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


~November 2011~



Last month’s topic focused on patient needs as it relates to Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy.  Following that train of thought, the volunteer interview is the opportunity for the volunteer program manager to ascertain the motivation behind why the potential volunteer is meeting with you.  One of the first sessions I ever attended at a national conference was titled “Getting to No.”  Consider the implications of that catchy title:  you’ll find that it is right on target.  The interview process should be a chance for people to tell us ‘no’ as well as an opportunity for us to tell them ‘no.’

There’s a difference between needing ‘warm bodies’ to meet short-term demands and bringing on quality people to meet the needs of the organization for the long haul.  To make sure you are cultivating people that are a true match for your organization, review your interview process.  Consider what you wish to achieve during that time with a prospective volunteer. 
The purpose of the interview should be to:interview at desk

  • Get to know the person
  • Determine motivations for wanting to volunteer
  • Assess “matching” abilities with your organization
  • Screen for risks
  • Create opportunities for them to say ‘no'

You are probably wondering why I even suggest that you consider telling them no.  But in today’s world, the screening process is of utmost importance as it relates to the morale of the paid staff and other volunteers.  Screening should prevent you bring on someone questionable or that ends up being problematic.  Consider too that volunteers represent your organization to the community.  Does that problematic volunteer represent the agency to the community in the way in which your organization wishes to be perceived?

The process of the interview should follow:

  • Preparation – Set aside and schedule adequate time to spend with the potential volunteer and have materials prepared including position descriptions.
  • Opening – Be welcoming to the potential volunteer, putting them at ease, establishing the timeframe and clarifying what is going to happen.
  • Body of Interview – This is a time where you can discuss general information about the organization, volunteer opportunities, needs and specific expectations.
  • Closing – The last few minutes should be a summary of what has been discussed, clarification of the next steps and confirmation of a timeline for action.  It’s important to express appreciation to the potential for taking time to meet with you.  After all, retention begins at the beginning of the process.

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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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