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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.

January 2001 Questions

Dear Connie:
I am searching for some statistics and demographics that would help us know what age groups to target (now and in the future). Currently we target seniors/older adults and youth. We have read that seniors are not a great source anymore as they have so many choices and are retiring earlier. Our organization is "intergenerational" bringing young and old together and more and more is cross-generational. In our growing multi-cultural society in Canada, we feel more focus should be placed on "family." Any comments would be appreciated.

Chris in Canada


Dear Chris:
For Canadian research in the nonprofit sector, check out the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy at http://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.

In the United States, the first wave of "baby boomers" has hit the early retirement age and they represent the largest senior citizen population we've ever had. If the same applies in Canada, I wouldn't be discouraged about continuing to recruit "senior citizens." I would just recognize that they "look" different today and have different needs, goals, ambitions, skills, and interests. So your recruiting methods should be tailored to "speak to" this group of potential volunteers.

Best way to find out what "they" want? Convene a group of them and ask! Some questions to pose:

  1. What types of activities would you be most interested in at my organization?
  2. What information should be in our recruiting materials to help you decide whether or not to volunteer here?
  3. What benefits are you looking for in your volunteer activities?
  4. Why do you want to volunteer anywhere (not just at my organization)?

I hope this helps. Just remember that "older people" will always be around. But like "younger" people, their needs and interests change from one generation to the next.

Dear Connie:
I've worked with the Toastmasters International organization as a volunteer for many years. Part of our credo is to educate and train people in public speaking and then encourage them to put their skills to use in the community. How can we bring the volunteers who work in other organizations to ours? Often these volunteers make presentations, and don't realize they need help to make better speeches and increase their effectiveness. Low dues, mentoring programs, self-paced learning, and positive, supportive attitude are built into this educational, all-volunteer organization. Thank you for your help.

Jeanie K.


Dear Jeanie:
You're absolutely right about the wonderful opportunity that Toastmasters offers for volunteers to brush up on their platform skills. They are often on the front line and the public face of an organization -- at the information desk, customer service counter, docent, tour guide, usher, the list goes on and on. In November 2000, I responded to a reader about establishing a speaker's bureau. (To read the question and my response, visit the Volunteer Today Archives Central at http://www.volunteertoday.com/2000archives.html . Each edition of Volunteer Today is archived by month, so just click on the November 2000 edition to read my column that month.) I suggested that this reader contact her local Toastmasters International and ask for help and guidance to set up a speakers bureau.

I think it would be wonderful if local, national, and international Toastmasters chapters would promote their services to their local communities . . . through their Volunteer Center, newspaper, newsletters of nonprofit organizations, speeches at business meetings, etc. Maybe you can get the grassroots movement started!!

Dear Connie:
I'm interested in learning if any organization has a Valet Parking component run by volunteers. The patient/customer would leave their vehicle and the volunteer would park it and them retrieve it when their test or visit was over. I am the coordinator of a volunteer program for a Rural Community Hospital in Pennsylvania. Any impute would be valuable. I'm sure there may be some liability issues as well. I was thinking that a local business might want to sponsor this program, given the popularity of corporate volunteers.

Dean M.


Happy New Year Dean!
You pose an interesting question about utilizing volunteers to park the cars of visitors to your hospital. Off hand I don't know of another volunteer program utilizing volunteers in this way. I spent many years in law firms, so when I read your message the first thing that popped into my head was "liability issues." Without doing the research myself, my GUESS is that the hospital may resist your idea because of the liability they could incur if a volunteer had an accident in your parking lot and hurt themselves or a visitor's car. You may also find resistance among volunteers for the same reasons (not to mention the visitors).

I think it's a creative idea, but you'll probably have to jump through a lot of hoops before you can implement it. Sorry I'm not more positive about it. Good luck!

Dear Connie:
I am a member of a volunteer ambulance service. I am looking for resources on appropriate and inappropriate questions for the new member interview process. Can you point me in the right direction?

Joe at E.H. Ambulance Corps


Dear Joe:
Most volunteer program managers use the same rule of thumb for volunteer applications that employers use for paid job applications. This means that you can't ask a volunteer's age, religious affiliation, sexual preference, or any other confidential question. But, you can ask anything else!

The most thorough resource on screening volunteer is at the CyberVPM web site http://www.cybervpm.com. Click on the "Basics for Volunteer Program Management" and then click on the "Screening" chapter. You'll find many links to other volunteer applications, books, and the basic philosophy of screening.

Questions you can ask range from contact coordinators (name, address, phone, email, etc.) to education, skills, languages spoken, relevant work experience, and availability to volunteer.


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.

Connie Pirtle

Strategic Nonprofit Resources

2939 Van Ness NW Street, Suite 1248

Washington, DC 20008

VOICE: 202-966-0859

FAX: 202-966-3301

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Copyright 2001 by Nancy Macduff.