DSAGSL Volunteer Program – by Abby Brandon

Volunteers are crucial to the success of an organization. As the Volunteer and Event Manager, it’s my job to recruit quality volunteers for our programs and events, ensure that they are well prepared to perform their duties, and are satisfied with their experience.

Volunteers come to the DSAGSL in many different ways. I make sure that all of our volunteer postings on Facebook, VolunteerMatch, and local university websites are up-to-date, since many people find us through these platforms.  No matter what, I always respond to a volunteer inquiry within 24 hours. We usually have two different types of volunteers, so my responses vary slightly.

Program volunteers are people who want to make a regular commitment to our organization. They usually have a particular skill or interest area, and almost always have experience with people with disabilities. These volunteers must fill out a basic volunteer application and submit to a background check.  We meet with them at least once before they begin volunteering and provide a detailed orientation and summary of the program, and typically plan out the program sessions together. All of our programs are either partially or completely run by volunteers, so it’s important to secure reliable, experienced, enthusiastic people for all of our wonderful programs! We make sure to check in with these volunteers regularly and will begin sending them quarterly surveys so that we can properly assess our programming and overall volunteer experience.

Event volunteers also want to make a regular commitment to our organization, but perhaps not on a weekly basis. Event volunteers must fill out a basic volunteer application, but they do not have to submit to a background check. On event day, we host a brief orientation for event volunteers, providing a brief overview on Down syndrome, our organization, and the purpose of the event.  Event volunteers will begin receiving surveys after each event so that we can properly assess our event management and overall volunteer experience.

One of the most important parts of my role as Volunteer and Event Manager is follow-up! I send thank-you notes to all event volunteers no more than one week after the event, and always make sure to maintain email communication; I don’t let more than a month go by without emailing my volunteers! I want to see as many volunteers return to our events as possible and I know making them feel appreciated is a huge part of that. Not only do I want them to know that their contribution matters, I want them to really get to know our members and become advocates for people of all abilities.

I am continually working to improve our volunteer program and really can’t wait to see where it goes from here. To all the volunteers reading this- we cannot thank you enough! You are such an important part of the mission of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis and I hope you’ll continue to help us grow and improve as an organization!