VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism

~ March 2001 ~
  • Can a Nonprofit Lobby?
  • Building a "Crack" Volunteer Team
  • Are You Running Out of Time?

Can a Nonprofit Lobby?

Lobbying by nonprofits has changed over the last decade, and now there is a resource to help work your way through the fog. Independent Sector has released a video, resource booklet, and discussion guide, "Charity Lobbying: YOU CAN DO IT!"

The video and guide are designed to help staff and board clarify their role in lobbying, what is legal and what is not, and how lobbying by charities can make a difference. There is a list of resources by others as well. The video is $15 and comes with five discussion guides.

To order call toll-free 888-860-8118 or visit http://www.independentsector.org.

Building a "Crack" Volunteer Team

Leading a group of volunteers is always a challenge. Here are some tips for those who chair committees of volunteers, train volunteer leaders, or want the best volunteer team in the world.

Never be too busy to laugh. Research says it, common sense knows it, and too often we forget the healing power of laughter. No crisis is too big to take time for a laugh. Leaders who laugh with their "troops" earn respect and admiration.

Tell them all you know. Keeping secrets is a bad way to build a team. Shared knowledge builds loyalty and trust.

Be friendly. Being friendly doesn't mean going bar hopping or inviting them for Thanksgiving dinner. It means treating the volunteers in a friendly and respectful manner. Volunteers serving on a committee don't need to be close personal friends with the chairperson to do a good job.

Treasure loyalty. Invest your efforts in loyalty. Defend volunteers and never, ever "bad-mouth" them or their work to anyone. Everyone, staff and volunteers alike will note your behavior. Loyalty begets loyalty.

Be fair. All volunteers value evenhandedness. Treating people fairly doesn't mean everyone gets to do everything, but it does mean that the leader is equitable in decisions. Being fair increases credibility.

Know when to get help and from the best. Leaders are always willing to ask for help. If your team has a task that is difficult and no one is experienced in this area, go outside and get the best help available. Volunteers admire people who admit they don't know something. Finding the best help available is something that builds respect by members of the team.

Are You Running Out of Time?

There are not enough hours in the day to complete your work. Frazzled is the watchword for the moment. Here are five big time wasters and some tips on how to reduce them.

 Putting it off.
Procrastinating is the worst enemy of saving time. Ever job has things that no one likes. Get unpleasant chores done early. Carve out 1 hour per day to do what must be done, but is not fun. If the chore is big, divide it into small pieces and STOP when the piece is finished. 

 Inability to say NO.
Those who manage volunteers are often asked to do all manner of things. Wanting to help is not the same as helping because you have the time to help. An annual work plan, agreed to by your supervisor, means your work-days, hours, and minutes-have focus. Say no to anything not on the work plan.

 Fear of delegation.
Volunteers love challenges especially those that have been doing the same job for years. Move things off your desk and onto the plate of a committed volunteer or staff member. Use coaching techniques, so you maintain oversight of the project and can monitor progress.

 Spreading yourself too thin
You have too many things going at the same time. Make a weekly work plan, prioritize the items and then STICK to the plan. If a weekly plan seems daunting start with a two-hour plan and increase the time when you feel like you are gaining control of your time and life.

Set aside time when you do not answer the phone. Get someone to screen calls. Set aside one hour per week for quiet time to read, think, and plan. That hour can save you four or five.


Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

Copyright 2001 by Nancy Macduff.
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