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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.

June Questions

Dear Connie:
I need to do a presentation to a CEO about employee volunteer effort? Please help if you can!



Dear Alizans:
According to a survey by the Points of Light Foundation (POLF) in Washington, DC, corporate executives say that corporate volunteer programs significantly increase their company's overall competitiveness in three critical areas:

To learn more about employee volunteering and corporate volunteer programs, visit their web site at http://www.pointsoflight.org and click on (left side of the screen) "Organizational and Corporate Assistance." Once you're on the Corporate Volunteerism page you'll be able to click on any of the following resources:

* Resources for Employee Volunteer Program Managers
* National Award Programs for Corporate Community
* Corporate Volunteer Programs: Benefits to Business
* National Council on Workplace Volunteerism (NCSV)
* Corporate Membership
* Corporate Training & Consulting

Be sure to visit the third resource listed above (Benefits to Business) where you can download the executive summary of POLF's recent study of "The Corporate Volunteer Program as a Strategic Resource."

Dear Connie:
I am interested in how other non-profit agencies handle employees who want to volunteer for certain activities at their workplace. I realize there are some guidelines within the Fair Labor Relations Act to protect employees from being asked to volunteer in lieu of pay, but our concern involves when they ask to participate in our volunteer activities and auxiliaries, particularly if it is during their regular work shift. For example, another local nonprofit here only allows employees to volunteer in areas or capacities other than where they are employed. Is this the norm? What should we be aware of in handling this?

LaDonna in Kansas


Dear LaDonna:

I think salaried employees can volunteer in their workplace ONLY IF the voluntary work they do is not the same or even similar to what they are paid a salary to do. Very clear and agreed upon position descriptions for the salaried job and the volunteer job would be the first step to keeping the two activities separate. The agency's senior management and/or board of directors would decide whether an employee could volunteer in the workplace on "company" time. Of course, this is my personal opinion and not one based on applicable laws and/or regulations in your community. For a legal opinion, consult your agency's attorney and/or your state office of employment.

Personally, I think this is a very "slippery slope" that's full of hazards. When employees volunteer in their own workplace, it blurs the lines (factually and perceptually) between employment and voluntary engagement. It can become very difficult to distinguish between what employees do for salary and what they do voluntarily. It can also lead to frustration and resentment among employees who work for pay and who don't volunteer in the workplace because they can't or choose not to. Also, volunteers from outside your agency can have these same frustrations with employees who volunteer. In other words, I just don't think it's a wise thing to do for your agency, your employees, and your volunteers.

Instead, why not recruit volunteers from outside your agency and teach your employees to manage them? There are excellent training sources online at http://www.cybervpm.com, at http://www.volunteertoday.com, and at http://www.casanet.org/nuts/volunteer_management/index.htm.

Dear Connie:
I am a Volunteer Coordinator at an Elementary School, and I am planning a Volunteer Luncheon. I need to come up with a few inexpensive ideas for favors on the tables that will contain a number for door prizes and an inexpensive "thing" for about 60 volunteers who were mentioned by teachers to be outstanding, and ones that go above and beyond. Some of these also will be receiving pins the same day for other responsibilities they have, so I want to give them something different, not just another pin, but something thoughtful or cute. Any ideas or suggestions or anywhere I can go on the web that can offer some tips? Thanks in advance.

Kelli in Florida


Dear Kelli:

Here's an online source for inexpensive gifts, http://www.thankscompany.com. They have easy-on-the-budget gifts and greeting cards for volunteers such as: memo pads, mugs, letter openers, coin pouches, jumbo key tags, beanies, totes, address books, portfolios, and recognition pins. Many gifts are under $1.50. No minimum order.

The Thanks Company
P.O. Box 220
Cherryville, NC 28021
Toll-free phone/FAX: 888-875-0903
Other phone/FAX: 704-435-8828
E-mail: custsvc@thankscompany.com
Web site: http://www.thankscompany.com

Also, I used to give recognition items based on a simple theme:

* You're a volunteer of note (inexpensive notepads)
* You're a top volunteer (inexpensive tops)
* You're a star volunteer (big red stars)

If your school had a particular focus during the year, it will probably be easy to tease out a theme from some part of it.

Dear Connie:
I am a photographer, and I would like to know how to propose/offer my services to organizations in my area. What I would like to do is offer photography sessions to organizations such as Kids in Distress, Women in Distress, elderly services, etc. My goal is, through photography, to help people who may be struggling just to survive, have beautiful images of themselves to keep, pass on to their children or relatives, or to use as a therapeutic tool to be shown their own beauty.
What I specialize in is hand-colored black and white photography, and I would offer this at no cost. Any thoughts or advice? Thank you!

Cathy in South Florida


Dear Cathy:
What a great idea you have! I would think that every nonprofit organization in your area would jump at the chance to utilize your services! These thoughts occur to me:

  1. Write out a clear case for how your services would help each population segment that you mentioned (women in distress, elderly, children, etc.).
  2. Make a list of exactly what services you're prepared to offer: number of sittings; whether or not you'll go to the clients or they have to come to you; times of day/week that you're available, etc.
  3. Choose one target population -- children, for instance -- that you'll serve first so that you can get the kinks out of the process.
  4. Make appointments to meet with the executive directors of the agencies in your community that serve the target population you select.
  5. Don't be discouraged if people don't immediately see the benefits of your service. Some people are skeptical of "free" service and are afraid to try something new.
  6. Be very organized with your materials, your approach, and your presentation. Most nonprofit organizations have more to do to meet their mission than they have resources. So, you'll stand a better chance of being accepted if you don't represent more work for them.


Hi Connie:
Are there any other national organizations besides Points of Light Foundation that give out an award similar to the Daily Points of Light Award? If there are, I was wondering what some of their criteria for the award might be.


Dear AKF:
In addition to the daily Points of Light Foundation awards, I know that JC Penney Co. also has national awards: the annual JCPenney National Volunteer Awards and the JCPenney Golden Rule Awards. Visit their Community Relations web site at http://www.jcpenney.net/company/commrel/index.htm for more information for their awards program.

The Golden Rule Award, created in 1982, is hosted annually in more than 200 JCPenney communities in 46 states and Puerto Rico. A panel of local civic leaders selects a number of winners and finalists from nominations submitted by their peers, family, nonprofits or friends. Local winners receive a crystal award and a $1,000 contribution for the nonprofit agency they serve. Finalists receive a framed certificate and a $250 contribution and the youth winner receives a $500 scholarship and a $500 contribution to their nonprofit organization. Local winners become eligible for the National Golden Rule Award and a chance to win an additional contribution of $10,000. Communities interested in the program should first contact their local JCPenney manager.

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.