Audio Journal leader Frandsen volunteers wisdom

With two full-time staffers and a volunteer army of around 150 people, Worcester-based Audio Journal knows how to successfully recruit, train and retain those who want to assist the nonprofit organization in its mission of providing reading services for the blind.

Audio Journal Executive Director Mary Frandsen detailed some of the key strategies to attract and nurture volunteers for an appreciative audience at The Communicators Club’s Nov. 5 luncheon meeting.

Frandsen, who was promoted to the top job in early October upon the retirement of longtime leader Vincent dePaul Lombardi, estimated the group provides audio reading services for 3,500 clients in Central Massachusetts.

The service runs seven days a week, and content is communicated using 30-plus newspapers in the region, books, podcasts, a phone app and online streaming. A growing number of its clients are accessing Audio Journal through smart devices such as Amazon’s Echo.

Evaluating — and then matching — volunteers’ interests and availability to fit a firm’s needs is job one, according to Frandsen. Another crucial component is to provide consistent support, thanks and praise to your unpaid workers, while also allowing flexibility in their schedules.

Free T-shirts and associated swag is also appreciated in lieu of a paycheck, she noted.

Frandsen’s talk detailed various recruitment methods, although many of Audio Journal’s volunteers arrive through simple word of mouth. She also touched on some recruiting challenges, noting that a reading service for blind doesn’t fall into the “sexy” category, and that a large majority of its volunteers are elderly.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle is that Audio Journal remains an unknown entity to many in its Worcester County service area — a deficit that Frandsen is working diligently to overcome. A January 9, 2019 article about the group in The Oprah Magazine increased its national profile, and even attracted some listeners from California. The No. 6 mention in the list linked here features Audio Journal.

An informative Q&A session followed the presentation, which was held at the Bancroft School Field House in Worcester. In the photo above, Mary, at left, discusses information about the organization with TCC member Barbara Ingrassia.

Audio Journal is always looking to supplement its volunteer force. Email, or use its website form if you’re interested in assisting.