Monday, July 25, 2011

Profile of a Professional Volunteer Manager

NeighbourLink's Volunteer Manager LeeAnne
Alexander with husband Mark.

Courtesy of Kali Readwin with Volunteer Calgary

LeeAnne Alexander is so passionate about volunteer management that she single-handedly created her volunteer management role at NeighbourLink Calgary. Back in 2009, LeeAnne started with NeighbourLink as a volunteer administrator for the All Roads Lead Home program. One year later, armed with previous experience and a hunger to do more, LeeAnne approached the leadership at Neighbourlink and said "I think we need a volunteer management position,” then offered to take the role. Until this point, each of the program staff was responsible for their own volunteer recruitment and engagement.

“I could see the need that hadn’t been filled,” explains LeeAnne. “I had shown them [it would work] through success stories. They knew we had a need for a volunteer coordinator, so I presented them with a year’s plan. They were able to find the funding to hire me, so they said, ‘GREAT!’ When you’re taking 40 calls a day, you don’t want to worry about if the volunteers are happy, so I do that now.”

NeighbourLink works to provide low-income Calgarians with the resources, donated goods and connections they need to avoid homelessness. Volunteers are vital to NeighbourLink’s service delivery. ‘Lifting spirits, one neighbour at a time’ is what volunteers do every day for NeighbourLink clients. Volunteers build hampers, take baby supplies to needy families, sort donated goods in the warehouse, deliver heavy furniture and personally deliver Calgary Food Bank hampers to struggling Calgarians. “When you’re a single mom living in poverty, you don’t have a car to pick up a crib in the middle of winter.” 

Although you might think it’s easy to see the impact NeighbourLink has in the community, LeeAnne feels it is important that the volunteers know how important their work is. With so many tasks to do, “…it’s good for the volunteers to see for themselves and feel like they are making a difference. It’s hard to understand that this happens in Calgary. It’s hard to understand how delivering a chair can better our world, but delivering chairs means a family is not eating dinner on the floor tonight.” LeeAnne shared a number of these heartfelt stories with us. The awestruck stories from volunteers drive her to do her best. Even with highly engaged staff and leadership, LeeAnne says the biggest challenge is “…we always feel like we’re not doing enough and that people don’t know who we are. We just try to help as many people as we can.”

When LeeAnne isn’t brewing up solutions at work, she enjoys time with her family. She loves children’s books and even has a bookshelf in her office that is full of her favourites, including One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. She enjoys spending time with her children who love watching So You Think You Can Dance together. “I have daughters. Of COURSE I love SYTYCD!” she laughs. You can catch LeeAnne wandering Kensington shops with her husband every Friday, enjoying consignment boutiques, Crave Cupcakes, coffee and wine stores.

LeeAnne’s top tips to being a successful manager of volunteers:
  • Be flexible in your volunteer roles to honour the volunteer’s time. If you have a delivery service, let your volunteers choose how often, what day and what area of the city. Save gas and time by grouping deliveries in similar areas.
  • If your organization is restructuring, make sure your orientations, training and operating procedures are changed accordingly.
  • Always explain why a volunteer position is important. “They want to know they are doing something significant to better our world.”
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel – ask lots of questions! Network with other managers of volunteers, discuss topics on social media, and use your resources.
  • Get to know your volunteers. “It’s all about relationships. Conversations are worth more than a mug or a pen.” Ask what their summer plans are, know their kids’ names, make sure they know they matter as people, so when a volunteer retires “it’s not a change in numbers, you’re losing a friend.”


  1. LeeAnne gave me a tour last week and I could really tell she has a great spirit and lots of energy for NeighbourLink. Makes me look forward to volunteering with you guys!

  2. Thank you for sharing this article on your blog, LeeAnne! What can I say, I had good material to work with. ;)