MAVA Featured Members



Sandy Werts, City of Golden Valley

April 2014

 Please describe your volunteer program:

The Golden Valley Volunteer Program works to strengthen community engagement by connecting the talents, interests and abilities of individuals and groups with projects that enrich city programs and services and enhance the quality of life.  The program is new and started actively recruiting volunteers in January  2013.  It is small, but meaningful to the recipients and the volunteers.


What is your role?

As volunteer coordinator, I manage the program.  I meet with staff and develop descriptions for volunteer positions, recruit, interview and, for some events, am responsible for training and placement of volunteers.

How did you get involved in Volunteer Management?

As a recreation professional for over 35 years volunteers were intregal to our programs, especially community events.  We did not have a formal volunteer program, so each program supervisor recruited and trained the volunteers we needed for our programs and events.  When this position came available, I thought it would be a good fit for the skills I have.

What does it mean to you to be a MAVA member?

MAVA has provided me with a network of volunteer managers that I can contact to get answers and ideas for the questions and issues I have to solve.  It has provided me with quality and relevant training that has helped me develop Golden Valley's first volunteer program.

Can you recall a time when being involved in MAVA directly impacted your work in your organization? What were the outcomes of MAVA’s impact?

Yes, at the time of the 2012 Annual meeting on Reimagining Service I was working with representatives of city departments to develop the Mission and Vision for the Volunteer Program. I was able to use the material I learned in the seminar to provide examples and background to help us in developing the mission and vision.

Do you have any advice for new MAVA members/leaders of volunteers?

If you are new to volunteer management or need help in developing parts of the volunteer program the Volunteer Leadership Impact Series is invaluable.  It is the first training I took.  Try to take part in all the training that is relavent to you.  The Webinars are a great way to gain knowledge without leaving your desk.  I found that a "free" set of earbuds that I got on an airline flight fit into my computer speakers and I just listen away!  Use your network, never be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure of anything.  When I was getting ready to start building the structure of Golden Valley's volunteer program, I contacted Mary Quirk, who sent me some information that helped me get started



Joe McKinley, Vision Loss Resources

March 2014

Please describe your volunteer program:

Vision Loss Resources’ Volunteer Program is part of our Community Services Program.  The Volunteer Program is funded, in part, by the Greater Twin Cities United Way.

I recruit volunteers who work one-on-one with individuals who are blind or visually-impaired.  These volunteers assist with reading, shopping and other errands.  This is a valuable social connection which increases our clients’ independence.We also have volunteers who work with events and activities organized by our Community Center---these volunteers teach or assist in teaching cooking and crafts classes, or accompany a group on a recreational outing

What is your role?

I recruit, train and assign volunteers.  I also manage the long-term relationships between many of our clients and their volunteers. 

Many prospective volunteers are apprehensive about working with clients who are visually impaired.  I try to answer questions and show people how to assist with Sighted Guide, which is the process of assisting someone who is visually impaired.

How did you get involved in Volunteer Management?

Several years ago I was working at an agency that sponsored a large festival of ethnic arts, dance and food.  When the Office Manager retired, I was asked to manage recruiting, assigning and managing volunteers who helped with this event.  It was so much fun working with the volunteers that I was hooked!  After that event, I started to look for other ways we could work with volunteers in our programs.Since then, I have worked with large volunteer programs in the Twin Cities. 

What does it mean to you to be a MAVA member?

Rewarding to be part of a community facing similar challenges, great source for networking, suggestions for issues related to volunteers and volunteerism.

Can you recall a time when being a MAVA member directly impacted your work in your organization?

The training I completed as part of the Volunteer Leadership certification has really impacted how I approach recruiting challenges.  It might sound funny, but I have increased credibility that I am part of an organization devoted to volunteers and volunteering.  I think there is a misperception that Volunteer Coordinators don’t need training or have experience.

Do you have any advice for new leaders of volunteers?

New leaders should ask other volunteer coordinators how they do things, what challenges they face, etc.  It is much better than inventing the wheel.



Jean Nierenhausen, Minnesota Historical Society

February 2014

Please describe your volunteer program:
Volunteers, interns and staff work in collaboration and are the power of our organization. Last year, more than 2,000 volunteers and interns contributed 55,600 hours.  This talented group supported the Society’s mission and goals. Volunteers provided fantastic customer service by greeting visitors and school groups, helped  library patrons or provided assistance to visitors at hundreds of special events.   Others helped with behind the scenes projects, some helped research for our Civil War Twitter project, helped research and contribute to our MNopedia project, others drove our History Hound around at the MN State Fair and other groups of volunteers re-foldered Stillwater state prison records and World War I bonus records to make them more accessible to the public.   
What is your role?
I manage the program, plan the program, work with budgets, hire, make sure policies and procedures are in place, coach staff and volunteers and  supervise staff. In addition, I write grants for programs, help with start ups for new programs and make sure things are running smoothly.  I also place new volunteers in creative placements across the Society working with both staff and volunteers to find a fit that works for both.  
How did you get involved in Volunteer Management?

Well to be honest, it was never a dream job of mine, I kind of fell into it.  I started out as a medical social worker and moved into community organizing and ended up in volunteer management.  The skills that I use fit my personality well.  I enjoy a fast pace, changing environment  where I can use creativity, problem solving skills and work with people.  I also like to use technology, even though some days are more challenging than others, and I like the budgeting process.   

What does it mean to you to be a MAVA member?  
MAVA is such a fantastic resource for those in the Volunteer field.  We are very fortunate to have such a well run organization. When I have an issue, I know I can just pick-up the phone and call my fellow MAVA members, it's
great to have that kind of network at your fingertips. The trainings are high quality, some of the best in the country.  
Can you remember a time when being a MAVA member directly impacted your work in  your organization? What
were the outcomes of MAVA's impact?
There have been so many.  Here is one small example.  At the last state conference, I was very impressed with
Rob's presentation. I used his video for a presentation to our upper management to show how the impact that
social media is having on the changing environment of volunteers and  how important it will be for us to offer a
variety of skilled based volunteer positions.   I really wanted to use one of the slides he used from Starbucks.  So I emailed Mary Quirk to see if she had his email.  She sent it to me.  I emailed him thinking, he would never respond
to a little vol volunteer coordinator from Minnesota.  He was training in another country but within 24 hours, he sent
me the Starbucks slide and encouraged me to use it for my presentation.  The presentation was effective and we hope to continue to expand our training opportunities to other departments.  
Do you have any advice for new MAVA members/leaders of volunteers?
I would recommend that they get involved in MAVA by being on a committee.  By being involved, you will meet others in your field. I also recommend that you attend meetings and use these as ways to network with other MAVA members.  This is a great way to stay connected.  Many times Volunteer Coordinators might be the only one in their organization, therefore, it is important to have a support network to draw on to bounce ideas off of and to get support when you need it. 





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