~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism
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.
June was a light month for questions from you. So I'm taking
this opportunity to share with you some miscellaneous thoughts
and information that I've gathered during the month. I hope you
find it helpful!
In June I answered a question about national organizations that provide volunteerism
awards. Since then I found a terrific listing of a wide range of national volunteerism
awards. Visit TxServe at www.txserve.org/mgmt/awards/n_awards.html and see for
yourself. You'll find everything from America's Awards and the John W. Gardner
Leadership Award to the Yoshiyama Award that recognizes high school seniors
who have distinguished themselves through extensive service and leadership.
Each listing has a hot link to the organization for more information about the
The Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin
launched and manages the TxServe site for the Texas Commission
on Volunteerism and Community Service. The TxServe site is designed
to strengthen public engagement and volunteerism in schools, nonprofit
organizations, public agencies, corporations, and community groups
across Texas. It helps leaders mobilize concerned citizens by
providing tools and techniques for working effectively with volunteers.
The site also provides:
- Important community connections to link schools, corporations,
public and nonprofit organizations and civic groups with each
other to address common goals and mutual interests
- Descriptions of model programs and best practices in public
- Annotated links to outstanding internet resources on volunteerism
- Opportunities for online networking
I encourage you to cruise around the entire site and take advantage
of its many resources for volunteer program management information.
The Managers of Volunteer Programs in the Arts (MVP Arts) meet
monthly here in Washington, DC, for "brown bag" discussions
about a different volunteer management topic each time. The June
topic was Managing Difficult Volunteers. You can imagine just
how lively the discussion was, with people sharing their challenges
and successes. At one point in the discussions, we focused on
an article that will appear in the upcoming newsletter of the
American Association for Museum Volunteers. The author, Steve
McCurley, writes about "How to Fire a Volunteer and Live
to Tell About It" and provides some very helpful tips for
developing a system that will assist in confronting and managing
the decisions to terminate a volunteer's relationship with your
organization. He covers the philosophical issue of deciding that
firing volunteers is, in general, a potentially appropriate action
and counsels to look for alternatives, such as re-supervise, re-assign,
re-train, re-vitalize, refer, and ultimately retire. Steve also
provides a four-step process for developing a system when alternatives
do not remedy "what ails your volunteer" and gives you
the methods for communication to make the face-to-face meeting
as effective as possible:
- Preserve the dignity of the volunteer by conducting the meeting
in a private setting.
- Be quick, direct, and absolute. Practice the exact words
you will use in telling the volunteer making sure they are unequivocal.
- Announce - don't argue. The purpose of the meeting is simply,
and only, to communicate to the volunteer that he/she is being
put on probation, suspended or separated from the institution.
This meeting is not to discuss and argue the decision - if you
followed the system, all arguments have already been made. You
should also avoid confrontation, which may lead to you venting
your feelings and risks putting your foot in your mouth. Expect
the volunteer to vent, but keep yourself quiet.
- Don't attempt to counsel. If counseling were an option, you
would not be having this meeting. You are not friends with this
former volunteer and any attempt to appear so is misguided and
- Follow-up. Send a letter to the volunteer reiterating the
decision and informing him/her of any departure details after
your final meeting. Also follow- up with staff and other volunteers,
who may be affected, but do not inform them of the reasons behind
the change. In particular, make sure that any visitors, students
or patrons with a long relationship with the volunteer are informed
of the new volunteer to whom they are assigned.
For more information on AAMV and how to become a member (a $25 investment that's
well worth it!), send me a message at email@example.com.
When the Court Appointed Special Advocate Association held
its annual conference in Washington, DC, in June, I had the honor
of leading an all-day seminar on diversifying your volunteer base.
Some 60 creative dedicated executive directors and volunteer managers
attended the seminar, with ideas filling the air all day long.
As I listened to them, I was reminded that today's volunteers
- regardless of age, experience, or culture - are attracted to
a well-organized and effective organization. Recruiting efforts
begin with your best recruiting tool - your organization - and
making it as "attractive" as possible. Some things to
- Develop values, vision, and mission statements that make
it clear where your volunteer program is going and how it fits
into the entire organization.
- Make sure your policies and procedures for involving volunteers
are current and accurate.
- Develop or update your volunteer job designs, making sure
they are flexible but still give meaningful tasks to volunteers.
- Recognize that not all people who want to volunteer are appropriate
for your volunteer program; target who you want to recruit and
then clearly ask them to volunteer.
- Consider mentoring new volunteers, utilizing someone who
is supportive and open to input, to make new volunteers part
of your team more quickly.
- Develop a process for evaluating volunteers on a periodic
basis. During the evaluation, ask what is going well and what
needs to be improved in order for volunteers to succeed.
- Be sure you are thanking volunteers in formal and informal
ways - frequently!
- Involve current volunteers, staff members, and community
representatives in evaluating the past and present and in planning
for the future of your volunteer program.
- Make sure your volunteer leaders stay informed and updated
on trends in your community, activities involving volunteers,
and significant changes in your organization.
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.
Copyright 1998 by Nancy Macduff.