[How I Work] Overseeing everyone who wants to get involved
Breauna Hagan began working for New American Pathways in early 2015, taking charge of volunteer operations for the Atlanta-based refugee resettlement organization. We caught up with her over coffee to discuss the responsibilities and rewards of her work as Service and Volunteerism Manager.
My un-official title: Master People Connector. (Though that might be aspirational!)
My role, the short version: Overseeing the programs that engage everyone who wants to get involved directly as a volunteer.
My role, the long version: Individuals, groups, faith-based partners, corporate partners, AmeriCorps members, interns—I oversee the volunteering process for each of these demographics, with the help of two AmeriCorps members. Part of that is working with my coworkers to determine the volunteer opportunity attached to each department, and how to fill it correctly. I’m also responsible for compliance regarding an AmeriCorps State reimbursement grant—something I had not done in my previous work. Fortunately, I get assistance with that from our resource coordinator.
Most rewarding part of my job: Seeing my coworkers get to take a breath, because engaged volunteers mean they have more capacity to address other, oftentimes overlooked, departmental needs. And when a volunteer wants to come back, wants to deepen their involvement, wants to become a champion for the cause—that’s really rewarding.
How I got here: My mom taught me always to give back, but also to be careful about how you do it. I’ve always been interested in international issues and global humanitarian aid: I was in Model UN from a young age, and in college I took service trips abroad. After volunteering at an orphanage in Honduras, I knew that I wanted to devote my life to service—but even with an International Studies major, I still didn’t know what a profession in service looked like until I took a senior seminar on career possibilities for my degree, which introduced me to the world of nonprofits. After that, I spent two years as an AmeriCorps Vista—one as a communications VISTA, one as a VISTA leader—and went to Georgia State University to get my MPA in nonprofit management. I wanted to combine my passion with my formalized knowledge, skills, and training, and this position connected all those dots.
What the role requires: Being a people person. You’ll find that people from all walks of life want to volunteer, so being able to relate to everyone in some way is important. Experience in supervising people, and in creating a volunteer program that accounts for the “three Rs”: recruitment, retention, and recognition. The discipline to stick to a mission-first approach, and inspire the same priorities in volunteers—that is, teaching volunteers that the impact you make should be at the forefront, not making yourself feel good. (Though that happens too, when you do volunteerism the right way!)
The job skill I’m working on now: Public speaking. Another part of the job is talking in front of people—speaking to community and faith-based groups who are interested in getting involved, and weighing in during staff meetings with updates and opinions. To get more comfortable, I recently joined Toastmasters.
My favorite way to support coworkers: By getting to know them and expressing support in a way that’s meaningful to them: some appreciate public praise, while others appreciate a note of thanks or being taken out to lunch. When you show team members you’re invested in what motivates them individually, they in turn want to invest in a productive environment.
How the organization supports me: I wouldn’t be here if not for the mission, but I wouldn’t have stayed if it weren’t for the direction I’ve received from leadership, and I wouldn’t have accomplished nearly as much if not for my team. Everyone here is invested in making sure our volunteer program is the best it can be. As problems arise, I always feel I have the room to come up with creative solutions, and I’m also allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. All of these pieces propel me to be a better leader, manager, and employee.
New American Pathways helps new Americans from the moment of their arrival through their journey to citizenship with proven pathways to self-sufficiency and success. With a staff of 60 and a 16-member AmeriCorps team, they serve 3,500 immigrants each year. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
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