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July 22, 2014

The Secret Behind Recruiting Thousands of Volunteers

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 10.49.48 PM.pngThe secret to recruiting thousands of fabulous volunteers is simple really…

Enlist a small team of insanely motivated, passionate, and wonderful individuals to get out in the community and talk to people. Successful volunteer recruitment also involves developing a dynamic strategy and finding innovative ways to partner with other organizations, businesses, and corporations in the community.

As we work to ensure that all students in the Bay Area have the reading skills they need to excel in school and life, Jennifer Mao, our community engagement manager in San Francisco is working to make sure we have all of the volunteers we need to serve as reading partners to our students this fall!

Here is a little look inside the life of one of our many exceptional community engagement managers – Jennifer Mao

Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A. I find it most rewarding that I’m part of a community-powered organization. Without the commitment of thousands of everyday citizens, Reading Partners wouldn’t exist. Being part of an organization that can provide a conduit for people to enact meaningful change in their local communities is a constant source of inspiration for me.

I also have the incredible privilege of leading a fantastic team of four AmeriCorps volunteer coordinators, who have committed a year of service to coordinate and strengthen our external relations.

I love that “community engagement” is in my title, because it is such a broadly applicable term that I think captures the breadth and depth of Reading Partners’ commitment to building sustainable and long-lasting relationships within the fabric of our local communities and schools. Our community engagement team is an absolutely essential piece; without volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to serve students!

Q. What does your typical day look like?

A. One of the best things about my role is that there really is no typical day. I spend a good portion of time building and maintaining relationships with volunteer partners.

I am surprised everyday by the generosity of local communities and the variety of Bay Area organizations and individuals who are interested in giving back to their communities. We have many relationships with high schools, colleges, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and businesses ranging from startups to large corporations. While many of our volunteers find us through online websites like VolunteerMatch or Craigslist, we are thinking more and more about how we can extend our reach to meet people within their existing networks – which would ensure that our volunteer base is as diverse as the communities we serve.

As one might expect, the strongest relationships that we have built over the past few years have come from direct recommendations and introductions from our tutors and current community partners. In this spirit, (shameless plug) I hope that you’ll reach out to your networks of groups and individuals who might be interested in becoming Reading Partners!

Q. What role do you believe that community members can play in improving public education?

A. Education, as an institution, is deeply embedded and inextricable from the challenges and opportunities of its surrounding society. I don’t view “public education” as a sphere removed from public health, public welfare, or public safety. Nor do I believe that it should be considered outside of the influence of private or for-profit enterprises. I think that everybody can agree that all children deserve the right to a high-quality education that empowers them with the tools to ask questions, to make sense of, and to challenge the world around them.

 Reading Partners operates from a place of hope, rather than despair, which sets us apart in the K-12 education space. This optimism is powerful and inspires individuals to making a real difference in the community and in the lives of others. Because together we can make great strides in ensuring all kids have the reading skills they need to succeed.

When engaging in this work, I am constantly reminded of an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Q. What is your favorite children’s book?

A. Harold and the Purple Crayon 


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