Absence Notifications, Job Titles, and Connecting During COVID | Track It Forward

Absence Notifications, Job Titles, and Connecting During COVID

Written by Melissa Davis

Recap for October 18th - October 31st

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Facebook community this week! 

Absence Notifications

Similar to paid staff, it’s important that volunteers have a designated process for notifying the organization of an absence. If someone needs to call in sick and miss their shift, it will likely impact multiple staff members and other volunteers. It can be frustrating for others if they are waiting for a volunteer who actually called off for the day. 

As some of our coordinators suggested, it can be useful to set up a general communication tool so volunteers can quickly inform everyone in their department of an absence. If possible, including other volunteers in the space may also streamline the process of finding a replacement for the missed shift. Regardless of the method, it’s important to communicate the process to volunteers so they know what to do when the situation occurs. 

Comments from the group

  • “We use slack. It’s been great for a lot of general communication instead of text. You can create different channels for different departments. We have a volunteers channel and I just tag the relevant people if a volunteer will be absent. It’s similar to texting, but is all within the app and can be used from your phone or desktop”

  • “We have volunteers assigned to staff supervisors who work with them directly in their programs, onsite or virtually. They would contact their supervisor to call out. The supervisor would give the fyi to their dept if needed. When working with clients directly, volunteers would give their client a call to let them know and reschedule. Highly recommend having volunteer supervisors outside of just Vol Services staff. Helps in so many ways.”

  • “We use a google email group for each department. If a volunteer needs to miss a shift, they send an email to the group. That informs staff, and lets other volunteers step in to fill that spot”

Check out all of the comments here!

Informal Job Titles

Depending on the organization, there may be multiple staff members responsible for working with volunteers. For larger organizations, there may be a department manager who oversees the big picture projects of what volunteers do for the organization. However, on a daily basis, team leaders or managers may not have much time to work directly with volunteers and address general questions. For this reason, it can be useful to designate others as the go-to contact person for volunteers when they’re at the organization. For example, a staff liaison who assists with bridging the gap between volunteers and paid staff. 

Comments from the group

  • “Volunteer Champion? (Stealing the champion part from a clinical team at my hospital.) It distinguishes them as the point person, is different from other positions in title and implies that they will champion the volunteers and their efforts.”

  • “I'd go with liaison or, if they also train new vols, trainee contact, etc. If you call your vols-in-training trainees (I had a place where there were docents and docent trainees, for example)”

  • “We started with staff liaison, but settled on staff lead.”

  • “Volunteer navigator”

Add your own thoughts here!

Connecting During COVID

Many organizations are still working from home and limiting in-person contact with volunteers. This can make it challenging to feel connected with volunteers since interaction is mainly limited to email. Coordinators suggested scheduling brief phone calls or Zoom chats, occasional meet ups with small groups, or stopping by with a quick thank you when volunteers are scheduled for a shift. 

Comments from the group

  • “Perhaps connect via a brief Zoom chat, just to get some face time.”

  • “It is tough for me too. We do occasional pair and small group meetups outside which has been nice”

  • “What if you surprised them one day by meeting them outside before their shift to say thanks? I've seen some groups do outdoor get togethers with volunteers. I agree that phone calls can be nice too.”

  • “It might be nice to run informal coffee mornings on Zoom so volunteers could join in for a chat if they want to”

Join the conversation here!