“Carlos is one of those volunteers who just knows what to do,” LeAnne said proudly. “He understands rules and boundaries, doesn’t need much instruction and always, and I mean always,” she laughs, “turns in his reports and attends meetings. My only problem is I can’t clone him. He’s so good, I started to pick his brain, wanting to know the magic thoughts in there and I discovered that he had volunteered for quite some time in another city before he moved here. He told me about that program and how his volunteer coordinator was instrumental in teaching him so much about being a good volunteer.” LeAnne sighed. “I really would love to thank her for that.”
Ahhhhh, volunteers that have volunteered successfully at another organization. It’s like finding a hair stylist with lots of experience and training. (No, wait, it’s actually much better)
I’ve been on both ends of this volunteer exchange. I’ve welcomed volunteers who have had a great experience elsewhere and I’ve heard from volunteers who say their experience with my program helped them in their new endeavors. It makes you realize that our work reaches far beyond our postal code.
So, what if we created a form letter to send to that unsung volunteer manager who taught a new volunteer everything they know? How incredibly validating would it be to hear that a volunteer you’ve mentored went on to successfully volunteer elsewhere? Imagine receiving this letter:
Dear (volunteer coordinator),
I am writing to let you know that your former volunteer (Tom Smith) has joined our organization as a youth advocate volunteer. (Tom) brings incredible skills and exhibits the caring nature necessary to work with and advocate for our clients. He is an outstanding addition to our volunteer program.
Tom speaks highly of the (four) years he spent volunteering at ( your organization) and attributes many of his volunteering qualities to your coaching and guidance. I wanted to personally thank you for all of your time and effort spent in helping develop Tom’s natural talent and (my organization) looks forward to working with him. I give you my pledge to treat Tom with the dignity and respect that you have shown him and hope that one day he will speak as fondly of me as he does of you.
Wouldn’t it feel really great to receive this letter? Who knows, maybe a relationship between the sender and the recipient might just develop into a peer-to-peer support system. And the volunteers who move on will realize that we, volunteer managers not only recognize their worth, we recognize the worth of each other and each other’s programs.
We truly are in this together. A stamp or email and a form letter is all we need to thank a volunteer manager for all the time and effort they put into mentoring the volunteer that we now have in our program.
The Toms of the volunteering world are coached by caring volunteer leaders. What a wonderful gesture to recognize that work, especially when we benefit from their effort.