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Loretta Martin (Volunteer Manager )

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Before becoming involved with her local community in Dunshauglin Loretta Martin had spent most of her career working with American multinationals and more recently acted as a distribution manager for a large logistics and warehousing company. After becoming a mum Loretta felt the need to get to know more people in her community and initially began volunteering with her local mother and toddler group. Loretta became more and more involved and today acts as Volunteer Manager for a magnificent new pastoral centre. With Loretta’s business background and management skills she is a valuable asset to the parish council and a proactive volunteer manager.

Loretta’s approach to volunteer management is simple and effective. First off volunteers must be valued; identifying issues before they become a problem is very is important to ensure people don’t end up doing more than they signed on for

In 2004, the Dunshauglin and Culmullen parish council undertook a feasibility study to drive forth the development of a state of the art pastoral centre. The council raised €1.6m and by November 2008 the centre was completed and a newly formed board of management was set up to run it. The new centre is a fabulous facility and a focal point for all Parish activities. Ultra modern in design, it provides comfortable, secure surroundings for many community groups including: AA, St Vincent de Paul, Tidy Towns Committee, Irish Girl Guides - to name just a few. Vast numbers of the community are already coming through its doors on a monthly basis!

The centre is run and managed entirely by volunteers. Initially Loretta was quite daunted at the prospect of setting up a team of volunteers to run a busy pastoral centre. Loretta made contact with her local volunteer centre and signed up for the volunteer management training course.  It runs for a half day each week, over a four-week period. The training helped her understand new processes and the subtleties of managing volunteers.  Very astutely, Loretta took the weekly assignments to her volunteer management team to complete together. The course really clarified for Loretta how to put her business management knowledge to use in the voluntary sector, it was particularly useful in helping her attract, manage and retain volunteers:

  • 4 key lead volunteer role descriptions were developed and a 3-tier volunteer team structure was decided upon. This ensured all volunteers were supported and no one person would have too much to do. A minimum of 32 volunteers were required
  • The key volunteer role was that of project manager.  With responsibility for the day-to-day running of the centre he/she would be assisted by 3 coordinators each managing a separate business area and their own team of volunteers (coffee dock, operations and reception)
  • The role descriptions made clear the activities and responsibilities, skills and experience each volunteer would need
  • A new volunteer application form and recruitment processes were developed (including reference checks etc.) The centre hosted an open night to recruit new volunteers. The event was advertised widely thoughout the community (local press, radio, posters and door to door leaflet drops), 28 new recruits turned up!
  • John Timmons the new project manager was sourced via the local volunteer centre. His senior project management skills and level of commitment made him perfect for the job

Through a concerted effort to advertise far and wide, the open night generated interest from new corners of a large and expanding community. The primary focus of the centre is to bring the community together. When you walk through the doors and feel the genuine warmth and welcome that is exactly what has been achieved. This vision has spread from the top down!

 

Loretta’s approach to volunteer management is simple and effective. First off volunteers must be valued; identifying issues before they become a problem is very is important to ensure people don’t end up doing more than they signed on for. The teams are established and running now, recently Loretta completed her first round of review meetings with the volunteer coordinators. The objective is to support, advise and address any issues that may have arisen. After one meeting, it became evident that 5 more volunteers were required as the coordinator was covering too many hours.

Based on the needs of the community the team agreed to open the centre in shifts: (10am – 1pm), (4pm – 7pm) and (7pm-10pm). All volunteers’ shifts are 3 hours long. The tiered volunteer structure means there are roles for those who want to simply do their shift and go home and more active positions for those who want to get more involved.

The board of management is also looking to fill some of its positions. Loretta has introduced measures to ensure that work is shared equally across all members. A new directive stipulates that if volunteers join the board, and then miss 3 consecutive meetings, they will automatically lose their position.  Loretta understands that people have the best intentions but often find the time commitment is untenable. By setting expectations and putting process in place at the outset, volunteers are clear on what is required.

When the pastoral centre’s official opening took place in January 2010, President McAleese was in attendance. The centre focuses on hosting different events on a monthly basis to attract many groups in the community. Between book sales, bridge nights and bring & buy sales, many people are using and experiencing the great atmosphere at the centre. At the events, particularly over Christmas, many people expressed an interest in volunteering. Loretta follows though and phones every contact with a view to continually building the volunteer database.

Loretta feels people need more support from their community these days. There is great enthusiasm in the community and it has been relatively easy to find volunteers. Many have suddenly found themselves at home without work and sometimes not knowing many people in their neighborhood. The average age of the volunteer at the centre is mid thirties. Times are changing, so are community resource centres! This pastoral resource centre and the fruits of Loretta work as a “volunteer” volunteer manager very much reflect these shifts in every dimension.

As the centre develops, Loretta is evolving through the stages of volunteer management successfully and is now looking to set up a volunteer grievance procedure. This will instill confidence and a culture of equality and professionalism. The board of management is also developing their capacity by involving volunteers with professional skills. A retired accountant looks after the books and a volunteer marketing professional helps them create brochures, leaflets and recruitment advertising. Next steps are to develop an email marketing database so the team may continue to drum up interest, share news about events with funders, supporters and volunteers alike.

www.dunshaughlin-culmullenparish.ie


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