About Volunteers and Helpers

CHC Inclusiveness Committee members convene the clinic staff to develop a plan for recruiting a more inclusive group of volunteers.

Marcie and Luisa sat down with their team, which included four nurses and three office assistants.  They had all reviewed the material from the workbook and were starting to answer the questions about the benefits and barriers for people of color in volunteering.

"I think people of color might like to volunteer here because our clients are so much like their own kids," said Olivia Jackson, one of the nurses. "I've seen that with the two grannies who've come over from Christian Deliverance Church. They just love to talk to the children." 

"That's a good one, Olivia. Another benefit might be that they get to learn about the medical field," said Luisa. "And we're not as stuffy as a hospital!"

"If a volunteer was a parent or grandparent of a child who received health care from us, they could be somehow repaying what was given to their family," said Andrea Solis, a part-time office assistant who lived in the neighborhood. The group named four additional benefits.

"Now how about barriers?" asked Marcie. "I'll get us started. How about feeling like they aren't part of a team of volunteers?"

"That's true!" said Olivia. "Most of the volunteers come in, do their work, then leave. They don't really have a sense of who else is working with us."

"I'd say that would be especially hard for people of color," said Luisa.

Andrea thought of another reason, but seemed hesitant to share it. After Marcie encouraged her, she said, "Another barrier might be the perception that we mainly have white folks as volunteers, and that they're not from around here. They see the Mercedes and Lexuses in the volunteer spaces in the parking lot and they think they wouldn't fit in."

"Wow," said Marcie. "I hadn't ever thought of that. That's a tough perception. Especially since those cars usual belong to Eleanor's fundraising volunteers."

"Well, maybe we should look at that group, too," said Luisa. "If they were more connected to the clinic volunteers, they might feel even more committed to the organization."

"That's a good idea, Luisa," said Marcie. "I'll talk to Eleanor about that."

The group discussed the information that the Inclusiveness Committee had gathered about volunteers. They were especially excited about the possibility for implementing some programs that other community clinics had put into place regarding volunteers who spoke Spanish. "We'll have to expand that to Vietnamese," said Tonya, another nurse. "I had six Vietnamese clients last month who hardly spoke any English."

"So," Marcie said, "shall we develop some goals about recruiting volunteers who speak Spanish and Vietnamese?  That would be right in line with our clients' needs."

"Yes," said Luisa. "But we don't just need clinic volunteers who can speak those languages. It would also be good to have some of our volunteer clinicians speak them, too. The patients especially wanted to receive care from a doctor or physician's assistant who speaks their own language."

"Good," said Marcie. "We'll add that. Now that we've talked about bringing people in, we need to think about creating an inclusiveness environment to keep them here."

Luisa nodded, "Let's make sure that when people come here, they feel welcome. Some of our policies are pretty off-putting. They seem like they're written by lawyers."

"Well they were!" said Marcie. "Let's take a look at those."  The group decided to set goals of recruiting ten new clinic volunteers and two new clinicians in the next year, all with the language skills they were seeking, and of reviewing their policies and welcome manual to make sure they were inclusive. They brainstormed the kinds of places they might find potential volunteers and decided to start with the families of their patients.

"Excellent work, everyone," said Marcie. "We have the beginnings of a good plan. I'll put this all down on paper so that it can become part of the CHC inclusiveness blueprint. And I'll talk to Eleanor about adding a goal regarding our fundraising volunteers."

Later, Marcie brought the topic up to Eleanor, who was very receptive. "This is great, Marcie, because it fits right in with my thinking on the fundraising side. If I put some of the suggested changes into place, I'll need to have a cadre of volunteers to help who are from the communities we're targeting. Let's see what we can come up with."

Together, they drafted a plan that would reach out through a number of different avenues to potential fundraising volunteers from communities of color and would help those volunteers feel successful and welcomed once they were on board. Eleanor planned to include a cross-reference to this effort in her section on fundraising. "I'm still concerned about what you said about the volunteers' cars," she told Marcie. "I can't have them hide in the back. That wouldn't be right either."

"No, I see what you mean," Marcie replied. "But maybe we could reserve half of the spaces for our clinic volunteers and half for fundraising."

"That'll be a start!  Be sure to include that in our plan," said Eleanor.

"I will," said Marcie. "Now I can't wait to see what you folks come up with for the fundraising side."