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Part 2 of the interview with Sadie on corporate volunteering-the day of the event.
VPT: So, on the day of the event, you and several other employees met up at the location. How did it go?
S: Well, we had an issue with parking. There were street parking spots, but a sign said ‘two hour parking only.’ We parked anyway. It was a four-hour shift so we figured we would have to come out and move the cars. Later, when we asked, they told us that the city had waived that rule and we could stay in our spots.
VPT: After you parked, you went in and what happened?
S: The building was a warehouse type of building and we had no idea how to get in.
VPT: What did you do?
S: We went around back, found a back door and went in through there.
VPT: And then what?
S: We found the makeshift kitchen where there was coffee and donuts and we announced ourselves to the people in there. They asked if this was our first year and we said yes, so they got another person to come and train us.
VPT: Were they volunteers or staff? How did you know they were part of the event?
S: I honestly don’t know if they were paid or not. But they wore stick on name badges.
VPT: Did they greet you?
S: They seemed stressed. It felt like they didn’t know what to do with us. They consulted the printed out sign up sheet and saw that we were listed so they said they would try to find a spot for us.
VPT: What did the training consist of?
S: About two minutes worth of what we were supposed to do.
VPT: And that was….
S: We were to walk around with the clients. They would have a shopping cart and we would go from station to station where they would pick out toys according to how many children they had and their ages. Then we would escort them to the stations where they would get boxes of donated food. I will say, the person who showed us what to do was very nice.
VPT: How were the stations?
S: The stations were very well set up, and organized. You could tell they had done this many times before.
VPT: Were you given any information on how to act around the clients, anything about sensitivity or confidentiality?
S: (laughs). At one point we were told to try to get stories of hardship from the clients so that we could direct them to a station that had extra toys. They had more toys than they needed, so I guess that’s a good thing.
VPT: Did someone check in with you during your shift to see if everything was ok.
S: Not with me, I don’t know about the others.
VPT: And you were there for four hours.
S: Longer. One of our group, Justin, who was helping at a food station, was told he could not leave until his replacement showed up. After thirty minutes of waiting, we just left. Some of us rode together and had to go.
VPT: Did anyone acknowledge you when you left?
S: No. Justin told his station manager and we left.
VPT: How was it working with the clients?
S: That was great. The people were very grateful and appreciated our being there to help.
VPT: Were you comfortable with the clients, given you had minimal training?
S: Surprisingly, yes. It felt very natural.
VPT: Did your firm get any acknowledgement, thank you, write-up, mention on website, anything?
S: No, nothing that I am aware of. In hindsight, we should have worn company t-shirts or brought something for them to use. They didn’t ask, though.
VPT: Did you have some sort of follow-up meeting with your fellow employees after the event?
S: No, we probably should have done that. But I did check in with them individually.
VPT: What feedback did you get from the other employees?
S: They thought it was worthwhile. They felt like they made a connection with the people being helped.
VPT: Will you be back next year?
VPT: What will bring you back?
S: As much as I didn’t appreciate how it was run, it is about the people I was helping and it makes me feel good to help them. I wasn’t able to volunteer until I was a point in my life where I felt I was able to help others. Now that I can do that I feel like I’m also able to take on obstacles such as the people running the show. Maybe they started off like me, caring about the people more, and they never transitioned over to caring for the volunteers that help the people in need. I’m not sure, but I do feel like it comes with the territory.
VPT: Anything else?
S: Second reason I’ll go back is because it might not be the best environment to make me feel appreciated, but I’m comfortable now. I do have a busy life and I chose this organization for a reason. To find another one like it is time-consuming and what if it was just the same or worse? I feel comfortable at this organization now and next year I will be able to walk in, do what I came to accomplish and leave.
VPT: Thank you Sadie for sharing your experience with us.
Huh. Well, that was definitely eye-opening. So, I guess the takeaway is we should be relieved when volunteers put up with us because it’s just too darned time-consuming to find another place to spend their time and talents. And luckily for us, that new place might be worse.
And hey, here’s a thought. Maybe we should thank the people we serve for being needy. Maybe we could just give them a reward for keeping our volunteers coming back. We could call it the “Sob Story of Retention” award.
Or maybe we could just do better.