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April 26, 2012 / HandsOnCorps

Connecting HandsOn VISTAs to National Direct Members

I joke with friends that I have become a volunteer administrator and a “match-maker!” I work with individuals who are unemployed or underemployed and “match” them to a volunteer experience that uses their unique skills, talents, gifts and voices. I pair them in an opportunity that might otherwise be filled by a consultant, a temp/ contracted staff, or no one. This allows for growth, development and expanded bandwidth for the staff supervising as well as the Skills-Based Volunteer (the name we use for these folks).

I am always amazed that people (including myself!) are not able to articulate their skills, abilities, and gifts. We take for granted what each of us already knows, and what gifts we each have to contribute to the world. It is so interesting that most folks will talk about themselves but some have to be coaxed to begin.

When I am recruiting individuals for specific Skills-Based Volunteer opportunities I recruit from all over, and I begin by meeting with folks individually, one-on-one. I start by reviewing their resume. I ask a lot of questions and listen very carefully to their answers. We discuss their likes and dislikes, especially in regard to their skills. What skills do they prefer to use and which ones do they dislike using? In some regards this is similar to an interview. I ask about their previous volunteer experience and we again discuss their skills in regard to preferences for use in a volunteer capacity.

Some folks really prefer to work as a general volunteer in a food bank, sorting and boxing up food, while others prefer to help senior citizens, playing Bingo, cards, board games, etc. Other individuals are interested in using their skills and talents. I have a check-off list that is an Application Addendum to the Skills-Based Volunteer Application and it can be very useful and helpful as well.

I get to know the potential Skills-Based Volunteer. I get a “feel’ for the type of experience they are looking for, or what they can contribute. Most importantly, I get to know the staff that I am placing a Skills-Based Volunteer with. I ask a lot of questions of the staff and require an outline of the opportunity they want me to “match.” I know that not all “matches” are perfect, but my goal includes “matching” the individual with the necessary skills to the staff with an appropriate opportunity. I want each to have a “win-win” experience. A good “match” bodes well for future word-of-mouth advertising, from both the Skills-Based Volunteers and the staff who are working with (actually supervising) the SBV.

Having been a volunteer administrator previously, I am familiar with processes to recruit, orient and retain volunteers, whether they are general volunteers or Skills-Based Volunteers. Each volunteer wants and needs to be made aware that they are important, necessary and appreciated. In fact, that is all that each of us wants in life, while volunteering, or not.

Of the recently recruited SBV’s to Points of Light, two have obtained employment and are STILL working on their projects!

Jeannie Citerman-Krager

HandsOn Corps VISTA: Points of Light

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