High Skilled Volunteers: Transition into Retirement

October 14, 2011

Many individuals who have been with a company for a long time are being encouraged to find volunteer work as part of a transition between their paid work with the company and retirement. Some companies are able to pay their employee while they are in transition. Many of these individuals are looking for high-skilled volunteer positions, where they can put their knowledge and skills to work. If your organization is ready to work with individuals with a high degree of skills, and you are lucky enough to have one of these knowledgeable individuals to work at your organization, it becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Michael Shay was one of these individuals. Michael was employed with General Mills for 18 year as a Senior Research Chemist and was responsible for the information systems. He interfaced with the IT staff to develop solutions that analyzed data. In January 2008, Michael was looking for an organization that he could put his skills to use.  Michael found Hammer, an organization that supports adults and children with developmental disabilities.  Why Hammer? Michael replied, “Everyone was so friendly and full of passion. It wasn’t just a job; it was about people’s lives.” Michael started working with Hammer’s IT department and developed training manuals, started building some applications for Hammer’s intranet, and start learning more about database management and virtualization. During that time, Michael also assisted MAVA’s Marketing & Technology Committee with their move to a new website and database management system. Michael volunteered with Hammer for 5 months and in June 2008, he was hired as a full-time staff in the IT dept. While hiring Michael was not anticipated when he started working with Hammer, hiring him was a natural choice when an opening became available.  Michael has since taken over the database management and also troubleshoots. He enjoys working at Hammer and states, “I have learned so much. There is a lot of looking towards the future, which is impressive in a non-profit organization.”

Many volunteers are looking for high-skilled positions. Some are no longer interested in the office work and want to offer more to organizations that are willing to put their skills to good use. Organizations can look at what is needed in their organization but more importantly, can look to the volunteer and find out about their passions, skills, and interests – and see how you can make it work within your organizations.  Non-profits organizations that put high-skilled volunteers to work doing what they are passionate about can make it a win-win situation for both parties.

 

Katie Bottiger

Director of Volunteer Resources

Hammer


Placing Highly Skilled Volunteers in Highly Rewarding and Beneficial Roles

August 4, 2011

‘Betty’ indicated her interest in volunteering at the Science Museum just like everyone else, through an online application. But with Betty’s, in the notes section there was a cover letter and a day after we received her application we received her resume by email. No, she had not mistaken us for the HR department but was one of those young, highly skilled volunteer prospects we had heard about. She has an undergrad degree, a masters degree, years of experience in a science field, communication skills and a desire to stay busy and serve her community as she transitioned from raising kids back into the workforce. What on earth were we to do? Placing her as we usually do would not satisfy her but we have not had much experience with placing individuals who have such high expectations and abilities to give (not to mention, big repercussions if they don’t work out) before. We have many highly skilled volunteers with PHDs even, but many of them are from an older generation where interacting with the public, the social part that includes teaching, is why they like their role here. This new breed of volunteer seems to want to make an impact on the big picture, make a difference in our content, and interact with the movers and shakers, not just in our visitors’ experiences.

Our museum has a pretty innovative take on volunteer management but we have focused our time on many other projects and had not officially tackled the question of what to do with the skilled volunteer sector yet. We even have a grant volunteers are able to apply for that helps them influence our programming but, it happens on an annual schedule and is limited to working with one staff person and a budget of $1,000. Here was our chance to figure out how to integrate this type of volunteer into a project in progress instead of adding it outside of pre-planned programming.

Over the course of the last 6 months, from the day the volunteer started in one of our regular roles with the promise of more, two things had to be figured out: is this person reliable and everything her resume says she is and where can we put her where she will be well supported and satisfied? Luckily this particular volunteer was patient and we had a project in the works that was her specialty – a lead! A couple emails and phone calls later, I found a person who was on the project and wanted to support a volunteer who had this person’s background, what luck! A meeting was set to discuss support, project details and logistics that I sat in on to make sure the match was solidified. What luck, it went well!

This match, having given us insight into this very fruitful match has promoted us to act even more proactively to be able to implement more highly skilled matches but in as an efficient way as possible. How you ask? This month we will be hosting an hour-long workshop with staff to talk to them about how they can utilize volunteers behind the scenes and how we can support those efforts. This is our first step in figuring out who our internal partners will be so we can start to look for volunteers with specific skill and knowledge sets. Then it is a matter of promoting volunteers internally who match the requirements who have proven their reliability or recruiting externally using a HR/Volunteer Department hybrid interview and intake process. Sounds like a lot of work, but man am I excited!

Molly Kennedy Lageson

Volunteer Resources Specialist

Science Museum of Minnesota