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

~October 2014~

Being Indispensible

raised hands


When there is an economic downturn everyone is wondering about the outcome.  I believe there are specific things directors/managers of volunteers can do to alleviate the anxiety.  What I’m suggesting might seem off base to some directors/managers but I believe it’s worthwhile to take a look at these concepts.

bullet Become an expert in your field – Yes, that means reading, reading, reading!  Attend your local DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies) meetings.  Take advantage of educational opportunities in your area – even if that means some out of pocket costs.  Subscribe to various publications and online discussion groups to keep abreast of what’s happening (Cybervpm, ARNOVA, the IJOVA, Volunteer Today--a few examples.)  How can you position yourself as indispensable to your organization if you don’t know what’s going on in the field of volunteer administration?

bullet Stop functioning like a little schoolmarm – If you are the only one in your organization that “supervises” volunteers, you need to work on moving to a more decentralized style of volunteer management.  Think about the HR director in the organization.  Does everyone report to them?  Why should all the volunteers report to you?  Move to departmental accountability and supervision with volunteers.   Even if your organization is very small, you should not be the only one who supervises volunteers.

bullet If you can accomplish a more decentralized style of volunteer management, you are perfectly poised for my next suggestion.  Take on additional responsibilities within your organization.  I know what you’re thinking.  “I have all the volunteers to keep track of and now she’s recommending that I take on more work?”  A few years ago, senior management asked me to take on oversight of the “guest services” part of our organization.  That entails over 20 employees staffing various stations throughout our facility.  And with employees in addition to volunteers reporting to this position, the organization is less likely to do away with the position.

The recurring theme here is to make yourself indispensable.  And arrow divides into three pathswhile nothing in this life is certain, keeping abreast of what’s happening in the field, moving to a professional atmosphere of volunteer management and saying yes the next time they ask you to take on another role may help you in the long run.


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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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