Name: Garrett Zaffke
Position: Community Relations and Volunteer Services Coordinator
Organization: Dakota County
MAVA Member Since: 2015
Please describe your volunteer program: Our program is unique in local government as we seek to engage our constituents in hands on experiences to help them learn more about the services and resources their local government provides to them. We partner with over twelve different departments throughout the year who utilize volunteers and interns to help maximize and stretch tax payer revenue as well as provide learning opportunities to help clear up misconceptions and assumptions about who we are as an organization. The coolest thing about our program is that we are able to address issues and projects that might not be normally addressed due to cost, organizational capacity, or time restraints.
What is your role? I work in Communications mainly focusing on Community Relations. We have tailored our volunteer/intern program to drive like a community relations vehicle in that we teach and train our volunteers/interns about the reasons of why/what/how we do local government. It allows us to increase transparency and gives our community more knowledge about the inner workings of their local government. It also allows them to take a hands-on approach to issues in their communities by partnering with us.
How did you get involved in Volunteer Management? I have always been a lifelong volunteer whether through Boy Scouts of America, National Honor Society, or my local church. I frankly stumbled into it as a professional vocation by being hired by the county to create a volunteer program from scratch. I know I needed help so that how I found MAVA!
What does it mean to you to be a MAVA member? Being a MAVA member puts you into a group of like-minded individuals who can share their experiences and insights on many different facets of the volunteer professional field. MAVA is an important asset to the work that I do. It allows me to build upon my professional development, meet organizations that I can swap/share ideas with, and an organizations advocates for the importance of volunteerism in our communities – things that I cannot do on my own.
Can you recall a time when being a MAVA member directly impacted your work in your organization? What were the outcomes of MAVA’s impact? MAVA has given me the resources and skills I needed to craft a national award winning volunteer program for Dakota County. I didn’t have to re-make the wheel or trail blaze by myself because I had an organization that had a wealth of knowledge and insight on how to market my organization, define liability, increase retention, and so much more. Now I did do some trailblazing on my own hence the national awards but I would have never been free to try new things if I would have been bogged down by trying to figure out the basic stuff on my own. And that is what is so neat about MAVA, the basics are taken care of so that we can dedicate more time to innovate and explore new ways to impact our communities through the use of volunteers.
Do you have any advice for new MAVA members/leaders of volunteers? You get what you put into MAVA. Attend the trainings, go to a networking event, talk to someone you don’t know. You will be amazed at what you can learn. After that, make sure you APPLY what you learned! Notes on a computer or sheet of paper do no good if they are not put into use. As a trainer myself, I think it is important that we always find new opportunities to further our professional development. We live in an ever-changing world and success follows those who keep up with it.
Finally, one last word of advice – we all have opportunities to impact the volunteer field for good or bad, we either succeed or fail together. A person’s perception of volunteering as a whole can be broken in one bad experience so learn to treat and take each moment as important and always strive to give top notch service and support. We all will thank you for it.