This week, about half of the class of VM25 will meet for a regional meeting hosted by VMC Casey Lowe at the beautiful Accokeek Foundation. Between a potluck lunch and an exploration of the beautiful Piscataway Park, we will discuss an issue that comes up time and again for VMCs: establishing new relationships with other organizations.
One of the earliest stages of volunteer program implementation is identifying good sources of potential volunteers. These could be local colleges, houses of worship, nonprofits, or for-profit businesses. For some VMCs, reaching out to these organizations easy. Their service sites have long standing relationships with them, and reaching out is like getting back in touch with an old friend.
In other cases, however, VMCs are making cold calls. While the VMC might have good reason to believe this new partnership could solve everybody’s problems and create wonderful opportunities all around, the organization she is about to contact has never even heard of her service site. What should she do?
There is no one answer to this question, but here are a few pieces of advice, courtesy of the wise and wonderful Volunteer Maryland Staff:
Know exactly what you want before you approach another organization — Make a very direct ask. Write a script if you need to!
Do your homework. Make sure you are clear on the history, mission, culture and capacity of the organization before you come calling. Do they have any history of helping organizations such as yours? Is there any overlap in your networks?
Determine what is in it for them. Why should this organization encourage its members to volunteer for your service site? Will doing so contribute to service learning requirements?
Streamline the process. If you have all your ducks in a row before you contact, say, a school counselor, you can pitch a very simple process that you have already developed for her to direct students to your organization. Busy people love it when most of the work has already been done for them!
Ask a staff member from your service site to come along. Creating lasting, sustainable partnerships with organizations whose members will reliably volunteer at your site is a long, labor-intensive process. Don’t be afraid to ask a staff member to join you in this venture. Staff involvement in the partnerships you develop greatly increases the likelihood that those partnerships will flourish long after you have completed your service year.
Finally, don’t be afraid! Once you’ve done the legwork and your homework — pick up the phone — great things await.