Each month, Volunteer Calgary chats with a manager of volunteers with one of our non-profit member organizations to share their personal success stories and best practices in the field of Volunteer Management.
Firyal Mohamed has a pretty impressive resume. She holds a BA in Development Studies and a BSc in Environmental Science from the University of Calgary, though she has also studied in both Peru and Switzerland.
Mohamed took the position of volunteer coordinator at Momentum 9 months ago and didn’t look back.
She saw Momentum as the right fit for her when she discovered the organization while she was a Development Studies student. “I share their vision and passion to see a Calgary where every person can have a sustainable livelihood and contribute to their community,” says Mohamed.
Coincidentally, that shared passion is the first thing that she looks for in potential volunteers. “As a values-driven organization, Momentum looks for volunteers who share a genuine concern, respect and commitment to the community and who value cultivating meaningful relationships,” explains Mohamed.
Part of her role as volunteer coordinator has been to make sure that the volunteers are well trained through on-site orientations, a continually updated policy manual, and especially department specific training. That department specific training comes in handy considering that volunteers at Momentum take on a variety of roles within the organization.
Volunteers at Momentum do everything from: small business mentoring, helping participants with their banking needs, tutoring, and guest speaking at workshops. As volunteers are integrated in almost all aspects of the organization, Mohamed makes sure they remain engaged and understand that they have a voice.
Volunteers have the option to opt-into membership at Momentum, an opportunity most take. “We see volunteers as members of our community,” Mohamed says. “Membership allows them to vote and have a say in the direction of our organization. Our holistic approach to volunteer management ensures that volunteers are included and considered in many aspects.”
Having a say in the direction of the organization is not the only way that Mohamed lets her volunteers know that they are appreciated. She strives to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that they feel comfortable volunteering in, and ensures that the lines of communication between staff and volunteers are always open.
During national volunteer week in April, Momentum hosts an annual luncheon to recognize the contributions and important milestones of their dedicated volunteers. More than anything, Mohamed makes a point to keep the volunteers updated on the successes of the programs participants, to show her volunteers just how much of a difference they make in the lives of others.
Mohamed struggles with being able to keep up with the amount of people who volunteer, she believes that her biggest challenge is keeping potential volunteers engaged with the organization until a spot opens up for them.
“It challenges us to find other ways to engage with these individuals in different capacities, from becoming a member of the Momentum community, to developing a relationship that will allow this person to perhaps become a supporter of our organization,” explains Mohamed.
On the other hand it is the enthusiasm and spirit of volunteers in Calgary that is her favourite part of the job. “Calgary’s community is vast and diverse- the potential, expertise, opportunity and talent we see in our volunteers are amazing! I’m always excited to explore fresh and creative ways to make the most of the partnership we share with our volunteers,” says Mohamed.
In her nine months as Momentum’s volunteer coordinator Mohamed has picked up some tips and tricks of the trade, tricks that she was willing to share with Volunteer Calgary.
Use every opportunity to get to know your volunteers –
Maintaining a meaningful relationship with your volunteers is key to healthy retention and ultimately a successful and ever-evolving volunteer program.
Ask and listen –
Whether it’s an email, phone call or hopping around the office to see them in action, it’s important for volunteers to know who you are..
Connect volunteers contributions to the bigger picture –
Volunteers feel valued when they are connected to the success of your program.
Listen more –
Volunteers are always encouraging us as volunteer managers to evaluate, evolve and freshen our opportunities so we stay relevant and continue to facilitate the process of meaningful change.