers have greatly benefited from being able to view volunteer news and updates right away, without a several-month lag in production from newsletter to newsletter.  The entire process is efficient & easy.

I invite you to check out the Children’s Volunteer Services blog at www.childrensmn.org/blog/redvestreview to view some of our recent updates!  Also, if you’re thinking of developing a blog for your own Volunteer Services department, please also feel free to contact me via the e-mail address…I’d love to chat further with you!

Happy blogging!

-Jenna Barke, Volunteer Coordinator, Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota

jenna.barke@childrensmn.org