Volunteer Recruitment from a VISTA Perspective

October 12, 2017

Elena Montanye is a VISTA serving at People’s Center Health Services in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis where she has had great success recruiting volunteers to new roles in the clinic. This month we asked Elena to answer some questions and share just what makes her so effective.

Q: In what ways is the clinic using volunteers that it didn’t before?

A: One of my focuses the past couple months has been recruiting volunteers for the dental clinic, which is separate from the medical clinic and hasn’t had nearly the volunteer presence that the medical clinic has had in the past few years.  The dental clinic will now have students from MCTC’s dental assistant program working directly with the dentists to provide care to patients. We will also have volunteers helping with administrative work at the dental clinic.

Q: How is the work the volunteers are doing making a difference?

A: People’s Center is a small, non-profit community health center, but we are serving roughly 9,000 patients a year. Understandably, the staff here are extremely busy! Volunteers ease some of the burden of staff to ensure that all of our work is done carefully and thoroughly, allowing us to provide even better care to a growing number of patients. Volunteers are improving this organization every single day through their generosity.

Q: What are the volunteers particularly excited about?

A: The volunteers at People’s Center have a wide range of interests, but every one of them is excited about the prospect of providing healthcare to the community. Many are particularly interested in learning from our providers about culturally responsive care , and some aim to gain a better understanding of how a community health center is operated on the inside.  Regardless of their personal interests and career goals, all of our volunteers are passionate about serving their neighbors and ultimately improving their communities.

Q: In what ways have the volunteers been helpful that you didn’t expect?

A: When I thought about recruiting volunteers, I thought of a person coming in and filling a specific role and not really expanding beyond that role. What I’ve found is that every volunteer comes in with a totally unique background and skills, and they make the position their own. Great volunteers can take a generic position description and turn it into a personalized role that feeds their interests and contributes to the organization in ways that no one ever imagined.

Q: What are some recruitment barriers you experienced, and how did you overcome those?

A: The biggest barrier of recruitment for me was honestly just knowing where to start! I’ve never worked in a volunteer coordinator position before, and I had no idea how to find people interested in volunteering. I overcame this by following the protocol that the previous VISTA had set up, which included tabling at community events and sending emails to campus student groups. I also sent out a survey to all People’s Center staff asking what roles they felt potential volunteers could fill, and their ideas were extremely helpful to me in knowing what to look for in a volunteer. I just started here, and I don’t spend a lot of time in the clinic itself, so reaching out to staff who have been doing direct service work here for a long time was crucial.

Q: What advice would you give to someone trying to recruit volunteers?

A: If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start, talk to other people within your organization. A lot of the time, employees have great ideas for volunteer positions and recruitment, but no one has asked them for their input. I definitely don’t consider myself an expert on volunteer coordination (yet!), but it became so much easier when I sought guidance from the people around me. And going off of that, also listen to the volunteers themselves. They know themselves and what they have to contribute better than anyone else ever could.

Learn more about People’s Center Health Services here (http://www.peoples-center.org/), and about the College Health Corps VISTA program here (http://mncampuscompact.org/what-we-do/initiatives/college-health-corps/)

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