The Leader in Volunteer Management Award recognizes a manager of volunteers who demonstrates excellence and innovation in the management and leadership of volunteers in one of Volunteer Calgary’s non-profit member organizations. This award is sponsored by Suncor Energy Inc. to honour managers of volunteers and their work in leading volunteers.
Sandy Bray has worked with volunteers in various capacities for her entire career. Even with an impressive 30 years of working with volunteers behind her, Bray had her work cut out for her when she was hired to design a whole new volunteer program for TELUS Spark.
“I always loved the challenge of starting new programs, and was very excited about the new science center and all the features that it was going to have,” says Bray. “I knew that it would be a really awesome place for volunteers.”
Considering that the move to TELUS Spark happened 4 days before they opened to the public, Bray and her staff had to put out plenty of fires to get to the opening; Bray and her team had to make sure the volunteers were trained and had uniforms, knew their way around the building and all the exhibits were in place. It is a testament to Bray’s leadership abilities that her team got everything ready for the opening.
“It was absolute chaos the first week, fun chaos, but it was chaos,” remembers Bray with a smile.
When it comes to the actual programming, Bray is quite proud of how TELUS Spark’s volunteer program has evolved since the move. In the TELUS World of Science they didn’t have the room for many volunteers, and they didn’t have the program abilities to use their volunteers pre-existing skills; something Bray was determined to rectify once they moved to TELUS Spark.
“I was looking to create an opportunity where anybody of any age could come in our door and have a certain skillset, and we could be able to provide an opportunity for them and work with them,” Bray explained. “Whether they ever volunteered before, or whether they were retired and had some skills to bring to our program.”
Bray made sure that the volunteer program model was very close to a Human Resources model, at TELUS Spark they have the same processes and policies that their paid staff goes through, Bray is proud to call her volunteers “unpaid staff.”
“It’s important to operate this way because our volunteers bring so much,” Bray says. “They’re the cornerstone of everything we do in the organization, and they need to be respected for that, they need to be recognized for that, and they need to have the same opportunities and responsibilities that our paid staff have.”
Bray was quick to point out that part of her success was finding a corporate sponsor to help her volunteer program. “We’ve been very lucky moving to TELUS Spark to have actually a corporate sponsor in Enbridge, our program is actually called the volunteer in partnership program, and sponsors certainly help, because they give you the opportunity and the resources to do a lot more with your volunteers.”
Bray’s enthusiasm for the volunteer program at TELUS Spark was transferred to Rivero during their first meeting at Rivero’s job interview.
“We thought about the program in the same way. When I read the job description, I was really inspired by it,” explains an equally enthusiastic Rivero. “She [Bray] truly believes in what she’s doing and she truly believes that this is what our organization needs. Proof of that is, after 1 year, we have happy volunteers, we are expanding and we are training staff.”
Telus Spark is not the only place that Bray is demonstrating leadership; she also exemplified leadership and innovation within the sector when she resurrected the volunteer coordinator meetings. The volunteer coordinator meetings are a group of volunteer managers and coordinators from the attractions industry (The Calgary Zoo, the Glenbow Museum) who get together and learn from each other.
“It is a good place for us to share ideas, and ask questions,” Bray says. “And the interesting thing about it is that we’re finding out that we all have a lot of similarities, a lot of the issues that we face are very common, it’s a good way to talk it out and share our different coping mechanisms.”
To see Sandy at work you can watch below.