BY LOIS MAHARG
Volunteer recruitment and retention is a challenge for all nonprofit organizations, and NAMI Washtenaw County is no exception. So Judy Gardner, NAMI WC’s executive director, decided to apply for a Community Engagement Fellowship, hoping to learn more about recruiting and supporting volunteers.
“I applied for the grant and I got it,” Gardner said in a phone conversation. “I’m grateful for this opportunity, as it will allow me to work with other leaders in the state to bolster our network and skills in volunteer recruitment.”
As a Community Engagement Fellow, Gardner has been granted access to an online tool called VolunteerPro, which is valued at $599. This is a gateway to resources and technical assistance she can now use to develop more skills in managing, recruiting and engaging volunteers.
“The orientation was a 1-hour webinar that I participated in last week,” Gardner said at a recent board meeting. As a fellow, she’ll now be required to dedicate about two hours a week for 12 months to fellowship activities, building her recruitment and management skills. In turn, Gardner said, she can share those skills with others at NAMI Washtenaw.
Community Engagement Fellows are chosen by the Michigan Community Service Commission, a part of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to “utilize service as a strategy to address the state’s most pressing issues and empower volunteers to strengthen communities.” Fellows are part of a statewide learning community created in order to share volunteer management knowledge and practices.