The International Day for Managers of Volunteer Programs took place earlier this month, so it’s an apt time to give voice to RASKC Volunteer Program Manager Sarah Luthens. 

Q:  How would you like to begin?

A: Volunteer Program Management is an unheralded profession that I am extremely pleased to spend my working life in. It takes expertise, a lot of hard work, and an array of skills to develop, sustain, and grow a volunteer program.   The success of managing a successful program involves good communication and teamwork from both staff and volunteers.  I learn a lot from volunteers and other colleagues. I love how we often learn from each other.

Q: What are some the significant changes to the volunteer program during the nearly 10 years that you’ve been here?

A: I think there is an enormous amount of harmony between volunteers and shelter staff. That is incredibly important. It helps a lot that the staff provide terrific support to volunteers, especially Foster Care Coordinator Lori Mason, Animal Services Coordinator Nickie Ford, Administrator Lluvia Ellison-Morales, the Vet Clinic staff, the Animal Care Technicians, the Call Center staff, and the Shelter Sergeants.

The volunteer program has also grown exponentially, both with the number of participants and the range of opportunities including leadership opportunities. Over 770 volunteers contributed time last year.  While everyone is very important, volunteers who lead and schedule their teams provide the essential glue.

I am especially happy with the extensive volunteer mentoring programs, where more experienced volunteers teach new volunteers. Mentoring helps build a sense of community. Experienced volunteers are in the best position to convey the “nitty gritty” details, tips, and tricks that help new people become successful.

RASKC has incorporated technology in a lot of ways. In the old days most of the volunteer administration was paper-based, including all volunteer applications. Volunteers sought fill-ins to cover their absences by leaving post-it notes near the sign-in log. For the past several years RASKC has been using the “gold standard” Volgistics software for scheduling and other database work. The website work, training videos, and other training materials from Lluvia and Nickie are extremely helpful.

Q: What is the RASKC volunteer program philosophy?

A:  The volunteer program philosophy is:

  • To assist the staff in the ways that are most helpful to RASKC.
  • To provide training and meaningful opportunities to volunteers.
  • To commit to continuous improvement & excellence, including being receptive to coaching & guidance.
  • To build a sense of community among volunteers and also between volunteers & staff.
  • To advance RASKC’s mission in uniquely volunteer ways.