Friday, June 28, 2013

Why do we volunteer?

I had the opportunity to meet with Robert Rogers, the Director of Volunteer Services at Feeding America Southwest Virginia and after walking away from the converation I was completely blown away and really had a better grasp of the thought process behind volunteer management.

Just like with Harry, I asked him, why do people volunteer? He immediately began to think and he listed off many reasons: whether it is for community service hours, an unemployed individual looking to keep a skill set, through a time of grieving where someone has lost a spouse or family member and they are seeking interaction with others to help in that time, or a child is being made to do it by their parents. Then there is, again, the aspect that people want to give back and serve their community in addition to fueling a passion or pursuing a desire. Robert also stated that he feels that volunteerism in the United States is a cultural phenomenon where we embrace the idea of helping others and serving. Through various endeavors and while travelling around Europe he saw that it was unusual for someone to volunteer and that, instead, giving money was encouraged so the organization could provide for themselves through finances. It was interesting to see this perspective and understand that we volunteer for so many reasons above and beyond the fact that we want to give back to our community.

I also asked Robert to share what he does as the Director of Volunteer Services. I was thoroughly surprised and wanted to share some of our conversation with you. First off, there is the traditional job requirements of data management and reports along with recruitment, interviewing and the placement of volunteers. But then there are aspects of interaction and connection. He explained that there is constant human interaction involved through endless amounts of conversation. When people volunteer they are sharing their skills and ideas and they want to be appreciated. This focus on the appreciation of people and helping an individual find where they fit within Feeding America Southwest Virginia and where they can best serve is the main point of the position. He used phrases and terms such as "constant dialogue" and "observation and sensitivity". As the coordinator one must be aware of a person's feelings and aspirations, to which, one focuses on tailoring the volunteer experience so it meets the individual's needs. Because of this attention to detail, volunteers will stay for extended amounts of time or become someone who wants to come in every week - much of this can be attributed to excellent communication between the coordinator and volunteers.

The Kroger Volunteer Center at Feeding America Southwest Virginia. This space was built through a grant from Kroger and it is where all of the volunteer orientations and training take place!

Robert, the Director of Volunteer Services, and I. He was the first person I contacted in pursuing an internship with Feeding America Southwest Virginia and he has been an instrumental part of my experience thus far!

The act of coordinating with volunteers is, again, all about connection and interaction. There has to be a constant assessment of people's needs and being willing to have conversations to help them find where they fit within this organization or point them to an organization where they will feel their passions come alive for service. I believe everyone can volunteer and I think it is great to serve whether through building a house, cleaning up a street, or coming to the food bank to sort food. There is a place out there for everyone where their skills can be used and where they will feel at home in service.

Where do you volunteer?

For more information on volunteering with Feeding America Southwest Virginia please visit:

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