Volunteer Coordinator Report -Megan May 2009

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This is a recap of Volunteer Coordination from October 2008 up to May 2009. It includes accomplishments, failures, and advice for the future.

Tasks completed and changes made (October 2008-May 2009)

Volunteer info filing system

This is in the grey filing cabinet near the phone desk, the top drawer is full of office supplies. The bottom drawer includes file folders for:

  • Injury Reports
  • Support Volunteer Handbooks & Training Evaluation forms
  • Adoption Packets (completed packets including stapled intake forms and reminder cards)
  • Blank Free Geek Database Forms
  • Free Geek Database Sheets to be entered
  • Free Geek Database Sheets entered
  • Volunteer Exit Survey
  • Completed Volunteer Feedback Forms
  • Empty Sign in Sheets
  • Completed Sign-in sheets
  • Work Safe BC forms from Vancouver School Board
  • Gastown Vocational Review Forms
  • Resources for the Free at Heart
  • Taking home your computer
  • Consensus Decision making handbooks

Volunteer Feedback Questionnaire

Located under Dead Trees -> Volunteer Stuff

Develop 'make work' list

On slow days it's a good idea to post this up for volunteers to see, could easily include more tasks. Located: Make Work list

Giving Tours

Wikified and standardized, located: Giving Tours

Support Volunteers

Support Volunteers are volunteers that are interested in teaching New Volunteers the stations at Free Geek. Support Volunteers also meet monthly with the Volunteer Coordinator to discuss and improve volunteer stations and coordination at Free Geek. The idea is to better utilize the abundant and helpful volunteer labour at Free Geek to better support staff and other volunteers. This program is in trial stages and not fully implemented. A lst of our current Support Volunteers is here: Support Volunteer List

See: Volunteer Learning Cycle ... Support Volunteer Training

Support Volunteer handbooks

Located: Dead Trees -> Volunteer Stuff

Adoption Classes

Standardized and wikified here: Adoption Class

Appointment cards

Located under Dead Trees -> Volunteer Stuff, also in clipped together on the phone desk and attached to Volunteer Packets.

Volunteer program outreach

Advertisement of the adoption program to be faxed to community services agencys, located under Dead Trees -> Volunteer Stuff

Anti-Oppression at Free Geek

I've started adding information to the wiki here Anti-Oppression, however largely this work is done through Support Volunteer training.

Teaching manuals for stations

Guides for staff and Support Volunteers in Teaching Stations

Volunteer Meetings

I hope to have these monthly, these are the minutes from the last and first meeting: Volunteer Meeting Minutes

Student Internship Positions

Paid student interships and volunteer student interships have been designed and are awaiting approval from Service Canada and Capilano & Douglas college soon.

General improvement of Volunteer Stations

  • Finished your shift?
  • Dismantling Mobo QC located Dead Trees -> Volunteer Stuff
  • General organization, better teaching boards,
  • Updated stations on the wiki Stations
  • Training manuals at all stations
  • General optimization of most stations


The strategic planning session, here: 2009 Strategic Planning Minutes helped to give goals and purpose to Workgroups.


Too many volunteers not enough infrastructure! When I started there would be 10-15 volunteers daily, and 15 was a busy Saturday. Now that number is 30-35 daily, which is great, except that the infrastructure as far as volunteer coordination is not well established. This is my fault partly, though its difficult to ask volunteers to wait 3 weeks between shifts, or wait 3 months for their first shift.

Free Geek has an abundance of free labour, and yet staff are over worked. To me Volunteer Coordination should not mean just Volunteer Trainer. Volunteer infrastructure like the Support Volunteer program is badly needed, however there has been almost zero time to really develop it. Really its impossible to develop adequate volunteer support/utilization infrastructure while training and supporting volunteers at the same time. While trying to do both, I've sucked at both. I'm left with the choice everyday of just grinding through the very unsustainable status quo or working towards systemic improvements for every area of fg through well used volunteer labour. There is SO MUCH that can be done at free geek if volunteers were effectively utilized. The Support Volunteer program is meant to allow me to do that work, but unfortunately I've barely had time to finish it or implement it. It's a lose lose situation, either I can't strive for improvements and burn out and watch my colleagues burn out in order to support volunteers on the ground at all times giving them the attention they need, or I ignore volunteers that need support and work towards volunteer coordination infrastructure, I can't do both and yet both need to happen.

The result is that I've become miserable and disempowered, constantly spinning in a rat wheel while my performance suffers more everyday.

