Managing an active Community Chapter that offers a variety of services to breastfeeding mothers can be a big job. Whether a Breastfeeding Counselor is managing a Chapter by herself or with other BCs, having additional help allows for smoother operations. Breastfeeding Counselors who engage local volunteers in the work of the Chapter can offer better service to their communities. And volunteers who become engaged in Community Chapter work usually become strong supporters and advocates for Breastfeeding USA. Some may decide to apply to become Breastfeeding Counselors as well.
Volunteers can contribute most successfully when the responsibilities and expectations are clearly defined and communicated. A large Community Chapter may choose to have written job descriptions and periodically post these to solicit more helpers. Especially for new volunteers, keeping the job small can prevent them from feeling overwhelmed.
At support group meetings, small volunteer positions can be created for meeting site preparation and cleanup, registration and greeting, or refreshments. If the Community Chapter maintains a lending library, a volunteer librarian can be responsible for making materials available for checkout and following up to ensure materials are returned. Volunteers can also prepare and collate Breastfeeding USA information packets to hand out to first-time meeting attendees. If the Community Chapter holds meetings in private homes, different mothers can volunteer to host meetings, and others can be responsible for notifying regular attendees of the meeting location. A volunteer can also coordinate and/or host additional activities for the Chapter -- playdates at local parks, family potluck meals, enrichment meetings about topics other than breastfeeding that might be of interest to some Chapter members, etc.
Volunteers may also become involved in local advocacy efforts. Community Chapters that participate in local health conferences or educational events can staff their booth with volunteers providing Breastfeeding USA resources. Really, volunteers can do any Community Chapter task except offer breastfeeding information and support as a representative of Breastfeeding USA. Only Breastfeeding Counselors who are accredited and covered by Breastfeeding USA professional liability insurance may speak for Breastfeeding USA.
Soliciting Local Volunteers
Breastfeeding Counselors can observe mothers at group meetings and other events, identify participants who appear enthusiastic about the organization, and seek them out as volunteers. Periodically, BCs can ask for volunteers for specific tasks, either verbally at a meeting or using the Chapter’s social media tools. These appeals are sometimes successful in attracting interested new volunteers with specific skills. Breastfeeding Counselors can also host special meetings to discuss Community Chapter operations and solicit volunteers. However, Breastfeeding Counselors may get a better response by making personal requests of individuals. Many people are honored to be asked to help the Community Chapter and happy to become more involved in Breastfeeding USA operations. Working together with BCs, local volunteers gain a better understanding of Breastfeeding USA. This experience can be invaluable for Breastfeeding Counselor candidates during their education, so BCs should encourage any candidates in their Community Chapters to take on a local volunteer position.
Volunteers work best when they receive regular feedback and have an understanding of how their work relates to the overall operations of the Community Chapter. New volunteers benefit from orientation to their responsibilities and additional support until they feel comfortable in the position. Orientation may include an introduction to some of the workings of the national organization. For volunteer positions that involve contact with breastfeeding mothers (e.g., greeting at meetings or working at a health fair), the Breastfeeding Counselor should provide clear guidelines on when the volunteer should direct mothers to a Breastfeeding Counselor; volunteers should not provide direct breastfeeding information or support, since they are not covered by Breastfeeding USA professional liability insurance.
Breastfeeding Counselors should plan time to discuss Chapter activities with volunteers on a regular basis. Hosting a periodic Chapter planning meeting provides an opportunity for current (and potential) volunteers to make suggestions and work together. A Community Chapter with many volunteers may even decide to have a volunteer position to coordinate all the volunteers and host planning meetings.
While most volunteers are gratified to have a role supporting their Community Chapter, many also appreciate being acknowledged for their contributions. Breastfeeding Counselors can thank a Chapter’s local volunteers both publicly and privately. During support group meetings, a BC can publicly introduce the volunteers. If the Community Chapter is large, BCs could also consider making special name tags for the volunteers; if the Chapter produces a newsletter or has a social media forum, Breastfeeding Counselors can highlight the volunteers. Privately, the BC can show her appreciation for a Chapter volunteer with a small, thoughtful gift, a heartfelt note, and by honestly expressing gratitude.