Leveraging Resources, Learning from Each Other

Oct 15, 2014

By Kayla Romanelli, Program Associate, Tufts Health Plan Foundation

“How many people in the room feel maxed out?” A few brave participants slowly raised their hands. Then another question, “How many people in the room wish they had a road map to achieve their goals?” More hands went up. “Today we are going to help you build that road map.” And with that, the workshop began.

Leveraging Resources DiscussionThe Tufts Health Plan Foundation has partnered with Susan Musinsky, director of the Social Innovation Forum at Root Cause, to offer a series of workshops for our grantees that could help them in their work as well as give them the opportunity to network with others in the field.  

Our most recent workshop, “Leveraging Resources You Didn’t Know You Had,” was the third in the series and was designed to highlight best practices and resources for fundraising, using volunteers and creating meaningful partnerships.

After the workshop, I had the chance to speak with Chihiro Hernandez, communications and outreach officer at the Asian American Diabetes Initiative with the Joslin Diabetes Center. I wanted to find out why Chihiro came, what she learned and any suggestions for future workshops. Here is what she told me:

KR: What enticed you to come to this workshop?

CH: I work on a team of six; three of whom are full time employees. As a member of a small team tasked with a large initiative, I often find myself wearing many hats and wondering where other resources exist. I wanted to come to this workshop to learn practical tips and to hear from colleagues in the field.

KR: What was the most valuable part for you?

CH: Every day I am focused on my work. It is hard for me to think big picture about what is happening in the field as well as meet people from other organizations working on similar issues. The workshop provoked me to stop and think and to be inspired from the presenters and fellow participants.

KR: What was the best piece advice you heard from the presenters?

CH: The stories I heard from the presenters were like case studies from which I was able to pull best practices. I manage many volunteers in our outreach work so it was particularly interesting to hear from Mary Gunn, executive director of Generations Incorporated (Gen Inc.). Gen Inc. uses volunteers to provide literacy tutoring to over 3,200 students. Gen Inc. has 10 full time employees none of whom do literacy tutoring so most of Gen Inc.’s work is carried out by volunteers which is amazing. Mary said they get it done by “treating their volunteers as staff.” They put in as much energy and effort into training and appreciating their volunteers as they do employees so that the volunteers are proud of and committed to the organization. As a result, Mary said her volunteers become her best advocates and many are also donors.

KR: Is there anything you learned that you would start using in your work?

CH: Actually, Mary did mention something very practical that I am thinking about implementing. Generations Incorporated has all of their volunteers track their time in a time sheet. Through simply tracking time, Mary is able to calculate a dollar amount for the work the volunteers do. The organization is a $2 million organization but including the donated volunteer hours, they become close to a $3 million dollar organization. That was an aha moment for me. When seeking other grants, it always seemed hard to establish how volunteers plays a critical role in our efforts but now I know I can put a number on that if I start tracking their hours.

KR: What else would you like to see in future workshops?

CH: More time! It would be great to get contact information for everyone at the workshop and to hear if others implemented anything that they learned – perhaps by creating an online network or portal where grantees can talk to one another. Future topics I would like to hear about are grantwriting, reporting and tips for evaluation.

I want to thank Chihiro for taking the time to speak with me and giving some great feedback! We’d love to hear from you too. Please share any ideas you have for leveraging resources, or for future workshop topics.