Volunteering at the JMM

Ilene Cohen established the role of Volunteer Coordinator 12 years ago and was in charge of volunteer recruitment, volunteer retention, scheduling and interviews. During that time, she did an amazing job growing our volunteer corps, making sure that our volunteer’s skills were well utilized and planning exciting field trips. This past summer, Ilene decided it was time to leave the JMM to pursue other activities. As it turned out that Ilene’s job was too big for any one person to take on, so Sue Foard, Membership and Volunteer Coordinator, and I decided it was best to split her duties amongst ourselves.

A helpful resource
A helpful resource

As I have not had much experience managing volunteers, I decided it was important to learn as much I can about Volunteer Management. I have read books such as Transforming Museum Volunteering by Ellen Hirzy and Recruiting and Managing Volunteers in Museums by Kristy Van Hoven and Loni Wellman. I have also joined the American Association for Museum Volunteers and attended volunteer-related sessions at the American Alliance of Museum’s Annual Conference last year.

Former volunteer Sydney at the front desk
Former volunteer Sydney at the front desk

Part of my duties now includes sending out monthly calendars and scheduling our docents, front desk volunteers and shop volunteers. I am also continuing Ilene’s tradition of writing monthly Volunteer Spotlights where I highlight our dedicated volunteer corps. So far I have profiled individuals such as Ernie Silversmith who volunteers as a docent, Carol Buckman who assists us  in Esther’s Place, and Vera Kastenberg who volunteers in the Library.

Volunteer Ernie begins a synagogue tour.
Volunteer Ernie begins a synagogue tour.

Lately, we’re been working on making our volunteer program even better. Several of my colleagues recently sat down to try to brainstorm new projects that our volunteers could tackle as well as think of other organizations we could contact to recruit more volunteers. We are in the early stages of planning for a spring fieldtrip to other area museums. I have also started working on a marketing project with two of our docents, Bev Rosen and Wendy Davis, to try to encourage adult groups that have visited the JMM in the past five years, to plan a return trip to see one of our upcoming exhibits. Bev and Wendy have been instrumental in contacting local synagogues, churches and senior homes and recommending other organizations we should reach out to.

Volunteer Judy hard at work reorganizing and sprucing up our library.
Volunteer Judy hard at work reorganizing and sprucing up our library.

Devan Southerland, our Office Manager and Shop Assistant, has also graciously agreed to help us with recruitment and outreach. In an effort to enrich our guests with a variety of experiences during their visit, our goal is to reach out to a myriad of outlets for volunteers from local community centers to senior groups.  We are in the beginning stages of working with other downtown cultural attractions such as the Maryland Science Center to create a core group of volunteers that work not only with us but with capabilities to work at other museum sites around the city.  While we have a lot of work of ahead of us, we’re very excited to expand our volunteer base at the JMM.

GrahamA blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.

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jewish museum of maryland Volunteers

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