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Ask Connie

She is an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer. If you ask her...she will answer ...read below for questions and answers related to volunteer management and administration.

Send questions to cpirtle@compuserve.com

April Questions

Dear Connie:
I work as director of voluntary work department in the ministry of non-government organization affairs in the Gaza strip (Palestine). We are going to implement training programs for coordinators for volunteer programs. Would you kindly send me information about the most important subject to be taught for the coordinators? Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

aiman abu dagga

Dear Aiman:
You asked about the most important subject to be taught for volunteer coordinators. That's a difficult question to answer because there are several "important subjects." A basic training course for people who manage volunteer programs would include:

Recruiting - designing volunteer jobs and advertising the jobs to target audiences
Training - designing and conducting orientation and training for volunteers
Recognition - creating a recognition program
Evaluation - performance evaluation by and of volunteers as well as program evaluation
Volunteer Management System - manuals, supervision, data tracking, job descriptions, etc.

You'll find some good resources for training information at the following web sites:

Volunteer Today
Merrill Associates

Dear Connie:
Where are some resources (Internet possibly) where I can read up on skills in supervising, not doing everything oneself and giving specific directions without micromanaging? Thank you!

Ellen in Florida

Dear Ellen:

I believe there are two element to supervision: the technical side (job descriptions, coaching, communication, etc.) and the personal willingness to "let go" and empower others to be successful (i.e., get the work done!).

On the technical side, there is some very useful information on the CyberVPM site at www.cybervpm.com/superv.htm. Nan Hawthorne's chapter on Supervising Volunteers contains sections on everything from "Customer Service and How it Relates to Volunteer Programs" to a "Checklist for Working with Weekly Volunteers." She also provides several links to other helpful sites, such as CASA Nuts and Bolts at www.casanet.org/nuts/volunteer_management, where you'll find a supervision section by Rick Lynch and Steve McCurley.

Your role as a supervisor of volunteers is also about leadership, which is a personal quest. There are many good books on supervision and leadership available for sale through the Internet. Check out the publications sections of these sites: Energize, Inc. at www.energizeinc.com, Volunteer Today at www.volunteertoday.com, CyberVPM at www.cybervpm.com, and Jossey-Bass at www.josseybass.com.

Dear Connie:
I am new to the position of Volunteer Coordinator for United Methodist Youthville, a non-profit agency that provides services to foster children and their families in Wichita, Kansas. My question is this. I have a large group orientation scheduled for my volunteer drivers. I would like to know what information you feel is important to present and if you know of any resources in my area that would be helpful. Thank you in advance for any information you may be able to provide.

Shannon in Wichita

Dear Shannon,

First some specific information, and then we can look at the bigger picture of orientation and training.

I contacted one of my colleagues who used to live in your area. She recommends contacting the Meals on Wheels that's at a senior services center (on Maple Street she thinks). Also, if the Institute of Logepedics is still there, it used to utilize volunteer drivers. Both organizations will probably be willing to share the training information they use for their drivers. Don't be shy about reaching out to other organizations in your city.

Now for the bigger picture! As you create your orientation, consider this. Orientation and training are often intertwined and are most effective when organized that way. The purpose of orientation is to provide volunteers with the context within which they'll work. Training is the actual process of instructing volunteers in the specific job-related skills and behaviors that they will need to perform their particular volunteer assignment.

An effective orientation will provide your volunteers with the following types of information:

Training identifies those skills, knowledge, and behavior that are essential in good job performance. It is practical, experiential, and tailored to the individual needs of the volunteers being trained. Effective training teaches volunteers:

Source: "Essential Volunteer Management" by Rick Lynch and Steve McCurley, available for sale from VMSystems/Heritage Arts Press, 1807 Prairie, Downers Grove, IL 60515 (708-964-1194). Excerpts from the book are available on the CASA web site (Court Appointed Special Advocates) at www.casanet.org/nuts/volunteer_management.

I hope this information helps you organize your orientation for volunteer drivers. Good luck!

Dear Connie:
I read a wonderful poem in the past about volunteers all going to heaven, but I can no longer find it. If this is not too trivial a request, could you help me?

Cindy at a Council on Aging

Dear Cindy:
Check out the archives at CyberVPM at http://listserv.aol.com/archives/cybervpm.html. CyberVPM is an online discussion group where you may have seen the poem you're looking for, assuming you're a member of the group. (Which, if you're not, you should join! It's free and the postings are from your colleagues who manage volunteers.) If you are asked to enter a password at the archive site and you don't have one already, enter a new one.

Also, check out the recognition sections at the following web sites:

Energize, Inc.
Volunteer Today
www.salsa.net/peace/quotes.html (for peace-oriented quotes)


Here's a poem I've used before that might be useful:

V aluable is the work you do
O utstanding in how you always come through
L oyal, sincere, and full of good cheer
U ntiring in your efforts throughout the year
N otable are the contributions you make
T rustworthy in every project you take
E ager to reach your every goal
E ffective in the way you fulfill your role
R eady with a smile like a shining star
S pecial and wonderful -- that's what you are!!

Dear Connie:
Hi! I'm the Office Administrator for the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey. We will be looking for several volunteers shortly and would like to have an application form for volunteers to complete during the screening process. Any suggestions as to where I might locate this type of form? Thanks for your help.

Sue C.

Dear Sue:
Two thoughts come to mind. First, check out the CyberVPM site. Just click on "Programs for Volunteers" and then you'll see the chapter headings on the left side of the screen. There's an entire chapter on screening volunteers. You'll find everything from "Beyond Police Checks" to "Volunteer Screening and Criminal Record Checks." And, there are even sample volunteer applications. Nan also provides links to other resources, such as how to find your local FBI office and nonprofit FAQ articles on screening volunteers.

Next, check with your local law enforcement authorities and ask for guidance on volunteer screening. Most states have some guidelines and can offer forms, information, advice, etc.

Dear Connie:
I received some information on web sites to check out, and I'm having a hard time finding a web site called PofLight.org. It has a National Volunteer Week Kit that I was trying to get my hands on. If you have heard of this web site or know if there is an error, please let me know. Thank you!


Dear Christina:
The organization is the Points of Light Foundation in Washington, DC, and the web address is www.pointsoflight.org. You'll find the free volunteer recognition kit at that site.

Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

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Copyright 1998 by Nancy Macduff.