LESSON 2: interacting with visitors
As a non-profit, with a very small cohort of staff, Spark Central relies on its volunteers to handle the majority of front-line interactions with visitors. Using volunteers to fill this role helps protect staff time and enables staff to focus more specifically on the projects and programs that are core to their mission.
As a Station Volunteer, you are often one of the first people that visitors will encounter upon entering the facility. By greeting visitors as they enter, welcoming them to the space and assisting as needed, you begin to create a relationship that will help visitors feel a part of the Spark Central community. Creating a sense of belonging amongst prospective members is an important first step in breaking down barriers to access within the community.
If you're not sure how to get started, the following script will give you some ideas. Feel free to modify the language to suit your own personal style.
"Hello - Welcome to Spark Central! My name is ____. Let me know if there is anything I can help you with..."
Providing assistance to visitors who wish to access and/or use resources available within the center is a central part of your role as Station Volunteer. This involves everything from checking out resources and assisting with set up, to providing information about relevant programs, answering inquiries, and making referrals to staff as appropriate. In our next module, you will learn more about using the Librarika system to record resource use for visitors. The section below will provide information on providing referrals. You will also find related information in the 'Modeling Curiosity' section in Lesson 1.
While many visitor requests can be handled independently by volunteers, others will require staff assistance or follow-up. Items and/or inquiries that would typically require referral to staff include: requests for specialized or custom programs, proposals for collaboration with specific individuals or community groups, unusual resource access requests, fundraising or sponsorship requests, etc.
Sometimes, particularly for procedural-type questions, you may be able to avoid a referral by checking with the volunteer coordinator first (if he's available during your shift). Often he can provide advice on how to handle a given situation or how particular inquiries are usually dealt with (for example, whether a child slightly below the minimum age range could attend a workshop with his older brother/sister).
To assist you in providing referrals, the following section outlines the areas for which each staff member is responsible, as well as her/his contact information and the means by which s/he prefers to be contacted. Please read through this section carefully as it will help you refer visitors to the staff member best-suited to respond to the inquiry.
Brooke Matson - Executive Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
field trips, anything that sounds important
Kate Reed - Development Director: email@example.com
donations, grants, fundraising events
Melissa Dziedzic - Program Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org
program suggestions, questions about programs, etc.
Wilson Faust - Station & Volunteer Manager: email@example.com
assistance from Staff
In situations where visitors do not have a prearranged appointment with a staff member, volunteers are asked to take messages and/or make referrals so that staff can follow up on visitor inquiries at a convenient time. It is important to keep in mind, however, that staff assistance is available at any time if you feel that a situation with a visitor is getting out of control, you are concerned for your safety (or that of anyone else within the facility), or, despite your attempts to assist, the visitor is insisting on speaking to a staff member.
In most cases, however, it should be possible to either help the visitor directly or to provide contact information for the appropriate staff member so that visitors can follow up with them at an alternate time.