Name: Kathleen Cannon
Position: Program Director
Organization: Girls on the Run Twin Cities
MAVA Member Since: 2019
Please describe your volunteer program:
Meeting in small teams, trained volunteer coaches inspire girls in 3rd-8th grades to build confidence and other important life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and physical activity. Over the course of 8-10 weeks, highly trained volunteers from all walks of life lead teams through lessons designed to focus on building social, emotional and physical skills in girls while encouraging healthy habits for life. Each season comes to an end with a joyful and fun non-competitive 5K, giving girls a tangible sense of accomplishment. Our volunteer program is largely structured around recruiting, training, and retaining coaches (more than 1500 each year) who lead hundreds of small teams at schools, parks and community centers across the Twin Cities, Northfield and Rochester, though we also have volunteer-led planning committees for many of our events, fundraisers, support teams, and more.
What is your role?
As our program director, I oversee all of our program implementation. That includes supporting two fantastic program coordinators on staff, our internship program, our summer program (Camp GOTR), coach recruitment, training and engagement, site visits and evaluations, and I also help with our IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) team.
How did you get involved in Volunteer Management?
Kind of by accident! Between college and law school, I worked on a congressional campaign which involved my first taste of managing volunteers (parades, petition walks, voter registration drives, etc.) and I was struck by the power and potential of large-scale volunteering. Years later, I volunteered with Girls on the Run when I lived in Iowa City; the opportunity came up to be their first executive director and I thought, “Welp, this is out of my comfort zone and not in my career plans, but I like people, problem-solving and dreaming big; I wonder if I could figure this out.” And I did! Volunteer management is full of relationships and possibility, two of my favorite things. We moved to the Twin Cities in 2014, right as Girls on the Run was getting started here, and I’ve had the chance to help build our volunteer infrastructure from the ground up. I love what I do.
What does it mean to you to be a MAVA member?
MAVA has been a huge resource for me personally and for Girls on the Run as an organization. Through the Volunteer Impact Leadership Training series, I have met dynamic, interesting, helpful peers across all sorts of organizations. Through MAVA networking opportunities, I have connected with kind, generous, empathetic leaders that inspire me to do better and to dream bigger. In an isolating time, MAVA has been a valuable space for connection, growth, and problem-solving.
Can you recall a time when being a MAVA member directly impacted your work in your organization? What were the outcomes of MAVA’s impact?
We were a proud and grateful participant in the first Inclusive Volunteerism Co-hort in 2020. Our first meeting was in March 2020 so of course, the plan for the co-hort shifted as together we navigated a new reality, facing COVID-19 and the racial reckoning after the police murder of George Floyd. Being formally connected to other organizations that were all working to prioritize inclusion even/especially in times of crisis kept us accountable to each other in a pivotal time.