Volunteer NH is launching a new Excellence in Volunteer Management series! We have begun interviewing some exceptional volunteer managers to find out how they approach the work and what volunteerism means to them.

This post kicks off the series, and we are starting with our 2022 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Manager of the Year awardee, Ann Vennard of Cornerstone VNA. Click here to learn more about her award.

Watch Ann’s awardee highlight video, below, and scroll down to learn more about her story.

Interview with Ann Vennard

How has volunteering factored into your life up to this point?

I grew up with a mother who strongly believed in giving back and who volunteered in our classrooms, for our church, and for UNH Cooperative Extension. She instilled the importance of volunteerism to us at an early age.

After I graduated from college, I volunteer taught on the Navajo Indian Reservation for 2 years, which was an incredibly rewarding and special experience.

My husband and I volunteered at our daughters’ sporting events in the snack bar and on the field and I, alongside my daughters, volunteered for the Friends of the Rollinsford Public Library for many years as well as at their elementary school. My twin daughters volunteer with me at Cornerstone VNA as needed with event signage and prep work, which I love.

What is the mission of the organization that you manage volunteers for? How do volunteers help to accomplish this goal?

Our mission is: To promote the optimum level of well-being, independence and dignity of those living in the community by providing trusted, compassionate and expert health care.

Our volunteers augment the care that our clinical staff provide. We say that they complete our ‘Circle of Caring.” Our volunteer team includes office volunteers, senior companion volunteers, companion volunteers, pet companion volunteers, event volunteers, balance coach volunteers, and musical volunteers. Each of our volunteer types plays an important role in supporting Cornerstone VNA staff, patients, families, and community members.

Many of our volunteers visit an elderly individual once per week for about 2 hours, which has a significant impact. The individual is less lonely and looks forward to their wonderful conversations every week.

How would you describe your leadership style?

My style focuses on collaboration. I often seek input from our volunteers and want them to feel engaged and that they have a voice in our program. I like to rally them around a common goal of improving the lives of those we serve in the community. I want our volunteers to feel supported, needed, and appreciated.

What does success look like to you, as a volunteer manager?

A volunteer placement is successful when their expectations of reward are met. For example:

  • A musical volunteer plays the piano of someone who can no longer play due to medical reasons and who joyfully sings along!
  • A companion volunteer plays scrabble with someone who LOVES the game!
  • An office volunteer takes on new responsibilities and organizes things based on their teaching background!

What are the three most important things for a volunteer manager to know/do in order to be successful?

  1. Never ask your volunteers to do something that you would not do.
  2. Always say please.
  3. Always say thank you.

How do you showcase and/or celebrate the impact of the volunteers serving with your organization?

We track our volunteer team’s total volunteer hours contributed and include that number in our annual report and in other announcements. We also feature our volunteers in our community newsletter and social media channels and we host a volunteer appreciation breakfast each year during Volunteer Appreciation Week.

During the past years, per COVID-19 protocol, we have created and mailed letters of gratitude, volunteer appreciation bagged kits, special notecards, and seed packets.

Our staff is wonderful about greeting and thanking our volunteers as well as they see them. For additional recognition, we nominate a volunteer for Volunteer NH’s Spirit of NH Award every year (now accepting 2022 nominations!), and for other awards  such as EngAGING NH’s Vaughan Award and Older Adult Volunteer Award.

What is the secret to having happy volunteers in your program?

I love the quote that says; “Someone who feels appreciated will always do more than is expected.”

You can never say thank you enough. I think that it is important to send handwritten notes of gratitude, and to do things like having anyone who has been helped by the volunteer sign a birthday card for them.

If a volunteer mentions that they are interested in something or want to try something, I make sure I get them the information that they need.

Is there anything else that you want to share?

Volunteering and the sense of community it exemplifies can motivate others to make a difference. Volunteering is an effort of exceptional generosity of time and talent, and Volunteer NH does a great job of bringing it to the forefront!


Learn more about Cornerstone VNA