Optimizing service capacity with thoughtful matching of companions with clients

Abstract: 

This practice is one in a series of successful management practices that relate to Program Example: Salt Lake County Aging Services Senior Companion Program.

Over the past 25 years, the Salt Lake County Aging Services (SLCAS) Senior Companion Program has emerged as a highly effective program that connects the county's older population with its diverse array of aging services. They view their Senior Companions not as temporary volunteers who may come and go, but as valuable, long-term assets. The companion placement process is handled thoughtfully so as to optimize volunteer service capacity and experience.

Issue:

How programs match Senior Companions with clients directly affects volunteer capacity as well as the quality of the experience for both the member and client.

Action:

SLCAS matches companions and clients in two stages. First, they use what they learned from the interview process to match companions with specific volunteer stations. The location of the companion's home is a consideration, as they want to minimize travel time, but SLCAS is just as intentional about making matches based on shared experience. For example, veterans are usually assigned to the VA Medical Center's volunteer station — they know that the shared experience of military service creates a strong bond from the beginning. The second stage is the placement by the volunteer station with individual clients. Again, shared experience and language play an important role. SLCAS has learned that this deliberate matching process requires careful balancing of the pool of clients waiting for companion services with available Senior Companions. Having a manageable list of available clients to choose from allows volunteer stations to make the best matches. Additionally, it is critical that volunteer stations are not overwhelmed by excessive demand for companion services; to this end, SLCAS tempers its outreach so that the list does not grow too large.

Outcome:

According to SLCAS, deliberate and thoughtful companion-client matches result in a better service experience for both the volunteer and the client. Keeping the waiting list to a manageable size means that, typically, client wait times are reduced.

For more information:

Website:  SLCAS Senior Companion Program

Citations: 

Abt Associates. (2011, December). Serving communities: How four organizations are using national service to solve community problems. Washington, DC: Corporation for National and Community Service.


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