“My Finger Has a Heartbeat”

Ever since “Elf” was released in 2003, it has been one of my favorite holiday movies!  Will Ferrell plays the character Buddy, and in one scene, he holds a cotton ball to his finger after receiving a needle prick and states, “My finger has a heartbeat.”  Makes me smile every time.  As much as I would like to rant about how entertaining the movie “Elf” is, that will not be the premise of this post.  Try not to get too teary eyed :). I reference “Elf” because during In-Service Training on Wednesday, the guest speaker, Mickey Gomez from the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County, said something that stuck in my mind.  Mickey encouraged the audience of AmeriCorps members and VM staff to “keep our finger on the pulse of what is going on.”  As Maureen mentioned in an earlier post this week, Mickey’s presentation focused on the trends of modern technology and how nonprofit organizations can and should appropriately capitalize on them.  The “pulse” Mickey spoke about was that of the progression and liveliness of technology, but I think this pulse concept can be applied to many aspects of the nonprofit sector, including volunteer programs.

A goal for many of the Service Sites we have partnered with this year is sustainability.  Creating a system, various materials, and the man-power for a sustainable program is arguably the most difficult step to complete  in the Cycle of Program Development.  Many nonprofits, including Service Sites, operate with a small staff wearing many hats.  The Volunteer Maryland Coordinators (VMCs) assist the nonprofits with the development of volunteer programs; however, their time at each of the Service Sites is limited to ten months.  Some VMCs may choose to continue a second year, but for VM24 the service year does end on July 31, 2012. At which time, a transition of responsibilities from the VMC to the nonprofit officially takes place.

What is sustainability?  Sustainability answers the overall question, “How will the volunteer program survive after the service year?”  In order for nonprofits to retain volunteers, they have to keep their finger on the pulse of service and volunteerism in their organizations.  This can include, constant communication with the volunteers, utilizing new and popular outlets for recruitment, making sure previous and new volunteers are properly motivated (i.e. matching them with innovative volunteer opportunities) and recognized for their service, and accurate reporting and record keeping of service hours and participants. Sustainability can be daunting for the nonprofit sector, but it can be done!  In my next post I will review the four basic sustainability strategies Volunteer Maryland recommends.

In a way we should be like Buddy and realize that our “finger” has a heartbeat and work to not let that pulse fade.

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