We Hear You!
Volunteer Voice - Spring 2008
Last summer, volunteers were invited to participate in a survey to assist the Department of Volunteer Services in understanding and improving the volunteer experience.
The department felt that it was important to find out what was on our volunteers’ minds and engaged the Gelb Consulting Group to design and conduct a first “point in time” survey of the volunteer experience. The goal for the survey was to establish a baseline of information with the following objectives:
- Determine the factors that motivate M. D. Anderson volunteers
- Measure volunteer satisfaction and drivers of that satisfaction
- Understand volunteer expectations of Volunteer Services
- Develop ideas to attract and retain volunteers.
The survey was Web based, sent to 1,800 active and inactive volunteers and requested anonymous replies. Approximately 44% of active volunteers responded.
It is confirming to learn that 97% of our volunteers would recommend M. D. Anderson Cancer Center to those who are considering volunteering.
Other factors that weighed on our volunteers’ decision to volunteer at M. D. Anderson include: M. D. Anderson is the premier hospital for treating cancer (86%); it’s an opportunity to meet other people (70%); looks good on a resume (26%); and the possibility of attaining employment at M. D. Anderson (22%).
In addition, the survey said:
- 88% believe that M. D. Anderson offers many areas in which to volunteer.
- More than 75% indicated that a family member or friend was treated at M. D. Anderson; 21% are cancer survivors themselves.
- 79% agree the amount of training received was sufficient, but fewer (60%) said that they received adequate training as a new volunteer to handle difficult patient situations.
With the survey completed, Gelb Consulting analyzed the findings and presented recommendations. A summary of those recommendations follows:
- Prestige and variety make M. D. Anderson attractive. Those holding patient-facing positions are the most satisfied in their volunteer placement. Defining the volunteer experience and its value is important.
- Orientation is effective but more information and access is needed.Volunteers want to be placed in a position that they feel is the best fit for them. Volunteers should be allowed to share their knowledge about the opportunities and their environment.
- Training should be enhanced to focus more on patient interaction and the handling of difficult situations. Additional input from current volunteers and shadowing experienced volunteers are mentioned as ways to improve training. Adequate information provides volunteers with the confidence and knowledge to effectively serve the hospital.
- “Underutilized” as a descriptor is reaching moderate levels; steps to avoid underutilization should be taken. Volunteers question their value if staff does not make use of their skills in an appropriate and fulfilling manner.
- Recognition is important. Positive descriptors such as “rewarded” and “fulfilled” are used to describe the overall volunteer experience. It is important to continue to recognize and appreciate volunteers for their individual efforts.
Volunteer Services celebrated the “good news” of the survey results, yet the staff clearly understands the areas identified as “opportunities for improvement.” The management team met with the entire Volunteer Services staff to develop an action plan. Some of the specific tactics incorporated into the plan to ensure departmental best practices include:
- Offer a varied schedule of orientation classes and limit attendance to 30.
- Provide a more in-depth tour following volunteer orientations with volunteers and staff to guide new volunteers on a tour of the campus, including various volunteer position locations.
- Offer volunteer and staff training on “Dealing with Difficult Situations and Patient Interaction.”
- Extend shadowing with an experienced volunteer until a new volunteer feels comfortable on his/her own.
- Create a “user” video designed to introduce M. D. Anderson departments and staff to Volunteer Services.
By responding to the survey, volunteers informed Volunteer Services staff about why they come to M. D. Anderson to volunteer, what their personal experience is, and how overall volunteer satisfaction can continue to increase. The entire department appreciates your participation in our survey — keep an eye on things and see what happens because we really did hear what you are saying.