By Melissa Cole, Pensacola State College Foundation
On Thursday, September 7, local experts Kendrick Doidge of HCA Florida West Hospital, Josh Newby of the Council on Aging of Northwest Florida, and Paula Shell of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida led attendees through the Nonprofit Center training covering how to effectively develop and manage a volunteer and intern program.
Eager to learn best practices, attendees were abuzz with anticipation for the day’s training.
“Volunteer management and recognition are important for any organization,” Julia Helton, Community Impact Coordinator of United Way West Florida, said regarding the day’s topic. “It’s so important to stay informed and to be willing to change what isn’t working.”
Opening for the day, Kendrick Doidge highlighted the potential organizational success that could be created when volunteers serve in diverse supporting roles; some “people-facing” and some task-oriented. He noted the landscape of volunteerism is evolving, with a post-COVID surge in younger, more engaged volunteers. Organizations now face the task of reevaluating volunteer utilization due to shifts in volunteer demographics and new outreach strategies necessitated by the pandemic.
Following Kendrick, Josh Newby emphasized crafting a volunteer “menu” and documenting processes for clarity. He stressed that a broad pool of volunteers is initially beneficial, but selectivity becomes essential as organizations evolve. Tools should be harnessed to set measurable goals and ensure team planning accountability. Detailed objectives prevent relying on chance. Josh recommended creating a system to counteract the assumption that future endeavors are bound to fail. Writing down goals, tracking progress, and adapting plans to align with organizational needs is a time-consuming yet essential process.
Paula Shell concluded the day by reiterating the importance of strategic implementation. Anticipating challenges and determining the right people are in the right volunteer roles is crucial for success. She stressed how pivotal front desk volunteers were in setting the organizational tone, adding that simple gestures like emails, calls, or texts fosters volunteer engagement and ensures they feel genuinely valued enough to return. Paula stressed while these measures are simple and inexpensive, they are essential as appreciation is key in accomplishing the mission together.
Participants, armed with a brand-new perspective and knowledge to better serve their organizations, expressed their gratitude for talented speakers to share their wisdom.
Jennifer Elzweig, Program Manager for Valerie’s House, remarked, “The insight gleaned today was timely, actionable, and clear. I’m so pleased that I attended! Our organization will benefit tremendously from these tips.”
Other attendees, like Vice Chair Nora Emling of Autism Pensacola, spoke to the value of engaging and hearing from other nonprofits. “This was a great way to see how others are using their tools,” she says. “You get an idea of what [tools] will work for your organization.”
As we head into autumn, and the season of giving, we’re keen to see how participants put their new knowledge to use in end-of-year events and fundraisers.