What do you wish you had known when you started your career?
I didn’t plan on going into volunteer management, so I wish I had taken a few leadership or management courses in college. While I am able to learn management strategies on the job, having additional knowledge would make me more confident in my leadership skills.
How do you define a volunteer manager?
My goal is to ensure that each volunteer achieves their goal or goals within the volunteer program. So I guess I would define it as someone who helps people meet their goals but also pushes volunteers to strive for excellence.
What are some “other duties as assigned” that came with your position?
I manage the Zoo’s Enrichment Tree Program, which requires several months of planning and is available during the month of December for guests to support and feel a part of the animals’ lives by donating enrichment items to the Zoo. I also help fill in for education/keeper chats and attend meetings so I can distribute notes to the office.
Describe a memorable moment with volunteers.
Recently the Zoo Crew teen program won the Youth Volunteer Program of the Year award from SAVMA which was an amazing honor. It was great seeing the teen volunteers acknowledged for all of their hard work.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to other volunteer coordinators/professionals?
It is so important to build and surround yourself with a network of trusted colleageues. Being able to connect with professionals and ask for help, guidance, advice, and suggestions is priceless. It’s also great because your core group knows exactly what you’re going through and can offer comfort and words of wisdom when things seem overwhelming.
How have you adapted to a virtual environment?
My supervisor and I host daily, online meetings for Zoo Docents, and I host teen meetings weekly to make sure the volunteers are up to date on what is happening with the Zoo. We also offer fun online activities like trivia nights to encourage bonding in a time where many feel isolated. Personally I have adapted well to the virtual environment. To keep myself motivated, I give myself deadlines and made sure to set up a dedicated, work space at my home so I stay focused.
How do you recharge or practice self-care after a long day of work?
After the average work day, I watch a lot of Great British Baking Show reruns. I also enjoy baking, so on days when I have time, I blast musicals and bake, which usually takes anywhere from 6-12 hours. Giving myself something else to focus on helps me turn off my work brain. I also make sure I’m technologically disconnected (don’t sync my work chat to my personal phone) outside work hours to give myself a complete break from thinking about work.