There is also a lack of production coordination in that if an operational modification or creation of a work station is needed it falls to the Volunteer Coordinator to do this work. Also the Build program as far as Pre-Build is also still in the hands of the Volunteer Coordinator, this separation needs to be made. Basically, there are too many jobs on one persons shoulders.

Advice for the future

Volunteer Coordination needs to be just that. In a volunteer run organization, with 1200 volunteers in its database, and several hundred active, this is an extremely important job. In FG Portland staff all do rotating floor shifts to help train and support volunteers at stations, I feel that this is needed at FG Vancouver as well, in order for the Volunteer Coordinator to be able to develop infrastructure regarding volunteer labour and staff support. When I started at FG Volunteer Support was relatively divided and shared amongst staff, since around the time Ryan left most days it is almost entirely on one persons shoulders, I do not feel that this is a fair or efficient use of staff time. At this point only one staff member at FG knows how to do all of the volunteer stations (except Tyler who was a Support Volunteer contracted as Store Coordinator), most other staff at this point can only train 3 or 4 stations, we have 15+ volunteer stations. What happens when that one person gets hit by a bus or goes on vacation? To me it would make more sense for every staff member to contribute a 3-4 hour shift a week to volunteer support. Without that support this position as it is is unsustainable and poorly utilized.


A calendar system integrated with the FG Database is badly needed. Right now I have to just remember what stations volunteers have done, how well they've performed, what they are able to do (skills, health etc.) etc. Remembering this kind of information for a few hundred people is difficult. I need to be able to track the stations folks have done and include notes with that information.

Ideally when scheduling I would like to type in someones name and have a screen pop up with their volunteering experience listed and any other notes/info, it should also tell me what program they are in (adoption, build, neither), for build it should track the pre-build prerequisites and show me what stations are next for them and what days those stations are available.

This is really needed! I hate realizing I've put someone through the same station 3 times by accident, or that they've got a back injury but I forgot and they were too embarrassed to say something :(

It would also be great if I had easy access to tweaking the calendar through colour coding and adding + removing stations. :)

Next Steps

Ultimately the Volunteer Coordinator needs to focus their energy on staff and volunteer support infrastructure through volunteer labour. This means the Support Volunteer program, Volunteer Interns, and active Workgroups. To do this some relief from daily volunteer support is needed. The stations at FG should also be more educational for volunteers rather than just production stations, as learning is the main reason everyone volunteers. To do this I think it would be appropriate to have the Education Coordinator supporting volunteers on the floor and working on improving stations one day a week, I think the best way to improve the educational quality of stations is to regularly have a hand in teaching them.

The Build program also needs to be formalized and taken over by the build coordinator.

To do list and suggestions

  • Work on Accessibility needs Volunteers Workgroup
  • Create non literacy based teaching diagrams at stations
  • Improve teaching diagrams at all stations
  • Create events and systems for volunteer recognition and rewards.
  • Create system for filing/addressing complaints; solicit feedback from staff and volunteers.
  • Modify Support Volunteer Training (almost done, teaching practices needs expansion)
  • Schedule monthly SV training
  • Create a map to attach to full bins would be great!
  • Some stations could be modified or broken down more, for example EVAL is getting complicated, an advanced eval might be helpful
  • Hardware identification teaching boards would be very very helpful!!
  • The Announcements board needs to be more visible, maybe on the door or above the sign in sheet
  • We need a general 'Clutter Island' sorting table for odds and ends
  • LCD test pattern could be better to look for dead pixals

Volunteer Meeting Minutes

   * 1 Agenda
         o 1.1 Support Volunteers
               + 1.1.1 Cultivation
               + 1.1.2 Additional Tasks
               + 1.1.3 Training
         o 1.2 Volunteer Work Stations
         o 1.3 Volunteer Appreciation
               + 1.3.1 Free Geek Games
         o 1.4 General Suggestions

Volunteers Workgroup

Core volunteers

  • Find ways of retaining and developing volunteers (1 year)
  • Create and maintain an effective group of core volunteers (1 year, value #1)
  • Cultivate core volunteers and use them effectively (1year, value #1)


  • Reach new communities and individuals (1 year, value #8,5)
  • Volunteer opportunities for the disabled (1 year, value #3,8)
  • Make Free Geek more accessible (1 year, value #8,3,6)
  • Wheelchair accessibility, & become generally accessible to diverse communities

I would also like to contribute to Board of Directors training and use. As well as to actively coordinate volunteers into and throughout workgroups.