‘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