As long as I can remember I have loved the Olympics. It probably started with Dorothy Hamill at the 1976 Olympics. I can still remember watching her skate on the Moran family trusty color console television with my mom, and convincing her to allow me to cut my hair in the wedge hairstyle that Dorothy sported during those games.
Something about the Olympics just draws me in. I love the over the top Opening Ceremonies, the competition, the medal ceremonies and, the moment during the Closing Ceremonies when athletes of the world are called to meet again in four years. The symbol of the games, the five interlocking rings symbolizing the colors of all nations immediately identifies the Olympics, and embodies the spirit of connection through sport.
What about a volunteer Olympic symbol? What symbols would I choose? My first symbol would be mission. Volunteer programs need to be connected to the mission of the organization with clear impact on the clients served. Volunteers need to see that connection which can be difficult when dealing with long term issues like impacting human or environmental success. Showing volunteer programs connection to the mission builds investment.
Staff would be my second symbol. Staff should be provided opportunities for training and input on how the volunteer program flows within the organization. Good volunteer management calls for strong staff knowledge of how volunteers work within an organization, and clear roles for both. Having these clear roles builds a better platform for effective communication.
Structure of the volunteer program would be included. Structure of a volunteer program – the policies, volunteer positions, screening, orientation, training puts it on the organizational map. This structure provides volunteers a clear path to service, and builds a relationship where all parties are accountable.
Just having volunteers does not mean impact. Being able to measure and show the value of the volunteer program within an organization speaks the language of funders, staff and the volunteers themselves. This is directly linked to the first symbol, mission. Going beyond the dollar value of a volunteer’s time to show how that volunteer improves reading, keeps seniors independent or ensures better water quality proves that the volunteers are an integral part of the overall organization efficiency.
Revision would be the last symbol. Volunteer programs are not static, so planned revision is ensures sustainability of the volunteer program. Keeping current with trends in the field of effective volunteer management, updating volunteer procedures, and training provided to volunteers and staff keeps the volunteer program vital within an organization. Building time to do this regularly will pay off in efficiency and effectiveness.
Mission, staff, structure, measurement, and revision make it on my flag, and I am adding one more, the volunteers themselves. Volunteers keep our communities humming along with a tune of hope and passion. I will never be an Olympian, but I do volunteer, and support volunteerism through my work. Starting Friday, I will watch the world’s best skate, curl and ski with awe and wonder. However, every day I see the power of effective volunteer programs and the impact of volunteers that serve within them without the goal of a podium or medal. I will take that any day of the week. Plus, no one needs to see me in spandex. Ever.