Presenting: Well Designed Volunteer Programs

All I saw of the Superbowl was the reflection of the half-time show in my kitchen window. How does Madonna do it?  If  you were disappointed with the outcome of last weekend’s game, don’t dispair,  there are other exciting things  to come this month.   Sunday night the Grammy Awards are on and two weeks later, Februrary 26, the Academy Awards.  I just saw Legally Blonde so I guess I’ve got a few years to catch up on.  Last time I was in the grocery store,  Adele was singing.  Muzak has come a long way.  I hate to vote against my favorite artists but, I am usually happier when they are nominated for a Grammy, and don’t win.   If music and movies aren’t enough excitement, Fashion Week New York 2012 starts Thursday!  The Devil Wears Prada gave me an eye opening perspective on fashion, even if I did  just see it a year ago. 

As an early Project Runway afficionado I learned two things:  Make it work! (a Tim Gunn axiom) and  One Size Does Not Fit All!  Both of these principals apply to effective volunteer management, as well as wardrobes.  In successful volunteer programs there are times when the best laid plans go haywire and  “making it work” is required.  It’s also risky to take a “one size fits all”  approach to a volunteer program.  One of the defining characteristics of  Volunteer Maryland  is the absence of this “one size” perspective.  Ongoing training and support are the foundation of  Volunteer Maryland.  (Putting the proper foundation under a garment is another of Tim’s axioms.)  Once the foundation is in place, the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator (VMC) collaborates with the Service Site to “tailor” the program to best suit the site.  Through out this “tailoring” the Volunteer Maryland Support Team is checking in and touching base with the Site Supervisor and the VMC.  Much like Tim’s guidance to the designers on Project Runway, Volunteer Maryland guides the partnerships.  Sometimes this can mean:  WOW!  You really used your resources to the max.  Other times:  I think you really need to re-think that design, is it going to work. . . in your program? 

Here is a peek into the “design room” of two Volunteer Maryland Coordinators who tailor the task of publishing a newsletter to the needs of their specific sites.  Brandon recently published the inaugural issue of  “The C.O.W. Institute Chronicles.”  Inside are engaging photographs of students and volunteers involved in a variety of activities supported by the program.  Constructing geodesic domes with toothpicks and gumdrops, anyone?  Or, would you rather work in the vegetable garden?  Brandon intentionally designed the newsletter in paper format so that students can take copies home, it can be mailed to volunteers and community members, and posted on the bulletin boards in the hallways at Drew Freeman Middle School where other students and staff can read it.  Who to contact for information on each program is easily accessible.  I can’t wait to read more about the robotics club!

The V-LINC Volunteer Bulletin, edited by Donté, is tailored to fit the volunteers at VLINC.  There are updates on volunteer projects, photos of completed projects and the clients who benefited from them.   A welcome to new volunteers and an invitation to submit project proposals are also included.  The Bulletin is sent electronically  to the V-LINC volunteer community.   The latest issue had an explanation of the importance of recording volunteer hours and an easy link to submit them.  The information is pertinent and the stories compelling.  I wish I had the engineering skills to contribute. 

Here is a link to find out more about how Volunteer Maryland can work with you to tailor a volunteer program to fit your needs.  Contact us; we’d love to get you in the design room!

The theme for this post was based on a writing prompt from Kivi Leroux Miller:  http://www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com/resources/articles/monthly-writing-prompts/

  

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