VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


  • Need the Right Poem?
  • Advisory Groups with Power
  • E-Mail Nudging
  • Planning to Join the Digital Era

Need the Right Poem?

Volunteer managers can always use the right words to send a thank you note, plan for a special recognition, put inspirational words on a bulletin board, or say thank you to the staff. Often a poem can do that in lovely wording. Here are some sites-crazy and sane.

Advisory Groups with Power

Many volunteer programs have an advisory group of staff, clients or members, and volunteers. The groups often see themselves as oversight bodies whose job is to turn over rocks and inspect every aspect of a program.

Advisory groups with real power are those where the members roll up their sleeves and share the workload with staff. They are interested in gaining insight, not just acting a judge and jury.

Here are some tips to help ensure that advisory members have the opportunity to learn as they serve.

E-Mail Nudging

Volunteer managers have refined the art of nudging to a fine science. A volunteer takes on a job. The volunteer manager's job is to keep checking in to see that the job is done. How long before it is appropriate to send a note, make a phone call, or visit them at their workstation? Now there is nudging by e-mail.

If you e-mail to a volunteer on Monday, when can you e-mail again, if you have heard nothing. Susan Gregory Thomas, co-host of the PBS show, Digital Duo, says it is 3.7 days from your original mail.

Send the message on Monday. Tuesday is the day the person reads it. The volunteer makes a note to answer or leaves it in her inbox to jog her memory. Wednesday is filled with hair cut, dentist appointment, and meetings at work. When your second e-mail arrives on Thursday, the volunteer feels guilty and responds.

Thomas says phone nudges are different, requiring a five-day wait!

Planning to Join the Digital Era

Volunteer programs can enhance their capacity and reach by embracing the digital era. The best way to do that is in an intentional way. The best way to insure success is with a technology plan. Here are steps to help you march forthrightly into the frightening future.

The planning process begins with some characteristics, which if followed, will make it successful. Keep these characteristics in mind when you organize the plan and make sure the technology team knows them, too.


The Plan:

  1. Form a committee. Bring together volunteers and staff, some with technology savvy and some without.
  2. Begin with an assessment. What technology is being used now and how. It is important to know what technology is available to volunteers, as well.
  3. Set goals. Use the assessment to establish measurable goals.
  4. Develop activities to meet the goals. Make a list of the actual things that need to be done; online applications, interviews, and volunteer opportunities to name a few.
  5. Solicit technology assistance. Get help from experts. Volunteers or staff can identify others who might help. Work closely with internal IT staff on this project.
  6. Set priorities. Money and time will limit what can be done. The committee needs to prioritize the list of things to do.
  7. Set timelines. Be realistic about when and how things can be accomplished. Always add six weeks to the desired completion date.
  8. Build a budget. Do this early on, then you can more effectively prioritize.
  9. Monitor implementation. Involve the committee in implementation. The more hands the lighter the work. Create team leaders for different projects, so people do not work in a vacuum. Convene the committee regularly for up-dates.
  10. Evaluate progress. Document your work. Then you will know the potholes in the next round of technological planning.


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.


Washington State University offers a Volunteer Management Certification Program through the Internet. Individuals around the world can earn a certificate in managing or coordinating volunteers, without leaving home.

For more information, visit Volunteer Today's Portal site, Internet Resources. Look for the Washington State University listing. There is a hot link to their Web site.


The National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government (NAVPLG) is an association of administrators, coordinators and directors of volunteer programs in local government. Its purpose is to strengthen volunteer programs in local government through leadership, advocacy, networking and information exchange. NAAVPLG is an affiliate of the National Association of Counties and is seeking affiliate status with the National League of Cities.

Cost is $20 for individuals and $75 for group local government membership. An affiliate membership is $25 and is intended for those who are not local government members but may have an interest in the group. There is a quarterly newsletter, national network, and access to NACo's Volunteerism Project.

For more information contact Glenis Chapin, who is a member of the Executive Committee. She can be reached by phone at 503-588-7990. Be sure to mention you read about this in Volunteer Today.

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Copyright 2001 by Nancy Macduff.

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