Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Zamastil matches volunteers to task at hand

Kim Zamastil holds a trophy.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Volunteer Management Association named 2008 grad Kim Zamastil the 2010 Volunteer Director of the Year.

Update

Kim Zamastil became volunteer and internship coordinator at The Magic House, the St. Louis children's museum in November 2010.

Making the best match for volunteers and the tasks they do is Kim Zamastil's secret ingredient for keeping thousands of people engaged in community service at St. Patrick Center, Missouri's largest provider of services to homeless people.

Zamastil keeps track of 3,200 people who volunteer with one of the St. Patrick Center's 28 housing, employment and mental health programs that annually assist more than 9,000 people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in the St. Louis area. "We help individuals and families move from homelessness to independence in a measurable, cost-effective manner," Zamastil says.

She headed to St. Louis after graduating from the La Follette School with a Master of Public Affairs degree in 2008 to become St. Patrick Center's volunteer coordinator. "After an internship at an international corporate PR firm and a subsequent full-time volunteer job at a nonprofit in the Bronx, I knew that I wanted to be a nonprofit administrator," she says. "I knew that a master's would be necessary to be competitive. I chose La Follette because of its strong emphasis on social welfare policy. After graduation, I fell into volunteer management, but I knew I was well-prepared because of my MPA."

Zamastil pays careful attention to each volunteer's interests, skills and experiences. Each new volunteer fills out an interest form. "The interest forms are key because they help me determine which tasks would be the best fit for each person," she says. "If you don't match up good people with the right work, no one will be successful. Every volunteer task, whether large or small, skilled or unskilled, benefits our clients."

Developing the interest forms and a new comprehensive volunteer handbook were among the first projects Zamastil undertook at St. Patrick Center. "I find myself drawing on my public management courses with Dr. [Dennis] Dresang a lot," Zamastil says. "He really helped us see that the requirements listed in position descriptions are pretty arbitrary. I remind myself of that frequently as I meet people and plug them into the agency."

This emphasis on detail helped to prompt the St. Louis Metropolitan Volunteer Management Association to name Zamastil the 2010 Volunteer Director of the Year. The handbook and interest form facilitate clear communication with volunteers, Zamastsil says. "A good handbook lays out all of your policies and procedures, and it gives the volunteer a sense of the agency history and purpose. They need to understand the environment they'll work in and what is expected."

To keep track of volunteer interests and hours the 3,200 individuals contribute, Zamastil uses Raiser's Edge development software. "Luckily, over 2,000 of those volunteers bake casseroles at home, so I don't have to manage logistics for them," Zamastil says. For more than 25 years, the St. Patrick Center has coordinated church and civic groups that prepare and deliver frozen casseroles daily to support groups and residential facilities.

The remaining 1,200 or so volunteers help with events, assist with administrative work, staff a reception desk, sort donations, tutor people studying for their general educational development tests, mentor people released from prison, and prepare and serve meals. "The time and talent of our generous volunteers fuel our agency's day-to-day activities," Zamastil says. "They also help raise more than $1 million a year to fund the center. Every volunteer at St. Patrick Center helps build permanent, positive change in the lives of homeless and poor individuals by supporting agency staff."

Volunteers want to be active, Zamastil says, a desire that is drawing more unemployed people to volunteer. They want to keep busy and, in some cases, to build their résumés. "Volunteers add an incredible amount of value to nonprofits," Zamastil says. "They bring in fresh energy, ideas and enthusiasm. They expand our capacity so that we can offer things we can't necessarily afford."

Zamastil brainstorms with St. Patrick Center staff members to identify opportunities for volunteers to perform work that staff cannot complete without assistance. "For instance, when our small business incubator started, it had a front desk but no budget to pay a receptionist," Zamastil says." I worked with the director to design a position description and shift schedule, and then I recruited qualified volunteers to staff the desk."

In addition to volunteering with United Way GenNext, serving as a Girl Scout troop leader and chairing her church/parish's social justice committee, Zamastil uses one week of vacation to manage a service camp for high school students in Louisville, Kentucky. Catholic Heart Workcamp operates 45 camps around the United States every June to make improvements to the homes of older adults and people with physical disabilities. Working from home, she organizes lodging, transportation and meaningful four-day volunteer service projects for 320 teenage youth groups. "During the actual week I spend in Louisville, I manage all the logistics," Zamastil says. "As one site finishes, I find a new one or if a team needs extra help, I juggle things to get more people there. It's a big job, but I think it's such an important way for kids to learn the value of service."

"The work camp allows me to be on the other side —sending out volunteers rather than receiving them," she adds. "Even though it's an incredible amount of work to do on my 'vacation,' it's really a renewing experience."