By Alisa Gefter, MPH, Volunteer Coordinator


What is your job?

I work at Washtenaw County Health Department as a Volunteer Coordinator for the Emergency Preparedness Department. I oversee coordination and communication with volunteers. I am working on making a training plan and orientation plan for our volunteers that we received throughout COVID-19. The Washtenaw County Health Department uses these volunteers for both emergency and non-emergency events. Part of my role is to ensure that volunteers have profiles updated, trainings completed, and information about events to volunteer at.


How long have you been working in this field?

I am new to the field of public health. Originally, what drew me to this field was the fact that my family has a history of certain chronic diseases, and I wanted to help educate/spread awareness about these issues. My first role in public health was working as a COVID-19 contact tracer for the CDC Foundation. I only did that for six months. Therefore, I am still new to this role. I have been working at the health department since mid-July 2022 (about six months). In total, I have been working in the field of public health for one year.


What level of education or training does this position require?

Most volunteer coordinator positions require a bachelor’s degree, but organizations often prefer a master’s degree, specifically a public health degree. I have a bachelor’s in public health from Eastern Michigan University and an MPH from Wayne State University. In terms of training, there were no specific trainings needed, however, I did have prior experience coordinating events and managing groups of people in general. I had several leadership roles in the past.


What skills are needed to do this job well?

A variety of skills are needed for this position. From my experience, I would say good organizational skills, communication skills, event coordination experience, people management skills, and time management skills are needed. Since I oversee making the training plan and the orientation plan, I needed to have time to take the trainings myself and evaluate to see if they would be useful for the volunteers. In order to identify if a training was useful, I would look at the length of the training, the accessibility of it, and identify if the training was relevant for emergency preparedness. When I look at updating the orientation plan, I investigate getting everything more organized, easy to access, make sure all the information is up to date, and make sure the requirements of being volunteers are clear. Lastly, an important skill is being able to be mindful of volunteers from different backgrounds/experiences. Having open-mindedness and being able to adapt to any changes is very important when it comes to working with volunteers.


What is a typical day like for this career?

A typical day for this career would vary depending on what is going on. On calmer days, I would be researching training opportunities in the area, sending out emails to volunteers who have questions, welcoming new volunteers, ensuring that volunteer profiles are up to date, and finalizing volunteer handbooks/training plans/orientation plans. On busier days, I would be sending out emails to volunteers about volunteer opportunities and creating a virtual sign-up sheet. After an event, such as a blood pressure check, mass vaccination, an outreach event, etc.), I would have to keep track of which volunteers signed up, which ones showed up (along with how many hours attended) and follow up with the event coordinator (if applicable) to get feedback about the event. With this feedback, I can see what could be improved and see what we could provide the event coordinator with in the future.


Do you tend to work more independently or with other people?

I would say it is a little bit of both. I work independently when it comes to updating documents, updating orientation materials, etc. However, I work with people in my department frequently on community outreach projects. I attend meetings where I learn more ways to organize events, manage volunteers, and recruit volunteers. I have a conference coming up where I will get even more ideas! I have been planning more in-person events like meet and greets and appreciation events. Additionally, I must be in constant communication with other people to make sure everyone in my department knows what is being done and how the volunteers are doing.


What do you wish you would have known about your job before starting?

I wish I would have known how much planning would go into volunteer coordination. Not only do I have to plan events, but I need to figure out what materials are needed at events and what additional information is needed for each event. I also must always be prepared to contact volunteers in case of an emergency and have a backup plan in place.


What’s your least favorite thing about this job?

My least favorite thing about this job is that I cannot offer too many volunteering opportunities within the county. I can see how eager the volunteers are to help in the community. Unfortunately, the health department does not have as many volunteer events currently, but I am doing my best to get staff to use our volunteers more.


What’s your favorite thing about this job?

My favorite thing about being a volunteer coordinator is seeing how eager the volunteers are. It is great speaking to the volunteers in person and getting to know them better. They are always on top of signing up for events when they are available. Another favorite thing about the job is finding unique opportunities for volunteers. I am excited to continue working with them and am thankful that they are so passionate about helping the community.


What advice would you give people who are interested in going into this field?

For people interested in going into public health volunteer coordination, I would recommend staying organized and being prepared to have to call volunteers whenever needed. If entering a role like this, I would recommend always having a plan in place and doing drills with the volunteers so that they will know how to respond if an emergency occurs.