Members in Action! – Sophia

Sophia an AmeriCorps Member at Ulman Cancer Fund (UCF) whose passion for raising awareness for UCF has helped her developed skills that many seek. Being a volunteer coordinator requires various skills, public speaking is one of them. Sophia shares how her experience so far helped her to hone this skill.

She says, “In the month of December, I was able to travel back to my Alma mater, Geneseo and speak about 4K for Cancer and my involvement with UCF. I have been working on my goal of improving my public speaking quite a bit this month through presentations to the UCF staff and also through outreach opportunities that I have helped out with. Speaking for an hour as a part of the All-College-Hour Speaker Series at Geneseo was a huge test to the work that I had put into my public speaking and it was a really exciting and challenging experience for me. I was able to share my personal story as well as the stories that I have heard throughout my involvement with Ulman that inspire me to keep working with UCF. My goal of the speech was to inspire others in this community to get involved with UCF and hopefully other types of service in and outside of their community. I was really happy with how the speech went and I spoke to a few people afterwards who really wanted to get involved with UCF. It felt great to be able to see the improvement in my public speaking since the start of the service year and someone who attended the speech reached out to inquire about having me come and present at their university.

Another skill necessary to be a volunteer coordinator is being able to inspire volunteers to commit their time and effort, the challenging part being recruiting and retaining this volunteers.

For Martin Luther King day, UCF hosted a day of service well attended by 56 people of all ages. According to her,the UCF tradition of the Dedication Circle was an opportunity to hear the people that inspired the volunteers to give up their day off to serve with us. Some of the names said were familiar ones and some were names I had never heard before, but it was so inspiring to take a moment like that in which we were reminded the importance of what we were doing.”

Sophia goes further to share about one of the volunteers that served on MLK Day.

“A woman came to the MLK day of service after hearing about it through her company. She showed up with her kids and not knowing much about UCF, still took time out of her life to attend. I spoke with her about the UCF mission and my involvement and she told me about her life and where she had come from. Like me, she was new to Baltimore and looking for a community. She not only stayed the entire day, but was one of the most dedicated volunteers as her and her kids were knee deep in garbage cleaning out an area near the UCF House. She hopes to get more involved and told me how inspired she was by the UCF mission.”

However recruiting and learning what inspires volunteers is only a part of the job. Sophia faces the challenge of engaging volunteers, as volunteer opportunities are inconsistent.

She explains how they focused on creating an impactful opportunity.

“The greatest challenge this month was trying to figure out how to continue to engage volunteers after the initial interaction. I noticed that a lot of volunteer lose interest after the first event because our volunteer opportunities are less consistent. I don’t want to lose the interest of the volunteers, but still want to make sure that the work the volunteers are doing is meaningful and is making an impact. Lauriann and I have started doing Chemo Care Bag Builds every other week so that we will always have the bags ready to give to the Patient Navigators and also there will always be a volunteer opportunity for volunteers to get involved in.”

Volunteer Management is a cycle, the process is not stagnant and needs to be readdressed on all levels.  From the Big Picture to the Implementation of volunteer engagement, a Volunteer Coordinator or Manager is ultimatum responsible for relationship building and without constant care and attention eventually the relationships can end.  Sophia understands the importance of this constant need to nurture the relationship with new and excited volunteers and she’s up to the challenge to inspire them to stay engaged with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. #PickmeupWednesday



Members in Action! – Mallory

“In the face of critical need in our communities, many of us feel concern: but when does that concern move us to act? At the story telling workshop hosted by Project Change and CASA, we tackled the challenge of telling our stories of service. Mallory’s story of service and engaging the community’s compassion compelled listeners.

Mallory Jones is the ​AmeriCorps member serving with Volunteer Maryland as a ​volunteer coordinator at The Samaritan Women, a shelter in Baltimore City for women rescued from domestic sex trafficking. She shared that when she gives presentations about human trafficking to the community, it sometimes elicits a response of sympathy or emotion. What resonated with participants at the storytelling workshop was Mallory’s goal to turn that sympathy into action. Mallory’s task at hand is channeling the community’s sympathetic feelings into actively serving the community.


According to Mallory, this is what true compassion looks like: Service and Action.
​In her role a​s​ a ​volunteer coordinator, she knows the impact one individual can make in the fight against human trafficking, and wants potential volunteers to know that if you act on your concerns, you truly can make a difference.
Mallory reminds us of how important it is to get our own story out there and inspire our community to act.”



Members in Action! – Jessica

Jessica Plummer found her belonging in the community by volunteering at her site for the Live Out Loud obstacle run.
She says: “This was my first time attending this event and I volunteered as a spotter for runners. I stood at the top of the hill and cheered runners on to keep going and as runners came up I directed them to the next obstacle so they stayed on course. This was such an exciting time because I was able to see so many of the participants. Moms were running with their daughters, dads with their son’s, entire families and groups of friends all together. These people were running for a cause to raise money to feed the hungry in Calvert County and they were having fun doing it. Friends and families all came out to take pictures and cheer the runners on and capture that moment when the runners finished the race. It was an exciting time and it was a special time because this is a community that I am becoming familiar with and they weren’t just a bunch of strangers but people and faces I am getting to know. So when people came running up it was even more fun to cheer them on because I recognized them and knew their name.
After the races were over I was able to watch the awards ceremony which was really adorable. A young girl made a cape that said End hunger and she wore a tutu and she won the most spirited award. A little 5 year old boy covered in mud won the muddiest award.
The most amazing part was at the very end when the Bertolaccini family stepped up to the platform to acknowledge their son who passed in 2004. After the brief synopsis of Matt’s story they counted to 3 and then together all of the runners, friends and family chanted 3 times “Live Out Loud.” I was amazed at how special this event was. The tragic death of this young teen could have had a lasting crippling effect on the Bertolocinni family yet they chose to turn that pain around and use it for a good purpose.
The impact on the community is a beautiful and positive one. Hundreds of people running together, eating together, listening to music and laughing together all while serving a good cause was a very special moment for me as a volunteer who was new to this event. I felt happy to see the community thriving together and I was honored to serve them.”

