Learn from Leaders of Volunteers – October 2019
PIN – The People and Information Network believes in the importance of Leaders of Volunteer Involvement; the skill, support and the spirit that provides vital leadership and mobilizes volunteers into action.
Our Volunteer Managers Network has been a strong network of leaders of volunteers since 2011. In the last 8 years, this community of practice meet monthly from September to June as we learn, network and collaborate.
In celebration of the leadership of this network, we are featuring a monthly post about the importance of networking and engaging in ongoing learning and best practice.
We asked Sarah Dermer, Program & Volunteer Coordinator at Chalmers Community Services Centre about her experience with the Volunteer Managers Network.
1. Why did you join the Volunteer Managers Network?
I joined the Volunteer Managers Network (VMN) because we’re a small staff at Chalmers Community Services Centre. I have two (wonderful!) co-workers, with whom I can bounce ideas off of and check in with about how things are going. But, in the end, all program and volunteer-related decision- making stops at me. So, sometimes that’s totally empowering and wonderful, but sometimes that can feel a bit isolating and stressful. I was hoping that, by joining the VMN and meeting with other volunteer managers once a month, I could gain some insight and support and connect with others who are doing similar work in the community.
- What have you gained from participating in the VMN?
It’s been a terrific experience participating in the VMN. For one, there are snacks at every meeting. Delicious snacks! It’s also become an opportunity for me to learn what’s happening in our community, what other volunteer managers are doing at their organizations and how they’re doing that work. Every month, a different topic is addressed, delivered by a different expert or facilitator. So, I feel like I’m having an opportunity to keep up-to-date on information, everything from LGBTQ+ issues to social media planning to facilitation. Most importantly for me, the VMN meetings have become a place for me to gain support around the work I’m doing. There’s a group of supportive pals that I get to meet with once a month, with whom I can discuss how best to problem-solve a situation or I can celebrate when something is moving forward in the right direction. This support provides me with insight into how I can be making small change in order to ensure I’m providing the best service to our volunteers and guests as I can.
- Why is the VMN important for leaders of volunteers?
The VMN is important for leaders of volunteers because it gets us out of the office and out of isolation. It allows volunteer managers to get to know one another and acknowledge the work we’re doing in the community. Now I know Hannah at the Community Health Centre, I know Bonnie from the River Run Centre, I know Kim and Emily from PIN. All those connections, all of us knowing each other and our organizations, means that I am more comfortable reaching out with questions or referrals. It means I’m feeling like I’m doing my work in partnership with others in my community.
- What is a piece of advice you would give to a new leader of volunteers?
Don’t be afraid to reach out for support and ask questions. Even if it’s not fellow volunteer managers, it’s helpful just to reach out to other folks in other organizations. “Hey, there’s a situation I’m dealing with here at the ole workplace. How do you folks deal with that kind of situation? “Hey, I’m developing a new volunteer intake form. Do you mind if I take a look at your organization’s volunteer intake form, just to make sure I’m on the right track? “Hey, can I schedule a tour of your organization sometime? It’d help me to better understand the services being offered here in the community.” I find connecting with folks in other organizations just builds stronger partnerships and then we’re not feeling like we’re all doing our work in silos.
Whether you lead volunteers as a volunteer, through contract, part-time or full-time roles, connecting with peers is invaluable and we are fortunate to have leaders like Sarah engaged in this community of practice.
Learn more about the work of Chalmers Community Services Centre by visiting chalmerscentre.ca, get involved; even become a volunteer!
Are you a leader of volunteers? Join us!