The Tampa CW Story: Recruiting, Engaging, Acknowledging, and Retaining Volunteers

This is the seventh in a continuing series of articles about how to start a Catholic Worker community, told through the lived experience of the Tampa Catholic Worker.

Welcome back to our series of articles about how we started Florida’s only (for now) Catholic Worker community, Dorothy Day Tampa (DD Tampa).

In our previous posts, we shared the influence of the Catholic Worker vision and mission in developing a DD Tampa House. We discussed our decision to establish a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality utilizing our unique media and messaging approach. This was followed by an in-depth article that addressed fundraising. Our most recent post shared our search for an opening location. Our overall development strategy? Align with Dorothy’s vision and stay true to the core values of the Catholic Worker movement as we introduce the concepts of a revolution of the heart and radical hospitality to the local Tampa community and beyond.

That leads us to the subject of volunteers – the lifeblood of our DD Tampa ministry.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

Vision: “Make the kind of society where it is easier to be good.” – Peter Maurin

Mission: Recruit and train volunteers in the Catholic Worker tradition, who recognize the dignity of each person, to provide relief, hospitality, and housing assistance to homeless men and women within the Tampa area.

Ideally, we identify and engage volunteers who will fall in love with our DD Tampa vision and mission. These volunteers become vision carriers, introducing Dorothy Day to the Tampa community. Our trained, meaningfully engaged DD Tampa volunteers are the ‘secret sauce’ –vortex* vision carriers who eagerly share their passion for Dorothy Day with their social networks. Eventually, with consistent effort, at some point, DD Tampa goes viral within our community.

How do we recruit vortex volunteers? Recruiting candidates requires prayerful wisdom and discernment to secure and engage servant hearts who:

  • Consistently share and reinforce the mission and principles of DD Tampa.
  • Expand the awareness of DD Tampa in the Tampa area.
  • Attract churches, volunteers, and donors and compel them to specific action.
  • Target younger audiences with a summons to serve.
  • Share love stories of lives transformed, putting God’s work through DD Tampa on full display.
  • Generates interest and commitment to DD Tampa events.
  • are visually consistent with our humble but professional image and demonstrates good stewardship of donors’ contributions.

*vortex volunteers – capable of sharing DD Tampa, engaging with and enrolling anyone within two feet of them

Training volunteers: Nearly all of our volunteers have previously attended a six-week virtual study of Dorothy Day’s, The Long Loneliness. Also, they are at least aware of the Redemptive Compassion principles and the Oath for Compassionate Healers (attached).

Engaging volunteers: Although we do not have an opening location, that does not prevent us from using our trained volunteers to help other Tampa ministries flourish. Examples include DD Tampa Sunday at Hyde Park United Methodist (HPUM) where our volunteers join others to feed 100+ of our resource-insecure neighbors on the fourth Sunday of every month. Others help our bike ministry and our lone homeless drop-in center, The Coffee Shop.

DD Tampa volunteers serving coffee at HPUM’s Open Arms

Acknowledging volunteers: On a quarterly basis, we assemble our volunteers for a potluck fellowship event. Semi-annually we conduct a volunteer survey (see attached). In 2024 we will select a recipient for the inaugural Ann M. Doyle “foolishness award” for doing what others say can’t be done.

Retaining volunteers: While volunteer management is an art, some things are intuitive. Asking them for ministry advice and featuring them in newsletter volunteer profiles sends volunteers an important message – “We value your contribution.” An occasional coffee conversation, note card, text, email, phone call, or remark – “Thank you for being here,” will likely go a long way to cementing and expanding long-term volunteer relationships.

Pray for servant-heart volunteers and await His provision.

Next up in our series: #8 – “Be still and know that I am God. PS 46:10. Seed planting and awaiting God moments – His abundant provision.

To view all of the articles in this series, visit the The Dorothy Day Tampa Story page. For more advice on starting a Catholic Worker house, see: How to Start A Catholic Worker Community.

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