Volunteerism is key (South Asia)
“Over the last three years, we’ve had more non-professionals and volunteers coming into the Indian Association for Palliative Care (IAPC) as individual members,” says Dr. Anil Paleri of the Institute of Palliative Medicine at the Medical College of Calicut. “Currently, two-thirds of our members are volunteers. They pay a smaller membership fee. We want them to be part of our organisation. A good number of volunteers attend our conferences, and develop collegial relationships there.”
In India, the national organisation serves more as an advisory body, facilitator and centre for intellectual content in palliative care. “National organisations should be supporting the establishment of local programs. That’s particularly important in developing countries. Many times we have learned the hard way that a national organisation without strong local services is not helpful,” Dr. Paleri explains. He also thinks bylaws and bureaucratic issues within the national organisation should not become a hindrance to the mission of local programme development.
“Most often, local palliative care centres ask volunteers to contribute two hours a week, which encourages their participation without compromising a job or other commitment. Sixty to 80 percent of our volunteers are young people, which is a very good trend. More men than women volunteer in India, and they usually are employed full-time,” Dr. Paleri relates.
“If you train 100 people in your palliative care training, 20 to 25 might continue to participate as volunteers. But the other 75 have heard the message and will use it someday — so the training is not going to waste. Many of them will move somewhere else, and they may help to develop palliative care in a new location. If people don’t know how the patient can benefit from palliative care, they’ll never think to use it. But if you can improve awareness, you create advocates.”
Great things begin with an idea and the work that goes into growing the idea initially is done by people who donate their time because they believe in the cause. Similarly, most associations begin with just one or a few people who work hard without pay. They are united by the importance of their cause and grow their efforts by recruiting others who believe in the cause as well.
Former executives as volunteers
Finding volunteers to do tasks that require little skill, such as filing papers, is fairly easy, but finding volunteers willing to lend some sort of expertise, such as medical knowledge and clinical care, often proves to be a more daunting task. It is important that organisations know where to look to find professionals and executives who are willing to share their time, knowledge and skills at no cost.
It is unlikely that an organisation will find the volunteers it needs if it does not publicise its need in some way. The organisation should begin searching for volunteers by using its current contacts to spread the word that it is in need of skilled professionals willing to volunteer their time to help the organisation. Along with spreading the word via current programme affiliates or contacts, organisations can actively seek volunteers in places such as the retired community or religious communities. Often times the retired community is overlooked because retirees’ skills are viewed as outdated, but these members of society can be valuable resources for many organisations and they may be the key to providing the expertise your organisation needs. Religious communities also tend to have professionals and skilled workers who are willing to lend their time to help for a good cause.
Along with these resources, organisations should seek out companies that have mandatory service requirements for their employees. These volunteer work programs are becoming more common as companies realise that requiring their employees to volunteer a portion of their time is a win-win situation, as it helps the people the employees volunteer for and it enhances the reputation of the company.
Good deeds by retired doctors
This article from the San Francisco Chronicle, by staff writer Carolyn Said, highlights how retired healthcare professionals and other seniors volunteer their expertise in staffing free clinics in San Mateo County in California, USA.
Organisations can look to professional unions or other associations in the community that represent the type of professionals your organisation is seeking. For example, if you are seeking a volunteer physician, you may find it helpful to contact the American College of Physicians (ACP). These types of associations can help in telling you who could be of assistance to you and who you can contact for more information about available resources in your area. Here is a link to the ACP website, describing how physicians network for volunteer opportunities, as well as providing access for ACP members to its volunteerism networking database.
One key in trying to find skilled volunteers for your organisation is to never underestimate the value of networking. It may take you several phone calls to find someone who knows someone who knows someone else who would be willing to help, but these contacts are an invaluable resource that can ultimately lead you to finding the volunteers you need.
Stanford Alum Volunteer Management Guide
This document provides clear guidance on how to manage volunteers effectively. The topics include development of a good volunteer job description, orientation and training, and support and management.
Best practices in staff and volunteer relations
By Louise Chatterton Luchuk
This article outlines what should be done and things to avoid when fostering good relations between staff and volunteers.
Satisfy Staff First
By Ivan H. Scheier
Although the contributions of volunteers are priceless, paid staff needs to be recognised for its work, as well. This article discusses the importance of establishing clear roles and expectations for staff as a prerequisite for their ability to carve out meaningful roles for volunteers.
Transitioning from volunteers to paid staff
With growth, organisations can hire full time staff and transition away from an all-volunteer work force. There are several things to consider when this change happens. To learn more, please go to Next steps, Organisational changes.
Retaining volunteers is an outcome, not a task like recruiting them. Getting volunteers to stay with the organisation is more than just a project. They need to be appreciated and challenged to remain interested in their commitment. This site by Energize, Inc, offers links to articles and other resources exploring the themes of what makes volunteers stay on the job — or leave — and how to manage volunteers so that they remain committed to your organisation.
Many hospice and palliative care providers and organisations would cease to function without the help of their volunteers. These volunteers, who selflessly give up their time and provide their knowledge and services to their organisations, deserve to be recognised for their efforts and contributions. Hospice and palliative care providers should make it a priority to recognise and reward excellence among their volunteers.
This link to the Centre for Volunteering in Australia provides an overview of ways that organisations can go above and beyond saying a simple “thank you” to their volunteers.
National Volunteer Week
This is a press release issued by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, USA, recognising the enormous contributions of 4,700 emergency volunteer health professionals in the state on the occasion of National Volunteer Week.
By Sarah Jane Rehnborg, PhD. and Betsy Clubine
Volunteer recruitment can be a challenge but many organisations are willing to share their knowledge on getting dedicated volunteers to sign up to their ranks. This document is a guide to point you to resources available for volunteer recruitment and management.
Volunteer Management Resource Library
Energize Inc’s extensive library of resources for leaders of volunteers is organised by subject. Each subject page provides online bookstore links, free articles or excerpts, free electronic books or guides, an annotated list of websites with more material on the subject and links to relevant hot topics. This is a great resource for volunteer coordinators, as well as for volunteers.