This volunteer engagement pro knows how to run a program that’s structured AND flexible – her motto sums it all up

Three catchy words- Twenty HatsIf you have gone through the process of becoming Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA), you have probably done some extra thinking to articulate your philosophy of volunteer engagement. Just about every volunteer engagement pro operates with an underlying belief about what and how to engage volunteers – it’s just that we don’t think of it on a daily basis.

So I was impressed when I spoke with Trina Mayhan-Webb about the program she leads. Trina is the Director of Volunteer Solutions, a government agency within Fairfax County, Virginia that uses volunteers to support seniors and adults with disabilities.

Volunteer Solutions is a huge program that engages 4,000 volunteers annually with a staff of 10. You would think that such a large government-operated program might take a bureaucratic approach to managing volunteers.

Not so.

Trina’s program may employ best practice standards, but Trina’s philosophy is anything but rigid. In fact she has a simple motto that sums it up:

Reach – Teach – Unleash


Trina Mayhan-Webb, who manages 4,000 annually as Director of Volunteer Solutions

For Trina, Reach-Teach-Unleash means that her program is tailored to meeting the needs of its volunteers so that their individual talents may be “unleashed” to the benefit of the clients. It means that Trina and her team step out of rigid standards if they get in the way of sustaining a quality program. Here’s what that looks like:

Reach: Trina makes sure that the onboarding process is streamlined enough to encourage rather than discourage volunteers. For example, for large groups, such as Boy Scout troops or corporate teams Trina met with the County’s risk management department to see if anything could be done to speed up the onboarding process while sill adhering to screening safety standards. Working with risk management, Trina determined that teams could forego the lengthy background check process as long as the volunteer project manager was screened and checked.

Teach: Knowing that everyone possesses a different learning style and will not absorb information the same way, Trina delivers trainings and updates through a variety of methods. She may deliver a training update on risk management via webinar for the visual learners, but she will also pick up the phone and call the volunteers who need to be walked through the information one on one. “You can tell who needs that personal communication” says Trina.

Unleash: Assigning volunteers is all about letting the volunteer’s talents elevate the clients. Trina and her team have made some unconventional matches and enjoyed great results. Rather than pair a homebound World War II veteran with a peer who might spend visits reminiscing about the good old days, Trina will match the vet with a younger volunteer with a gift for conversation and drawing people out. This type of a match opens up a whole new world for an isolated client, who is now showing interest in current events and popular culture.

I should add that Trina is a CVA and she serves on the board of the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration. She’s another volunteer engagement pro who demonstrates the competencies of her certification on a daily basis.

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Can you sum up your volunteer management philosophy in three super-simple words? This pro can!