A Good Volunteer Experience Doesn’t Happen by Magic: 5 Questions with Kristy Judd, Executive Director, Metro Volunteers
Posted Thursday, August 29th, 2013 by Verified Volunteers Staff
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Kristy Judd, Executive Director of Metro Volunteers in Denver. Kristy shared so many insights about the nonprofit and volunteer sector that I wanted to conduct a formal interview with her. This will be the first in our 5 Questions With… blog series we will be conducting with nonprofit leaders.
How did you come to the nonprofit space? Can you tell us more about your career journey?
After graduating from NDSU with a degree in Business Administration, I continued working in a family business, a restaurant called King’s Food Host. Quickly I became involved with nonprofits in the area, beginning with the American Business Women’s Association and Mouse Rive Players, a community theater. I realized that volunteering on a Board of Directors with nonprofits serving the community was great for business, developed my professional and leadership skills and was fun. I think at one time I was serving on a dozen boards. I had an expertise that was sought as well as connections to vendors for all those events and fund raisers.
Metro Volunteers helps fill the space between the volunteer and the volunteer opportunity. Can you tell us more about your mission and how you fill that space?
Our mission is to recruit, train and connect volunteers to meaningful and impactful opportunities with nonprofits, schools, neighborhoods and the faith-based community. We offer training to volunteers who desire to serve in leadership roles in the community. We offer training to nonprofits that need knowledge and tools to effectively engage volunteers as a business strategy. The next step is to connect the right volunteer to the right opportunity. We do using a self-service matching database, host a Volunteer Fest/Fair with 90+ nonprofit agencies and produce a Volunteer Guide annually.
In addition to this work, we also advocate for volunteers as well as Volunteer Programs. Volunteers are a tremendous asset to the community, giving their time, talent and expertise to critical needs such as adult self sufficiency, education, healthcare, the environment and the arts. However it’s an asset that isn’t funded sufficiently. Volunteer Directors often do not have adequate resources or leadership support to manage the human capital in their care, many times as valuable as the cash donations that are solicited.
A good volunteer experience doesn’t happen by magic. It takes thoughtful planning, organization, training and support. Volunteers can provide all levels of service from governance to skilled to episodic and general labor. Poorly done, the volunteer will not return.
We always here about nonprofits having to do more (good work) with less (money/resources) each year. What do you see as the biggest issues facing nonprofits and how can they best overcome them?
Certainly it’s a new world. There simply are less financial resources available. We see expanding the volunteer program as a great business strategy for the nonprofits, schools and the faith based community. The investment will have an exponential return. Volunteer Programs are learning to involve volunteers in more aspects of the operations, beyond general labor. Skilled Volunteers provide a great resource for staff, taking on short term but important projects, even coaching young staff who are just developing their skills. Other ways to volunteer include virtual or micro volunteering. A graphic designer can take a lunch hour or two to provide the skills necessary to create a flyer or brochure for an upcoming event. He or she can live in San Francisco and provide services to a nonprofit in Denver. There’s really no need for those long committee meetings! It just takes time to identify what’s needed, communicate it effectively and let go. Trust the volunteer to do excellent work.
Metro Volunteers advises and guides volunteers from every walk of life, what steps do you take to make the best placements?
Our goal is always to get the right volunteer with the right skills in the right job at the right time. As we work with the volunteers of today, we’re also needing to take into consideration the volunteer’s motivation and needs. Volunteers still want to give back, make a difference and change the world. Our hearts are a big part of why we volunteer. With the recent economic recession, ending of war conflicts, additional highlighting of the skills of persons with disabilities, and school mandated community service, volunteers also want to use volunteering to achieve personal goals. Those goals may be to develop new job skills, network to find a job, develop leadership skills, reintegrate into the community, improve emotional well-being, support a family member… and the list goes on.
We provide training and information so that volunteers can assess their own needs and motivations and then encourage them to use our tools to find the right opportunity. Our tools include an online matching database as well as personalized customer service.
We have developed programs to assist specific populations such as persons with disabilities as well as returning soldiers. We offer a School Service Program to help schools create a sustainable Volunteer Program within their school. Schools are definitely seeking new resources. Teachers need help in the classrooms. Children need support before and after school. Parents need resources. A Volunteer Program can identify those needs, develop a plan and then recruit the resources to execute the plan.
Metro Volunteers makes volunteering smarter.
How do you think volunteering has changed over the years?
Volunteering has become more easily accessible with the development of new technologies. Through social media and web-based matching tools, it’s very easy to recruit for volunteers and find a volunteer opportunity. While still many homes don’t have access to computers, nearly every household has a smart phone.
I’m seeing also that community wide initiatives exploring change are seeking grass roots support in addition to funding. Funding, alone, is not the solution. Funding plus engaged, committed citizens is. Whether it’s the business community, the neighborhood or the parents in the school, to affect change, all voices need to be heard.
Can we change the world? Yes we can.
Tom Klein founded Verified Volunteers and leads its mission to propel service organizations and nonprofits by empowering volunteers. Connect with Tom on LinkedIn or Google+.