The dizzying array of information on the Internet can be so confusing. Might
make you crazy enough to swear off computers forever!!!! And then there is all
that networking and "intranetting" at the office. Help is available.
A Web site, TechSoup ,http://ww.techsoup.org, is designed to help voluntary
organization find answers to their technology question.
The Web site is a project of CompuMentor, a San Francisco organization that provides technological assistance to non-profit organizations. At TechSoup you can find articles and worksheets on such things as technological planning, hardware, and databases, and links to information on other Web sites. In addition, TechSoup publishes news about nonprofit technology and discounts on computer equipment and software.
If you consider yourself a "non-techie," the site is easy to use, has a glossary section, and programs you can download and use off-line.
The site is supported by a number of grantors---Surdna Foundation, CompuMentor, AOL, CNET.com, Microsoft, and many others.
Criticizing a volunteer for sub-standard work, being late or gossiping about staff and other volunteers is never easy. It is not easy to criticize when the person is a paid staff member. Try to re-frame your thinking about criticism. Handled well, sincerely offered suggestions can help someone change habits, learn new things, or view the world differently. Here are some ideas to help you re-think the topic of criticism.
Remember that criticism is a learning mechanism. It is essential to organizations and individuals alike. We do not help volunteers grow by avoiding telling them the bad, along with the good.
Long term experienced volunteers are moving to Spain, Florida, or Arizona. How can you capture those years of experience for the future of the organization? Develop a volunteer mentoring program. Volunteers can work directly with an incoming volunteer and learn the "ropes." Here are some tips.
Create a mentoring program - This is not something that "happens." It needs a sound plan. A team of experienced volunteers and staff members can draw together an organizational plan, training design, and means to evaluate the project.
Chose mentors and mentees carefully - Success of such a program will hinge on making choices about who should participate (especially at the beginning.) Some volunteers really don't want to share their knowledge, because it forces them to contemplate the time when they won't be with the organization or it challenges their control of a project, event, or task. The plan should have a process to screen and select people to be both mentors and mentees.
Match people who have something in common - Mentoring relationships for adults work best when they have something in common. The most important things that influence a good match are things like personality, type of music they like, or an interest in sports. Race is rarely as important as these other factors in ensuring a good match.
Train the mentors and the mentees - Preparing people to be mentors is critical. If you have people on the planning team who have mentored, let them share their experiences. Talk to people running mentoring programs for children. Some of their training material might be translatable to an adult format! Once the program is underway, experienced mentors can share what they know.
Have mentors and mentees set goals and time lines - Be sure that the team has a goal to work toward. If a volunteer who has led a major fund-raising event for years is looking for new challenges, find them someone who can take their place. The mentee can then go through the planning and implementation phases of the project, learning from the more experienced volunteer as they go.
Have realistic expectations - A mentoring program will not solve all the "transition" issues in the organization. It can help solve some problems, be an effective means of training incoming volunteers, but it isn't a quick or miraculous fix. There will be some failures, but it can be an effective means of passing the baton from one volunteer to another.
Washington State University offers a Volunteer Management Certification Program through the Internet. Individuals around the world can earn a certificate in managing or coordinating volunteers, without leaving home.
For more information, visit Volunteer Today's Internet Resources page. Look for the Washington State University listing. There is a hot link to their Web sites.
The National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government (NAVPLG) is an association of administrators, coordinators and directors of volunteer programs in local government. Its purpose is to strengthen volunteer programs in local government through leadership, advocacy, networking and information exchange. NAAVPLG is an affiliate of the National Association of Counties and is seeking affiliate status with the National League of Cities.
Cost is $20 for individuals and $75 for group local government membership. An affiliate membership is $25 and is intended for those who are not local government members but may have an interest in the group. There is a quarterly newsletter, national network, and access to NACo's Volunteerism Project.
For more information contact Glenis Chapin, who is a member of the Executive Committee. She can be reached by phone at 503-588-7990. Be sure to mention you read about this in Volunteer Today.