"It's about recognition. It's about making sure that we are creating volunteer pride as well as creating pride in the organization they are volunteering for. It is about having volunteers feel a loyalty to the organization that they would recommend the hospital to friends and family who need care, just as you would want an associate to do that. You want to make sure you are creating a personally rewarding experience for your volunteers."
All of this volunteer spirit isn't just a bunch of feel good pabulum. In addition to the money raised by Gingham Tree, Neiberg says the hospital has studied the practical effect of its volunteers across the spectrum of hospital operations and estimated that their combined hours of free service equaled that of 35 full-time employees.
With that in mind, Good Samaritan views volunteers as critical to hospital operations and, just as with paid staff, there is a strong emphasis on recruiting and retention.
"It's not just attracting the right people, but that you are able to keep the right people," Neiberg says. "The vast majority come from people out in the community looking for an organization they can be proud of and where they feel their time is going to be valued. It's a place where they would come for care or recommend it to their friends and family. They are looking for a place where they agree with the values of the organization. It is similar to what associates are looking for. The difference is these people don't get paid."
To make it work, Neiberg says successful hospitals have to build upon the relationships their volunteers.
"You want to make sure you have positive relationships between the volunteers and the coordinators and the hospital employees they are working with," she says. "You want to make sure they don't have a high level of stress. If it becomes too much of a hassle they will take their volunteer work someplace else where they feel they will have a more personally rewarding experience."