Alison Crafar’s blend of logic and intuition has evolved over her 20 years as a manager of volunteers. And it’s her passion. ‘Volunteers,’ she says, ‘are the most valuable human resource there is.’
Alison is the manager of volunteers with Mary Potter Hospice. She works with 500 core volunteers and another 500 for one-off events.The position fell into place at the right time in her life (a move from Tauranga with her family two years ago); her experiences and knowledge perfectly ordained.
After a stint in asthma education, she managed Adult Education classes run through Taradale High School. Then, when it was decided to establish a volunteer service for a new hospital in Hastings, to combat the negativity which can surround the choice of a predominantly rural location, Alison got the job.
Unenviable at first, but she soon turned it into an extraordinarily successful and enterprising programme. ‘I started with no volunteers and within two years had a team of 300. My role was to write all the associated policies, ensure all staff were on board with the volunteer team, overcome initial barriers and hurdles.’
With first advice coming from Volunteering Canterbury, she had a sound platform for future training and ways of establishing communication channels with staff and managers from top to bottom – and of course her ever increasing volunteer team.
Respecting ‘the added value to all services’ which volunteers were providing and ensuring that paid staff were never replaced with volunteers, were early edicts. Feedback quickly flowed from patients and their families. People were happier about coming to hospital. ‘Meet and greet’ (the name of the programme) became an identifiable, acknowledged and much praised service.
‘Patients reported their positive experience with volunteers. They were our best advocates.’
At Mary Potter Hospice, Alison’s principles remain the same, although her team numbers have grown and times have changed. She puts more emphasis on flexibility to accommodate so many full-time workers. Her training includes wonderful stories (‘people never forget a procedure or a policy when it’s explained through a story’) and communications are stronger than ever. ‘All staff and volunteers know about new volunteer intakes and great volunteer achievements. Older volunteers, some in their 80s, are as excited about new teams as the day they began maybe 20 years ago. Keeping all levels of staff teams informed really well is top of my list.’
And in her most recent intake, Alison received the best compliment she could hope for. ‘As part of each new group’s
training, I ask why they have chosen to volunteer with our organization. This man said he had chosen Mary Potter Hospice because the management of volunteers was so important to him.’
Her passion and enthusiasm have paid off. Also Alison has been an active volunteer since her teenage years. She
knows the difference between good and bad management of volunteers – and the difference it makes to the