charities, hospice, hospice volunteering, managing volunteers, NGO, non-profit, organizations, recruiting volunteers, volunteer, volunteer coordinator, volunteer management, volunteer retention, volunteering, volunteers
Part two of an interview with Ellie, a volunteer for 18 years with a hospice.
VPT: Let’s look at things in retrospect now. What advice do you have for volunteer managers? How can we keep someone like you?
E: I’d say that having someone a volunteer can count on is important.
VPT: In what way?
E: It’s trust. I trusted my supervisor and he trusted me.
VPT: You moved away. But you stopped volunteering before you moved. Was it because you were contemplating the move?
E: (pauses) No.
VPT: What was it then?
E: Things were changing.
VPT: In what way?
E: Well, my supervisor was taking on more and more work. I began to realize that when I needed support or a chance to talk, I may go to his office and he would not be available or at another location.
VPT: That support was important.
E: Well, yes, because I wanted to make sure that I was doing the right thing. I did not want to do anything wrong.
VPT: And so, you saw change happening.
VPT: Ok, I am asking you to be honest here. As volunteer managers, we’ve all done this. We sometimes share our frustrations at the amount of extra work with our volunteers, although we don’t mean to do that. Did your supervisor start sharing his frustrations with you?
E: No, not at all. See, the type of relationship I had with my volunteer supervisor was so successful. He didn’t have to say a word to me. I instinctively knew that he was overburdened all on my own.
VPT: Do you think it is harder for new volunteers if they don’t forge that deep relationship with their volunteer manager?
E: I don’t know because I can’t compare it to anything I experienced. I would ask though, are volunteers getting what they need? I know I had it pretty good, and by the same token, I wonder if volunteers who don’t receive the same vote of confidence will stay.
VPT: So when did you decide to stop volunteering?
E: I had this patient, Joy, the sweetest lady you’d ever meet. I would go to her house and take her to do her shopping. We had so much fun together, But one day, I went to her house. I was tired, out of sorts I guess and I felt a bit like I didn’t want to go to the store. Joy said to me, Are you all right? Have I done anything to upset you? Well, I assured Joy that she could never upset me and I apologized over and over. I thought long and hard about that moment.
VPT: And that had something to do with your leaving?
E: I knew then, that I was done. How? It was my attitude and reactions that told me. I knew that it was time. I had nothing more to give. And if I can’t give 100%, then I’m not doing any good for the people I’m supposed to be helping.
VPT: How did that make you feel?
E: (sighs) It made me sad, because it had been such a good ride.
VPT: Eighteen years. That’s a long time. Did you feel any guilt over leaving?
E: No, no guilt because I gave my all while I was there. It was just time.
VPT: How do you look back on it, now?
E: I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was enlightening, rewarding, and was almost like a second carer.
VPT: What advice would you give to volunteers?
E: You get out what you put in. And, it is crucial to ask if you have questions and to share problems and experiences with your supervisor.
VPT: Any advice for volunteer managers?
E: Yes. Supervisors need to know that volunteers go through what I went through. They need to realize and look for signs that volunteers are going through a period of ineffectiveness and they need to address that. Nurture the volunteers you have.
VPT: Would you go back now that you’ve had some time off?
E: No. That is in the past now.
VPT: Thank you Ellie, for your honesty, your insights and your incredible volunteering.
E: My pleasure.