Working with Volunteers: Staff Tips

Posted on March 6th, 2014 by

heart-clipart-1

At a recent staff meeting our excellent volunteer coordinator, Ilene Cohen, gave us a great mini-class in how to work best with our volunteers. If you’ve been following our blog for awhile, you know how much our volunteers accomplish here at the Museum, and how much we value all their hard work. It’s important to us that our volunteers are happy and feel appreciated. Below are some of the strategies that Ilene shared with us to best support our staff and volunteers working together and is now sharing with all of you!

Research analysis has identified the following experiences critical to volunteer retention:

  • Assigning volunteers to tasks that match their skills
    • Most of our volunteers are filling gaps that cannot be met with our current staff.  Hopefully we have the match fulfilled, and the correct staff matched with each project that they have been assigned to manage. That said it is imperative that the skill sets of the volunteers match the needs. Many people may want to help, and we need to make certain we are using them in the most appropriate position.
    • As staff gets to know the volunteers, try to keep track of what they indicate as interests and the ways they would like to be involved. This will help match a person’s interest to a specific activity.
  • Supporting new volunteers
    • Engage in regular communication.
    • Always be clear about expectations.
    • Keep in mind that many of the tasks that volunteers are needed for are low-level administrative tasks, i.e. mailings, database entry,even manning the front desk can be tedious and monotonous when no visitors come in. Explain the significance and background of what it is they are doing and how their work will directly impact the organization to help keep them motivated.
  • Informing volunteers through regular communication
    • Communicate early and often; clearly and concisely.
    •  Remember, attitude can be infectious – in either a positive or negative way.
  • Welcome and Respect Volunteers!
  • One of the easiest forms of recognition you can provide to volunteers is to know their name and what they do within the organization. When you are their staff supervisor you will  know who they are and what they do but make sure other staff knows who your volunteers are. Here at the JMM we are working on a “facebook” for volunteers that all staff members will review it when it’s completed.
  • Recognize the value and importance of each volunteer. Last year our volunteers (including board members) logged over 7000 hours at the museum.   The Independent Sector values a volunteer hour in the state of Maryland at $23.05 per hour, which means their contribution of time and energy was worth over $161,000!
    • Always make volunteers feel welcome, be grateful for their assistance, and express your gratitude.  If they are working on a project where you use that information down the road, please share that with them.  Show them where you used the quote they culled from an oral history transcription or where in the exhibit or in which publication you used the photo they found or took.

 

THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT OF OUR VOLUNTEERS!

ilene cohenA blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. To read more posts about volunteers, click HEREIf you are interested in volunteering yourself, check out our volunteer page or email Ilene directly.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Performance Counts: February 2014 A Valentine For Volunteers

Posted on February 14th, 2014 by

A Valentine for Volunteers

ilene cohenThis week in Performance Counts we wanted to speak to an aspect of our performance that is measured not only in numbers but in heart.  On behalf of the whole staff, Ilene Cohen, our volunteer coordinator (who is herself a volunteer), has composed this essay.

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I recently learned that the word “bénévolat,”  the French translation of the English term “volunteering” is derived from the association of “bien” and “vouloir,” translated as “well-being” and “desire” in English. And, the French term “bénévole” (from the Latin “benevolus”) is synonymous with the English “benevolent.”  From this etymological derivation, it can be said that to be a volunteer is the desire to act for the well-being of others; it is to accomplish work on a voluntary basis, freely and without remuneration. Being a volunteer is to be motivated by the satisfaction of helping to advance a cause we hold close to our hearts.

Did you know our entire Board of Trustees are volunteers?

Did you know our entire Board of Trustees are volunteers?

It seems all too often that we have the tendency to lessen the importance of actions that are not directly focused on results. Sometimes institutions take for granted those who give freely, passing over in silence and even forgetting their immense significance. But, we at the JMM endeavor to continually recognize that volunteers offer key support that enhances our mission.  We are indebted to our wonderful volunteers.   For this reason, on Valentine’s Day, we have committed ourselves to paying a special tribute to all of our volunteers.

Volunteers work with collections

Volunteers work with collections

What generosity and devotion! And also, what an immense debt of gratitude we owe to our volunteers. We acknowledge these extraordinary women and men who are as talented as they are giving.  In all the years, their commitment has never failed.  They continue to assist us as researchers, docents, receptionists, shop attendants and more.  I must also emphasize the essential contribution of the members of the Board of Directors. Plus, the generosity of all the members of our committees and working groups who contribute their time, energy and knowledge as consultants is indispensible as well. I doubt that any of our volunteers count either the number of hours or all the many and varied efforts they have contributed to the success of the JMM. We certainly do.  In the last year, our volunteers clocked 7,000 hours!  What would we have done without them?

They learn to give tours of our exhibits

They learn to give tours of our exhibits

Thankfully, our volunteers do reap some benefits, although not financial.  On a recent tour, a docent led a Muslim woman through the synagogues.  Not only did the visitor learn about Judaism, the docent learned about Islam and the many similarities between the two.  She was able to enjoy a personal connection with a newfound acquaintance.  On another tour, a South African visitor surprised the docent when, standing in front of the picture of Rabbi Abraham Nachman Schwartz, she stated that he was her great grandfather.  The woman went on to explain that the rabbi’s son, her grandfather, was also a rabbi, plus an artist.  After talking further, they realized together that there is a strong possibility that he participated in painting the murals that once graced the ceiling of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.  Helping people explore their family’s history and solving some of the mysteries about their family’s roots is a real life detective story for our genealogy volunteers.  One family wanted to confirm the story passed down that their great grandfather was born in Europe and fought against Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo before coming to the U.S., and living to the age of 117!  Unfortunately we do not have access to foreign documents so the story could not be validated.  These are just a few examples of how our volunteers provide a valuable contribution to our mission, while making connections and forming friendships that bring a deeper sense of meaning to their own lives.

And even help with research for exhibitions and programs.

And even help with research for exhibitions and programs.

I am convinced that with the continued “benevolent” support of our volunteers, the JMM will maintain success. We take off our hats for the hard work and generosity of all of our volunteers.

These final words come from the bottom of my heart.  Thank you.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Volunteer Spotlight: Maxine Cohen

Posted on February 3rd, 2014 by

Max Cohen

Max Cohen

Maxine (Max) Cohen has been affiliated with the Jewish Museum of Maryland for almost 30 years.  She started the Genealogical Society of Maryland at what was then the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland with Carol Rider.  Her father-in-law, Morton Oppenheimer, led her way and was one of the first presidents of the Jewish Historical Society.  She became a member of the Board of Directors for two terms and helped with marketing for the museum.  She soon after became a volunteer in the Museum Shop where she remains today.  Esther Weiner, Shop Manager was instrumental in recruiting her as a Shop attendant all those years ago – they knew each other as members of Covenant Guild.

She worked for 26 years as a junk mail specialist, consulting in marketing and advertising for non-profits.  She endeavored to get people to send their money through the mail for wonderful causes.  She has ghost written for all types of companies.  Max is an avid skier and member of the Baltimore Ski Club.  Her favorite places to ski are in the western United States and Europe.  She is married with 2 children, a dog, and a minivan and is about to become a first time grandmother.  Plus, her 2nd child just became engaged, while on a chairlift during their last ski trip together.

Max’s favorite part of volunteering at the JMM is meeting people from out of town who have found the museum.  She enjoys introducing them to Jewish Baltimore.

ilene cohenA blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. The first Monday of every month she will be highlighting one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, drop her an email at icohen@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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