December Reflections

There’s something very special about the month of December.  It fills me with memories of my mother’s incredible Pfefferkuchen baking in the oven, and our home filled with unique Christmas decorations.  It’s a reminder of the search for the perfect tree with my siblings and Dad, followed by a fun afternoon of decorating. Once December nears its end, there’s always the feeling of new hope that comes with the impending year and all the possibilities it can bring.

December, for me, is also a time to reflect on all the events, accomplishments and challenges of the previous year.  It’s a time to learn, evaluate, and look ahead!  As a Volunteer Manager, I reflect with the hope that I’ve provided a memorable, satisfying experience for the dedicated group of volunteers who support our mission.

Recently, I sat down to determine where I spent the majority of my efforts with no doubt in my mind that recruitment and screening far surpassed other areas. Recruitment and Screening is something I feel that I do, day in and day out.  However, to my surprise, a second prominent theme emerged throughout the year…Training! 

Training in some form or other, was on my 2019 ­Outlook calendar in a variety of ways.  Whether it involved training new staff, developing training modules for volunteers, incorporating mentorship training opportunities amongst volunteers, or building my own professional portfolio through attendance at training webinars and workshops…it was there, again and again!  Most interestingly, I noticed that the Volunteer Manager’s Network’s (VMN) first meeting of the year was labelled “Volunteer Engagement and Training”. Could it be that it set the tone for the rest of the year for me? 

As a member of the Volunteer Manager’s Network, I look forward to each monthly session, listen intently, take notes and formulate to-do lists with a fresh new perspective on the topic at hand. Through this network, the PIN (People and Information Network) informs us of upcoming training opportunities for Volunteer professionals including the annual Hybrid conference in October, low-cost useful workshops through the Waterloo Wellington Learning Alliance (WWLA), and other opportunities offered at little to no cost. 

With VMN meetings occurring monthly from September to June, we are able to cover a range of topics useful to anyone in the Volunteer profession, such as Police Record Checks, Volunteer Screening Best Practices, Presentation Skills, Marketing strategies for your program and more.  In June of each year the VMN has a “year-end” review when members have a voice in choosing the upcoming year’s topics. 

While the topics we cover are relevant to our profession and prove useful in various ways, many of our take-aways and “aha” moments stem from those informal conversations we have with the peers sitting beside us or across the table, who share their latest discovery, challenges or success stories from their programs. The VMN is a group that shares so much in common beyond our titles, whether we are coordinators, administrators, mobilizers or managers, we all work towards providing the best possible program for our agency, fellow staff and most specifically the volunteers that support us.

It was through the VMN that I first heard about the CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) credential, which I contemplated for a period of time before finally making a commitment to pursue this designation.  After a VMN session in December 2017 that outlined the merits of both the PAVRO and CVA designations, I was able to determine which credential suited me the most, and then made a self-pledge to work towards it.  In hindsight, where else could I have attended a session devoted specifically to personal branding for Volunteer Managers, if it wasn’t for the Volunteer Manager’s Network? 

With the CVA designation earned in late 2018, I then became somewhat strategic in planning my own professional learning/training, to ensure that I could meet the re-certification requirements five years down the road.  Once again, the PIN, through its VMN, provided an opportunity for professional growth with two co-facilitation role vacancies, and the opportunity to write a blog!  These were opportunities that I didn’t hesitate to take part in, and that I see as part of my professional training and growth.

So, while I continue to review the past year and plan for 2020, I am sure—and thankful—that I’ll continue to spend lots of time on recruitment and screening, but I’m also committed to develop training opportunities for volunteers and staff.  I’ll need to make sure that as a Volunteer Manager, I continue to keep my knowledge current and up to date, and that I connect with my peers (thank you VMN) for opportunities to learn from them.  I’m excited to plan ahead for 2020, but also very interested to see what next year’s December reflection will reveal!

Barb Carscadden

Manager, Volunteer Engagement & Transportation Services

East Wellington Community Services


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Learn more about the Volunteer Manager’s Network here


Posted on December 2, 2019