As a Volunteer Maryland member and alum, I have frequent opportunities to interact with my fellow alums. This year, two amazing Volunteer Maryland alums, Nicki Fiocco and Marisa Olszewski, graciously spoke at VM25 regional meetings. Nicki is the Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator at Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks, and she was a member of VM24 who served at Quiet Waters Park. Marisa is currently balances work at the Robinson Nature Center with graduate school, and she served as VMC at the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation as a member of VM21 and VM22.
Marisa and Nicki both talked a lot about the ways their Volunteer Maryland experience equipped them for professional success, and as they did, one common theme emerged: Volunteer Maryland had taught them how to demonstrate the impact of their work. They both knew the importance of being able to tell a good story about a successful project or program, and the people whose lives were changed for the better because of it. They both also knew that these stories need to be complemented by cold hard numbers. How many volunteers were recruited? How many hours did they serve? How many clients did they serve? How was impact on the clients measured? What were the outcomes?
Being able to tell compelling, empirically supported stories about impact is crucial because, as we all know, funding is scarce, and the spoils go to those who can show that their work has made a difference.
Throughout the service year, Volunteer Maryland requires reporting of quantitative data accompanied by stories about volunteers, clients and the service experience. As such, VM alums are very skilled when it comes to measuring the impact of their work, and they are good at talking about it, too. In Nicki’s case, she was able to use her impact data and narrative to convince her current employer to create a position for her. And now that she is in that position, she uses the tools and skills she got from VM to continue documenting her service and its benefit to her employer and to the community.
I also just recently had the pleasure of reading narratives written by two of my VM24 classmates, Donté Taylor and Faith Savill, praising the work of volunteers in their current organizations. Full of vivid examples and impressive data, these narratives left no doubt in the reader’s mind that these volunteers were doing extraordinary work.
Making a difference and being able to show that I’ve made a difference? Just another perk of being a VM alum.