At Propellus, we are all about strengthening organizations. We thought we’d share an inspiring story of one of our member organizations, Bethany Care Society, and how they have successfully developed and fulfilled their volunteer strategic plan with the help of one of our experienced consultants.
It was five years ago when the Bethany Care Society identified their desire to strengthen their volunteer program to better achieve the organization’s mission of “creating caring communities.”
Once they recognized that desire, key management staff at Bethany looked to Propellus (formerly Volunteer Calgary) as a resource to help build the capacity of their volunteer program.
An experienced Propellus consultant was deployed to assess the needs of the volunteer program at Bethany and to assist in the development of a strategic plan for strengthening their program. That strategic plan included five strategic directions – all of which Bethany fulfilled.
Mary Jardine had just moved back to Calgary from Toronto,where she was working as the Executive Director of the national Make-a-Wish Foundation. When she moved back to Calgary she was brought on for the role of Manager of Volunteer Services at Bethany shortly after the strategic plan was finished.
“It was a good service and they were all doing a good job…All of the volunteer coordinators reported to different levels in the organization, and sometimes, to people who did not always understand their role within the organization,” says Jardine. “One of the recommendations from the strategic plan is ‘develop an integrated model of volunteer involvement to support program delivery and service delivery within Bethany Care Society.’”
That was where Jardine came in – part of building the volunteer program’s capacity was to have a volunteer manager that all the coordinators would look to for leadership. Integrating the volunteer involvement throughout the organization also meant having a recognized volunteer services department.
“So, the integrated model is exactly what we have now, which is a bona fide department of volunteer services for Bethany Care Society organization wide,” says Jardine with a note of pride. “From 2008 until now, we have raised the profile of the volunteer program at Bethany. The Volunteer Coordinators are all respected members of their site leadership teams.”
Another of those strategic directions was centered on developing a way to measure the program’s outcomes. Bethany did that in 2010 by putting out a major survey, Jardine was proud to report that from that survey they found that their volunteer program was indeed successful with a 97% volunteer satisfaction rate. She also noted that Bethany soon planned to complete another survey shortly to measure the same outcomes.
Some of the other directions included educating the staff about the role of volunteers, which Jardine stresses happens regularly, and ensuring that the volunteer services department is properly funded.
As with most projects, it was not an overnight success. Jardine estimates that it took at least a year to see the success of the revamped program and new volunteer services department.
“What you have to do in the beginning is build trust. Build that level of trust with the people that you are interacting with,” says Jardine. “We had the strategic plan, but I needed to make my own criteria of what a successful volunteer program would look like.”
After five years of significant growth and development, Bethany has what Jardine calls, a thriving volunteer services department. “We have approximately 1000 volunteers contributing 45,000 hours annually in the consistent delivery of programs at all of our locations. These totals each represent a 25% increase from 2008.”
Bethany’s success has not only been recognized in-house, but outside organizations have noticed their flourishing volunteer services as well.
“I have had requests from external organizations, someone called me and said ‘I hear you have a really great volunteer program there, would you be willing to come and talk to our team,’” says Jardine with a smile. “The profile has been significantly raised.”
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