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

~April 2014~

Back to the Basics – Part 1

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I recently was approached to do some training for a national organization with state chapters who are struggling to create meaningful experiences for volunteers.  As I prepared my materials for presentation, it occurred to me that everyone should step back and take a look at basic volunteer management to insure that the program is still meeting the needs of the organization.

Basic elements of a solid volunteer program include:

  1. Create a plan for the volunteer program
  2. Recruit and place volunteers
  3. Orient and train volunteers
  4. Supervise and recognize volunteers
  5. Evaluate the volunteer program

When you think about the plan for the volunteer program, one of the questions you must ask is “Why have volunteers in the first place”?  Too often, it is assumed that there is a lack of money for the organization.  There is a lot of history for many of today’s healthcare facilities; volunteer guilds and auxiliaries built many a hospital in their day.  However, are the volunteers still doing what they did 25- 30- 35- 40 years ago?  Sometimes, organizations don’t necessarily want volunteers, but that is the only recourse that exists with limited funding.  The optimum reason for engaging volunteers should be that the organization values volunteers for unique benefits and diversity and/or expansion of skills they bring. 

Whatever the reason, once this has been identified, the next should be assessing the need for volunteers.  Things for consideration include:

  1. See where more volunteers are needed
  2. Create new roles for volunteers
  3. Determine where volunteer interest is
  4. Find out where volunteers are no longer needed
  5. Find ways volunteers can make staff more effective

Keep in mind some of the trends that are seen in the volunteer management arena.black board say back to basics

  1. There are many organizations to choose from
  2. People are living longer
  3. More “service learning” opportunities
  4. Increase in youth volunteering
  5. Volunteers are more focused on what they want to do for you
  6. More short term/episodic or one-time volunteers
  7. Family volunteering

As you create or evaluate your plan, consider your organization’s image within your community.  Is your facility in a safe neighborhood?  Does the facility have pleasant working environment?  What is the general reputation within community?  What is the general age/sex/racial mix of staff/clientele/volunteers?  These things need to be considered as you prepare for the recruitment and placement of volunteers.  Don’t be afraid to distinguish myths from obstacles.  If there are obstacles, be clear in how they are addressed so they do not prohibit potential volunteers from participating with your program.

Next month:  Creating volunteer opportunities


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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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