VAN Spotlight: Jenny Woods, Seattle Art Museum

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Jenny Woods, Manager of Volunteer Programs, Seattle Art Museum

Describe the mission, programs and services of your organization:

Seattle Art Museum Connects Art to Life. We are one museum with three locations: SAM Downtown, Asian Art Museum, and Olympic Sculpture Park. Through art, the Seattle Art Museum enriches lives and engages diverse communities.

How does your organization engage volunteers?

We have about 20 different volunteer roles at SAM. A majority of those roles are in various visitor service positions because volunteers are such amazing advocates for our museum to our visitors. Our docent tour guides are volunteers, and we do have a few volunteers who work “behind the scenes” in the offices.

How did you come into the field of volunteer engagement?

I have worked with volunteers in some capacity throughout my career, which has been focused in Art Museums. I have always found working with volunteers to be the most rewarding part of my job, so it made sense to transition to a position where that is my entire job.

What are some of the successes and challenges you have had engaging volunteers?

Our volunteers have such a passion for SAM. They care so much about the museum and its role within the community. I think that is a great success, but it can also be a challenge when volunteers who are deeply invested in the organization are resistant to either the natural evolution that happens within an organization, or the deliberate changes the board and staff are implementing.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would you change and why?

I would give everyone the ability to understand and appreciate each other’s viewpoints. It seems like if we could see eye to eye more often, a lot of conflicts (big and small) would be avoided.

What is the most interesting item in your closet?

I have a pair of gold platform sandals, which my mother wore to a high school reunion in 1975. They are getting a bit fragile now, but I still break them out for special occasions.


Please RSVP to Jenny for next Wednesday’s Professional Gathering, “Training Staff to Work Effectively with Volunteers”, at Seattle Art Museum. At this special PG we will be celebrating International Volunteer Managers Day with an appreciation lunch – because we deserve it! – plus time to tour the museum.

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