Volunteers at Doctors Care – Creating Our Future Together
I received a wonderful gift at year’s end, a book called 365 Ideas for Recruiting, Retaining Motivating, and Rewarding Your Volunteers, by Sunny Fader. I wish I had written it because the message supports the value I know volunteers bring to Doctors Care every day.
During my 30-plus years (18 at Doctors Care) working in nonprofit organizations, not a day goes by that is not fueled by the energy of volunteers. Over the years, I have spent a fair amount of time convincing new staff that their ‘team of workers’ will be made up of volunteers – in fact their success will be defined by the ability to train and retain volunteers. And when they become overwhelmed by the workload, the option is not to hire another staff member, but to find a willing volunteer to get the job done. This has nothing to do with any hesitation to hire more staff, but the reality of budget constraints that prevent me from doing so.
Success at Doctors Care depends on our willingness and ability to integrate volunteers. “Why?” you may ask. I have been a fundraiser my entire professional life, and was raised by parents who did the same, as well as volunteered. Raising money for worthy causes is in my DNA. Over the years, I learned an important fact: there will never be enough funding to do all we want to do. Money alone will not fix the problems we yearn to fix, reduce the suffering we want to eliminate, or completely meet the mission we serve. I seem willing to ask anyone for a donation so if I could raise more, I would not hesitate.
This brings us back to the best alternative to meeting the needs in our community: recruit, retain, motivate, and reward volunteers. Some of the content in this 300-page book is well known, tried and true. But it also addresses what I would call the next generation of volunteerism, which the author calls “virtual volunteering”. Fifty years ago I remember my aunt sitting at home transcribing popular books into braille. Today we would call that virtual volunteering, though different with online access and the speed of computers.
How will volunteers help Doctors Care and other organizations in the future? We currently have a volunteer who translates all our materials from English into Spanish in the comfort of his home. How will we continue to define and empower volunteers? These may be questions our current volunteers can help us answer so we get it right. Please don’t hesitate to share your ideas on how best to adapt the talent and versatility volunteers bring to organizations, particularly in this high-tech world where everyone is moving so fast and furious. The past is our lesson, the present a gift and our future an exciting journey together.
Bebe Kleinman, CEO