Starting a term of service and knowing you will build a volunteer program from scratch is a daunting task. Many Volunteer Maryland Coordinators begin their first day at their sites with little to no structure in regards to the sites volunteer program, so establishing a plan, and developing strong communication with their sites is job number one. A prime example of the strong planning and communication that goes into this undertaking is the work being done by Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, Jessica Peiffer who serves with the Asian American Center of Frederick. The Asian American Center of Frederick is a minority-led non-profit in Frederick, Maryland that focuses on community development, improving access to health care, and increasing language access.
Since starting her service at the Asian American Center of Frederick (AACF), Jessica says that she has followed the concept that the best way to develop a volunteer program is, “By devoting time and commitment to the process of volunteer coordination.” She understands that in order to establish a program one has to enter into the process with the understanding that it will take a significant amount of time and effort to put in place, and that it will not happen overnight. Jessica knows the important role that recruiting and managing volunteers plays in this process and through her time with the AACF, Jessica has quickly learned that the most important part of volunteer coordination is creating a foundational structure that is both efficient and effective. The first step of foundation building that Jessica worked on at the AACF was the creation of the organizations volunteer database. The database she created tracks volunteers by name, hours served, language spoken, and their event preferences. This database has helped to streamline the process of volunteer coordination by creating a central location where any organization staff member can access volunteer data alongside any pertinent information about the volunteer. Prior to her arrival at the AACF, the organization had no comprehensive way of tracking volunteers, but now they do. The database she created also allows staff members to focus less on constantly having to recruit new volunteers for each of their events, and more on volunteer retention by reaching out to volunteers who have already served with them and building upon those relationships.
This first step that Jessica helped to initiate sets in place a process that will continue to allow for successful volunteer recruitment and retention at the AACF. For example, this past January the AACF hosted their first MLK Jr. Day of Service event during which Volunteers served a total of 49 hours helping children design an MLK Jr. Day of Service Mural, write postcards to service men and women, and learn what it means to be a good citizen. By using the database she created, Jessica was able to reach out to volunteers who have already served with the organization at similar events and will now be able to store the information of any new volunteers who served for the first time that day. With the help of the volunteers the center was able to serve 378 clients, including 26 children, and was able to host a highly successful event. Because of Jessica’s actions and dedication serving with the AACF, the organization has learned more about the important role that volunteers can play within the community. They have started to see how volunteers can help with tasks on event days as well as how volunteers can increase the organizations capacity to hold bigger and more frequent events. Effective volunteer recruitment and management by the Asian American Center of Frederick will bring greater results from the volunteer program, and build a program that will continue to serve the Frederick community.