Organized Chaos

Over the course of the service year, Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are required to submit a Mid-Year Report and a Final Report that detail their accomplishments and challenges, tell the story of their service year, and give statistics that show the progress of their Service Site’s volunteer program.  Along with these reports, VMCs are asked to submit copies of any materials they have created (position descriptions, volunteer handbooks, recruitment fliers, etc.).

As you might imagine, this being VM Class 23, we have a lot of sample materials hanging around.  We use some of these materials as examples during Pre-Service Training when we talk about recruitment.  We ask the VMCs to consider what flyers and brochures they find interesting, what might make them want to call or email an organization for more information, as well as what materials they find less intriguing, even downright off-putting (it’s important to remember, of course, that what works for one organization or makes one person want to volunteer is not always what works for every person or organization).  VMCs also come to us throughout the year for examples of documents they want or need to create for their sites.  Imagine having to create a volunteer handbook from scratch never having seen such a thing in your life.  Daunting task!  Luckily, we have a whole stockpile of sample handbooks from VMCs of years past, as well as many other resources that current VMCs can look to for inspiration!

Unluckily, constantly taking out sample materials to use in training or lend to VMCs for inspiration, coupled with the sheer number of samples we’ve acquired over the years, means that one drawer in Maureen’s office was getting a little out of control and finding specific examples of items was getting to be a challenge.  Over the break between Christmas and New Year’s, when I was the only one in the office, I took on the challenge of organizing the drawer of sample materials and managed to get everything in order.  But the thought crossed my mind was, will it really stay like this?  I answered myself, “No, no it will not,” and came up with the genius idea of color coding all of the samples by type and creating an electronic database so future RCs can easily find out what samples are available for their VMCs to use (and hopefully make it easier to put things back in place after trainings).  Flash forward to now, Mid-Year Retreat, Destination AmeriCorps, and all but one of my second round of site visits are behind me, and I’m just now getting down to the color-coding, database creation, and data entry.  I think it’s safe to say that the last two months of my service year (eek!) will be taken up by this project.  It will probably get tedious at times (imagine: take out file folder of flyers, type in each individual item, put stick on item to color code, replace folder of flyers, repeat with next folder of different material), but I know that this is a worthwhile project because it will make it so much easier to peruse the great sample materials that VMCs have created throughout the years.

Have you ever created an inventory database (in Microsoft Access or another program)?  What did you find challenging about it?  How has it helped your organization?

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