Recently, I went to an orientation for volunteers at the Pratt Library. Since Volunteer Maryland just had a training in which all of our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators practiced their orientation speeches, I was interested in comparing a real-life example to what we had been discussing.
I have to admit that my earlier metaphor about being dropped in the wilderness was true here; I went in knowing next to nothing about volunteering with the library. But right away I was given my compass: an info packet containing all of the relevant information about the library and volunteering with them. The following steps the volunteer coordinator took all led to me feeling well-equipped to volunteer with them.
One the first things the volunteer coordinator took out of the folder was a name tag for me, and stickers and a pen. The name tag was a great touch; I immediately felt included as a part of the team. Before I even have started volunteering, I was being treated like a colleague. The freebies weren’t required to make me feel good, but they never hurt to give as well.
The coordinator also made sure to express how important volunteers are to the library’s work, and how much my service was appreciated. She then told me specifically how I would be shown that appreciation: I would have the respect of the staff, have an opportunity to attend special events, and be invited to a volunteer appreciation party in the spring. Now not only am I feeling good, I’m feeling excited!
As we started into the specifics of the volunteer position, she listed both options relevant to the interests I had listed, as well as options that were serious needs of the library. She was genuine in expressing their needs, and then listened to me when I responded with my thoughts on which I’d like to pursue.
On my way out, I was introduced to one of their volunteers who had been with them for ten years! I would be starting by volunteering at occasional special events, but now I had a model of how my volunteering could evolve into working as an integral part of the team. Once the orientation was done, the coordinator followed up immediately with more information about specific volunteer opportunities we had discussed. I felt quite well-oriented at this point and secure in traversing the library’s volunteer terrain.
It was a great experience to see an orientation at work so soon after our practice with orientations. So many of these elements were contained in our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators’ orientations; I know they too will be able to make their volunteers feel welcomed and well-equipped for their service.