Volunteer Guest Submission
By Chris Juhl, Volunteer Manager at the Science Center of Iowa
Back in March, I wasn’t sure what I was getting the Science Center of Iowa (SCI) into when I suggested we apply for the Service Enterprise Initiative (SEI) cohort, but I knew the program was in alignment with our volunteer goals.
When we started this process, I hoped SCI would enhance our awareness of the ways we view and engage volunteers in our mission. This opportunity would give staff the space to think big and create volunteer opportunities we had never imagined before.
We created an internal committee that focused on SEI, leading our staff and volunteers in the implementation of the program and its goals. That committee included staff members from each department, providing a variety of perspectives on the SCI volunteer experience and how we could improve it through SEI. We started this process with intentionality in mind, and I never expected the many ways it has already helped committee members and staff embrace volunteers in new, innovative ways.
Taylor Soule, SCI’s communications coordinator, said the program has expanded her awareness of volunteer engagement and the importance of creating skill-based service roles, specifically. “SCI’s participation in the SEI cohort has helped me understand volunteering in ways that go beyond a single special event or shift on the floor. Now, I challenge myself to consider how volunteers could be incorporated in my position and how I can help them gain new skills. SEI energized committee participants and more broadly, our staff, and created opportunities for us to rethink how we advance SCI’s mission with the skills and passion of our dedicated volunteers.”
Though I am closest to the issues and trends in volunteer management, this program has enabled me to serve as a project manager. In leading the SEI effort at SCI, I know I am not the only one experiencing the program’s big-picture impact first-hand. We encourage each department to make this program its own, using the goals and practices that best suit its strengths and role in SCI’s mission.
We are moving forward with our action plan, and we’re excited to move into the prioritization phase as we work to mirror the expectations set by SEI. I don’t know what the finished product will be, but the perception of volunteer engagement has already shifted at SCI.