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

~May 2011~

Some Things Old Are New Again


A successful volunteer program relies on several components all working in synchronization.  Two components that work in tandem include detailed position descriptions identifying tasks that volunteers will do and having staff embrace the volunteer assistance.  But many of us face the challenge of trying to find ways to have staff “buy-in” to having volunteers.  It’s been my experience that the more that the staff workload can be lightened, the more likely the staff will embrace the involvement of volunteers.staff picture

One way that can assist in that endeavor is a process that was first identified by Ivan Scheier.  In a recent discussion with other volunteer program managers, this was something they had not ever heard of before.  As a method to get staff involvement in identifying what volunteers can do, Ivan developed a short exercise that can only be described as a “win-win” for the staff, volunteers and volunteer manager.  Done with paid staff from the department or organization, the exercise consists of three short concepts.

  1. First, ask the staff to think about their job duties and have them write down four or five things from their duties that they like to do in their job.  You know, this is the stuff that keeps people charged in their job.
  2. The next step requires the staff to think about their job duties and have them write down four or five things that they have to do in their job but they don’t really like to do.  We all have things in our jobs that we don’t really like to do but we have to do it because it’s part of our job.
  3. The final step is to have the staff think about the things they would like to do but there doesn’t ever seem to be enough time to get these things done.

Once these three lists have been identified, the next part of the exercise is to ask staff if there are things from the second and third list that could be put together for a volunteer to handle.  After all, you don’t really want to take away items from the first list; those are the things the staff enjoy doing.  Once you have identified duties to be handled by volunteers along with staff involvement, you are positioned for success as you recruit volunteers to meet those needs. 

While Ivan developed this concept and exercise, it seems to have disappeared from the volunteer program manager landscape.  So, like most things, here it is and everything old is new again.

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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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