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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.



September 2000 Questions


Dear Connie:
Can you suggest some ideas or websites where I can get ideas to make my volunteer newsletter different and exciting? Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks!



Dear S.Joan:
Effective newsletters can be valuable communication tools and recognition opportunities for your program volunteers. The first rule of newsletter writing is "Know Thy Audience." If your primary audience is program volunteers, then keep them in mind with every word your write. Here are a few more things to think about:

A. Philosophy of Effective Newsletters

B. Design Considerations

One of the most common mistakes made by designers is to concern themselves solely with interest and forget about function. In a newsletter, one of the primary functions is readability. The piece must be legible, clean, and encouraging to read. A carefully constructed format that builds on predictability can also be heightened effectively with well chosen graphic treatments to keep the reader involved. Here are some things to consider:

C. Tips for Improving Your Newsletter

  1. Consider changes in appearance, colors, type and format, and makeup.
  2. Are all of the articles appropriate, accurate, and interesting?
  3. Is the newsletter too long or too wordy? To short or redundant?
  4. Is the newsletter on a professional level consistent with your organization's mission?
  5. Compare your newsletter to others.

D. Online Newsletter Resources

If you're looking to spruce up your graphics, visit the Clip Art website at www.clipart.com. You'll find links to thousands of free graphics. Don't miss the hot links on the left side of the home page. They connect to a variety of additional resources, such as font types. Also, Amazon.com lists 17 different books on writing, editing, and designing newsletters.

My favorite source for grammar guidance is The Grammar Lady at www.grammarlady.com. If you ever have a moment's pause about whether it's "that" or "which" and "affect" or "effect," this web site will answer your questions and much more. Plus, The Grammar Lady posts very funny "Typos of the Weak" that are guaranteed to make you laugh!

Dear Connie:
Could you recommend a book that would help me set up volunteer training? I am interested in things like the best time of day to hold training, what research has shown is the best length of time for training, etc. I want to make my volunteer training efficient and meaningful and I don't want to just "wing it" and do what I think is the best way. Thank you very much.

Peg, Volunteer Coordinator, Alzheimer's Chapter



Dear Peg:
I checked with my favorite trainer, Nancy Macduff, and she recommends Russell Robinson's book, "An Introduction to Helping Adults Learn and Change." It is a lay person's guide to doing training based on the principles of adult education. Topics include the principles of adult learning, dealing with change, motivation and learning, adult life cycles, intelligence, teaching others, designing learning experiences, developing teaching plans, and evaluation of training. Nancy especially likes the charts on how to set up a room so that you achieve your educational goals. The book is published by Omnibooks in Wisconsin. It is available at Amazon.com for $22.95 plus shipping and handling.

You'll also be interested to know that at the Association for Volunteer Administration's next annual conference in Phoenix, Arizona, October 18-21, 2000, there will be a "train the trainer" session on Friday morning. This challenging three-hour institute will equip you to lead workshops and group discussions. Visit their web site at www.avaintl.org for more information. Happy training!

Dear Connie:
I'm looking for a job in the nonprofit sector. I've been in the for-profit world for many years, but now I have the opportunity to take an "early out" and I'd like my second career to be about social and community services. Where do I start looking?

D.R. in Northern Virginia


Dear D.R.:
What a wonderful position to be in, and I applaud your decision to invest your expertise in a community enterprise. I am asked frequently about nonprofit job opportunities and how to find them. Here's my list of favorite nonprofit employment resources:

 Resource: Link:
 Access/Commuity Jobs  www.communityjobs.org
 Action Without Borders, Nonprofit Job Section  www.idealist.org
 Charity Channel  www.charitychannel.com
 Chronicle of Philanthropy  www.philanthropy.com
 Community Career Center  www.nonprofitjobs.org
 Good Works  www.goodworks.org
 Job Quest Catalog  www.jobfindersonline.com
 Nonprofit Career Center  www.nonprofitcareer.com
 Opportunity NOCs  www.opportunitynocs.org
 Philanthropy News Network  www.pj.org



Dear Connie:
I'm a grad student doing a thesis on Leadership in Volunteer organizations. I'm having a hard time finding research on the topic. Rogers (community) Television is sponsoring my thesis. It is considered not for profit, as its existence is a CRTC regulation. The station is staffed by younger people and senior citizens. I'm focusing on leadership in terms of paid and non-paid employee's taking on effective leadership roles. Can you help? Thanks!

Phil in Canada


Dear Phil:
Since you told me that you've checked "every" university site in Canada, give these sites a try:

  1. Supposedly "the largest online directory of charities in Canada" is at www.perpetualwealth.com/non-prof.htm. They may have some research that will help.
  2. Canadian Centre for Philanthropy is at www.ccp.ca. It has an online, publicly accessible catalogue that houses information on Canadian research recently published and Canadian research-in-progress that relates to voluntary or charitable organizations or associations (including grassroots or community associations and cooperatives) -- research that is conducted in university settings, government, and research institutes. Currently there are approximately 400 such projects (published and in-progress, combined) listed in the Catalogue. They update the Catalogue yearly by way of a survey that gets mailed to Canadian universities etc. and they provide an online version of the survey that may be completed by researchers conducting Canadian research. The Catalogue can be found on the Centre's website and then click Research-in-Progress Catalogue. It's a useful resource, enabling researchers to identify what others are doing and to connect researchers with other researchers.
  3. Independent Sector at www.independentsector.org. This is the primary U.S. source of research on our nonprofit sector. They focus on giving and volunteering, but there may be some useful information for you in the studies available on their website.
  4. Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) at www.arnova.org. This is one of the best resources for academic information on the nonprofit sector. I suggest that you join the list and post your question there. You can get information about ARNOVA and how to join the list at their web site.
  5. There are four scholarly journals on volunteerism that you may also wish to check:

You can link to these journals through the Portal Site at Volunteer Today.

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.