VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


V.T. readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
~ October 2001 Questions ~
  • Volunteer Retention Statistics
  • Volunteer Management Software

There is grief throughout the world for those lost and injured by terrorist attacks. But, there are also thanks for outpourings of love, condolence, sympathy, and encouragement from family, friends and neighbors from Sri Lanka to Sydney to Sacramento, and Sweden.


"Now let us thank the Eternal Power: convinced
That Heaven but tries our virtue by affliction.
That oft the cloud which wraps the present hour
Serves but to brighten all our future days."
John Brown 1715-1766

Dear Connie:
Do you have any idea or know where I can look for figures on volunteer retention? I don't think we are better or worse than average, but I'd like to know what the average rate of retention is each year for volunteer programs in the arts. I have a Board member who has been pushing
the idea of some paid docents to "solve our problems" and she assumes that retention is one of those problems. (She never asked if it really was!) Also, do you have any idea how many nonprofit arts programs pay their volunteers? Thanks, Connie, for any information you can pass on.



Dear Donna:
First, there are no statistics on "retention" because it's such an individual and subjective issue that varies widely from institution to institution. What's most important is YOUR organization's retention - - regardless of what other institutions experience. You can certainly track your retention on an annual basis quite easily with a simple Excel spreadsheet. Just enter the names of all your volunteers as of today and then compare with a list in six months and then again in one year. Retention is often a "red herring" in volunteerism. The REAL question I believe is "Are we meeting the organization's mission and providing valuable services to our visitors? If the answer is "no," then the problem may be only partly related to retaining volunteers.

As for paying a volunteer -- once you pay people they are no longer volunteers by definition. (There is considerable discussion in the field about the "voluntary" status of interns, for instance, or AmeriCorps volunteers. But, that's a discussion for another day.) So, if the topic is paying people to do tasks at your organization, then you have to think in terms of either part- or full-time staff or contract labor (temporary people). But you can't pay volunteers any remuneration or they're no longer volunteers.

Dear Connie:
As a new Volunteer Coordinator of a very new organization, I've been looking into volunteer management software. The two I have found are Volunteer Works by Red Ridge and Raiser's Edge Volunteer Module. Are there any others I should look into? Have you had any feedback regarding the pluses and minuses of either of these programs? Thanks.



Dear Christina:
I avoid making specific recommendations of products, but I do know that VolWorks by Red Ridge and Raiser's Edge Volunteer Module are two of the most widely used software programs available right now. Before you choose one, I offer the following things to consider:

Before you invest in a specialized database software package:
Make a list of the features and qualities you and others who will work with the database will need.
Make sure that you have systems in place to gather the information you will use in the database (volunteer hours and interests, donor pledge dates, etc.).
Request a demo of the software from the company that markets it ­ many companies are happy to provide you with a "demo disk."
Talk with representatives of at least two organizations that use the software. Make sure you talk with the people who actually input information, run reports, etc., using the software. Don't just rely on letters of endorsement or recommendation. Ask them how easy the software is to learn, what they use it for, and their experiences when calling the company's support line.

Software and Software Advice for Nonprofit and Public Sector Organizations:

Raiser's Edge by Blackbaud
Fundraising software with a volunteer management component that can be added. Get more information at http://www.blackbaud.com or sales@blackbaud.com.

RSVP Reporter and Volunteer Reporter
by Volunteer Software Demo can be downloaded at http://www.volsoft.com or contact Lane Coddington at lane@volsoft.com.

Volunteer Works by Red Ridge
Volunteer management software that matches volunteers to jobs. Get more information at http://www.redridge.com. Seems to be a very popular, easy to use program.

File Maker Pro by Claris
A database software program that can be set up to manage volunteer files, print name badges, print labels, merge letters, etc. This is an off-the-shelf program that can be purchased at any office supply store.

Paradigm by JSI FundRaising Systems, Inc.
Fundraising software that contains a volunteer management module. Get more information at 800-521-0132 or http://www.jsi.com/frs.

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
Copyright 2001 by Nancy Macduff.

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