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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs in health care settings.

~July 2011~



Most of us enjoy our jobs and love what we do.  After all, life doesn’t get much better than making a difference for people and changing lives – for our volunteers and patients as well.  But, that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect all the time.  We face challenges as well.  We are dealing with the same economic impact as other organizations:  do more with less.  One very real difference for the volunteer director is the concept that we are generally the only ones in our organizations that do this type of work.  And there are not a lot of others who really understand what we do.  We participate in general everyday tasks such as staff scheduling, trouble-shooting, dealing with budgets, planning and problem solving.  While that may sound very similar to many other jobs/professions, doing this type of work with people who are willing to donate their time to us is a vastly different! It’s been my experience that the only people who really understand what we do are those who do it for other organizations.

Anybody can have a bad day.  Occasionally, you might even experience a string of bad days.  Over time, the frustration and exasperation of some situations can take their toll on your psyche, body and mind.  What do you do when faced with this dilemma?  Networking!

Professional organizations exist for lots of careers – including volunteer management.  If you are not currently a member of a local DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies), I encourage you to seek one out and get involved!  When you walk into a meeting with these folks, you don’t have to explain what you do in your job.  They already know and understand it!  They also understand all the challenges we face as volunteer directors:  the volunteer who constantly complains, the volunteer who doesn’t honor the rules, the volunteer who monopolizes your time, the staff member who complains about the volunteers, etc.  Whatever the situation, I can guarantee that someone else has probably experienced a very similar situation. 

One of the best benefits of DOVIA members is the willingness to share ideas, processes and concepts with each other.  What better way to re-affirm your commitment to why you do what you do every day?cartoon figures
There are local DOVIAs as well as national DOVIAs.  If you don’t know where to start, I encourage you to check with the United Way office closest to you.  They can probably direct you to local associations.  On the national front, there are two that come to mind.  The Association of Healthcare Volunteer Resource Professionals (AHVRP), affiliated with the American Hospital Association, is open to volunteer directors and managers dealing in the healthcare arena.  Additional information can be found at www.ahvrp.org

There is also another national association, Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement (AL!VE) that is open to volunteer directors and managers in any venue.  Information on AL!VE can be found at www.volunteeralive.org.  Most state or local DOVIAs are affiliates of national organizations.

It doesn’t really matter whether you stay in the healthcare arena or not, the most important “takeaway” here is that you network with people who understand where you’re coming from.  If you are not currently a member of a network, I challenge you to see out a professional network, take the plunge and attend a meeting.  I promise you, you won’t be sorry.

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The author of the Heath Care Volunteer Programs column is Mary Kay Hood MS, Hendricks Regional Health, Danville, IN (317) 745-3556. With a BS degree in biology from Marian College and a Master of Science in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University, Mary Kay has been involved in volunteer management over twenty years with a zoo and in the health care field. During that time, she completed the Management of Volunteer Programs course offered at University of Indianapolis, several supervisory training programs as well as the Indiana Hospital and Health Association’s Management Institute offered by the Executive Education Program, School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. Mary Kay served on the Nonprofit Training Center of United Way from 1993 to 2006. During that time, she taught many workshops also facilitating speaker arrangements for the Basic Volunteer Management series. Additionally, she has presented at various national and international conferences. Mary Kay served as president of the Central Indiana Association for Volunteer Administration (CIAVA) from 1993-1997 and the Indiana Society of Directors of Volunteer Services (ISDVS) from 2006-2008. She was also the recipient of the 1995 Outstanding Director of Volunteer Services Award and the 2002 United Way of Central Indiana Volunteer of the Year Award. Most recently she served on the Steering Committee for COVAA resulting in the formation of a new national membership organization for those in volunteer management, the Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement (AL!VE). With several published articles, she is also author to two books: The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions and The Volunteer Leader as Change Agent.

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