Winter is here, just as I was getting use to fall. The upside is that December is an eventful month with holidays, family time and lots of connecting with people. However, over the last couple of weeks my schedule is more hectic and mentally my mind is working overtime to deal.
I have been in and out of the office on site visits, which are at the top of the to-do list for November and December. It’s an opportunity for Volunteer Maryland to get out and see what’s going on with the VMCs; learn more about what they are doing and how they are helping within their sites. When the VMCs started the service year they were eager to recruit, train and retain volunteers for their sites. During my weekly check-ins with the VMCs, we discuss how recruitment is progressing. There is one comment often repeated. “Recruitment is moving along but I can’t seem to get more people to come out and sign up because of the holidays. What has changed and how do I face this challenge?” I instantly resonated with this. I had the same experience in my own service year as a VMC with CASA of Baltimore County. There were fast paced days full of phone calls, emails and walk- in volunteers. Other times recruitment slowed, like around the holidays. “What happened?” Everything slowed down and I would be lucky if I got five applications. I was not seeing the positive, the bright spots those times when things are working in my favor but more often than not, gravitating to the negative.
Building numbers is not all there is to recruitment. When we are able to redirect our perspective and think positive, we can do anything we put our minds to. When I was able to see the bright spot, I realized that whether it was 15, 10, or 5 volunteer recruits, growth continued to happen throughout the slow months and volunteers were still signing up.
How can we encourage the VMCs to have a positive outlook and recognize the bright spots? What do you get out of dwelling on the downside of an inevitable challenge? This is dead end thinking; it does not open up new opportunities. It only brings discouragement and disappointment. On average each VMC will recruit between 100 and 170 new volunteers during a service year, but it takes time. We have to see the bright spots by continuing to work through this challenge and seeing what works. My goal is to help the VMCs brainstorm ideas and encourage them to continue to come up with new ways of recruiting volunteers to take action in the communities.
This holiday season I hope you all take the time to seek out opportunities to volunteer within your community. If you live in Prince Georges County, seek out Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Ashia Moultrie with UCAP. UCAP provides services to women, who are homelessness, victims of domestic violence and substance abuse. If you find yourself visiting Baltimore, contact Judy Park, Volunteer Maryland coordinator with Charm City Clinic, enabling Baltimore City resident’s access to health care. You can also volunteer with Sharon Baldwin, Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Baltimore CASH providing free tax preparation. Also, think about visiting Volunteer Maryland Coordinator Megan Sullivan, Volunteer Maryland coordinator with The Delmarva Discovery Center, learning how you can provide educational services to children and families in Pocomoke City, Maryland. Volunteering is a bright spot in any community at any time, so here’s hoping this holiday season is full of bright spots and lasting impacts on the communities we serve.