It’s great to be a part of community that finds strength, courage and purpose in the face of a tragedy. #PickMeUpWednesday

The Shorter the Better?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy had a few interesting pieces concerning volunteerism. In the January 22, 2015 issue titled What’s Next, I noticed a small piece concerning volunteer retention. New York Cares, one of the largest volunteer management organizations is offering eight week, web tutorials, in-person workshops, and one-on-one counseling to help groups develop high quality programs.  Gary Bagley, executive director of New York cares stated that, “The lack of excellent experiences is the biggest reason people don’t volunteer.”

Flipping a few pages, an article by Megan O’Neil, “Volunteerism and Trust in Public Institutions Are On the Decline”, discusses the drop in volunteerism across the country. According to the Bureau of labor statistics, the volunteerism rate fell to 25.4 percent in 2013. This is the lowest level since this data collection began in 2002.  What is happening here? Why are fewer folks volunteering? The data is a bit confusing, so let’s look at a few indicators. A report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) states that 62.6 million adults (25.4 percent) volunteered through an organization in 2013, and more than 138 million Americans (62.5 percent) also engaged in informal volunteering in their communities, helping neighbors with such tasks as watching each other’s children, helping with shopping, or house sitting. Wendy Spencer, CNCS chief operating officer noted that the share of Americans that participate in formal volunteering has remained steady, at about one in four for many years. So does this mean that volunteerism is doing kinda okay? Maybe we are looking at the wrong set of indicators. In Megan O’Neil’s article, she quotes Greg Baldwin, president of VolunteerMatch stating that nonprofit sector and volunteers are as vulnerable to the economic swings as other sectors. He further states that, “Strong volunteer programs are coordinated by healthy, strong organizations that are well resourced.” So it’s the organizations fault? Not exactly.

Right now VM sees an amazing shift in how folks want to volunteer. Over the past four years, our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators report that they are recruiting more episodic volunteers. These are folks that volunteer for a shorter duration then the stereotypic, long-term volunteer that most organizations dream of. Our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are consistently reporting volunteers that provide less than one hour per week, and serve for shorter durations. But here is the really interesting thing; volunteer satisfaction has risen with our sites as they are able to offer a more tailored approach to engaging volunteers. Providing opportunities for volunteers to engage in a less structured way has not diminished the experience or the productivity of the programs. So is the answer short term all the way? Not completly. Circling back to Greg Baldwin’s comment concerning strong volunteer programs; I think we also need to keep in mind what the volunteer market is telling us. If volunteers are looking for short-term, meaningful opportunities, how can we meet that demand? The simple and not so simple answer is start identifying opportunities where a shorter commitment would work. Engaging volunteers on projects with a very specific end date, or being open to one and done volunteers. Meeting the market in terms of opportunities offered is not only good for volunteers, but good for organizations as well.

The Value of a Volunteer Hour

The estimated value of one hour of volunteer time is $22.14. This dollar amount has huge implications on how Volunteer Maryland reports the value of a volunteer’s time in relation to the organization or service site they serve. But what does this figure really mean?  First, let’s get the details on where this number comes from. Independent Sector determines the value of a volunteer hour and provides this information as one measurement of a volunteer’s impact.

The Independent Sector methodology for calculating this is pretty simple, “The value of volunteer time is based on the hourly earnings (approximated from yearly values) of all production and non-supervisory workers on private non-farm payrolls average (based on yearly earnings provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Independent Sector indexes this figure to determine state values and increases it by 12 percent to estimate for fringe benefits.” Got that?  Not really rocket science as it uses BLS information to determine value.

In 2013, one in four adults volunteered through an organization. This amounted to 7.7 billion hours with a value of $173 billion. That is a huge number, but is misleading in telling the value of a volunteer to an organization and a community. At times this number is viewed as money saved by the organization. There may be times that a skilled volunteer provides professional services which do have a value in terms of dollars saved through the use of a volunteer, but in most cases a volunteer supplements rather than substitutes paid staff.

So why does this number matter? The matter of determining a volunteer hours worth is tricky for most of the organizations Volunteer Maryland works with. The reason being is value has multiple facets that a volunteer program should factor when determining and showing its volunteer forces impact. Beyond the hours, there needs to a clear method of determining that impact on the client that they serve, and how their service made a difference.

Each Volunteer Maryland Coordinator works with their site to determine a way of measuring the impact of the volunteer. Some examples are an increase in reading fluency for early readers, or a decrease in invasive plants with an increase in native plants in a pre determined plot of land. This measurement gives value to the $22.14 because it shows the significance of the one hour of service. Knowing how the volunteer provides impact to your community in real, tangible improvements not only speaks the language of funders, but the language of potential volunteers as well. With the perception of less and less time, it is on the organization to prove that that a volunteer’s time has true value to the shared community.

Independent Sector –

What’s an Hour of Volunteer Work Worth? –