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.

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~ August 2002 ~ Topics

  • Volunteer Vacation Resources
  • Top 10 Reasons for Volunteer Program Success
  • Benefits of Professional Volunteer Management Associations

A Question from Ask Connie

Dear Readers:

The subject of volunteers and fundraising has many layers and variations. The one that many volunteer program managers struggle with is whether or not to solicit financial contributions from their direct-service volunteers (not volunteer board members or trustees). I'd like to hear from you!

Are the volunteers in your organization solicited for financial contributions? If so, how? If not, why? Please send your responses to me, and I'll share the results of this informal poll in my September column.

Thanks for your help and Happy Summer!


Dear Connie:
I'm thinking about taking a "volunteering" vacation next year. Can you recommend any resources to help me identify organizations that accept volunteer vacationers? Thanks!

Thinking Ahead


Dear Thinking Ahead,
Good for you! The number of people looking for volunteer or educational trips is growing. Here are a few resources that may help you:

Global Volunteers places volunteers in 150 programs in 19 countries, including the United States.
Cross Cultural Solutions
SCI International Voluntary Service
Habitat for Humanity International conducts volunteer trips in dozens of countries, including the U.S., through its Global Village Program.
Earthwatch has ecological expeditions for volunteers in dozens of countries.
Go Abroad offers educational trips and foreign volunteer opportunities.
Volunteer Match offers volunteer opportunities in the U.S.

Hi Connie!
I located Volunteer Today via the Volunteer Action Center web site and I am excited to be able to review information presented online. I am being appointed volunteer coordinator for a private elementary school, pre-K thru 8th grade. I have volunteered myself but have never managed a group or establishment's volunteer program. I am excited about the prospect and will need some guidance. I will subscribe to this newsletter [VT News] and review your column frequently. I will also be scanning the web for other sites and certainly review and perhaps invest in some of the publications. However - in your experience - can you name the 10 best ways to get this type of investment off to a nearly perfect start? Appreciatively,



Dear Bernadette:
There is a wealth of information on the Internet about volunteer programs and I suggest you take advantage of the following sites:

Volunteer Today The news and information changes monthly, so bookmark this site and don't forget to register for the free monthly VT News.

Merrill Associates Read Mary Merrill's excellent Topic of the Month articles and visit her site monthly for her latest topic

Energize Inc. This full service site offers publications, information, and an excellent bibliography on volunteerism and volunteer management.

My top 10 ways to ensure your success:

  1. Identify clearly and completely all of the needs at the elementary school that volunteers can meet.
  2. Involve teachers, administration, parents, and students in volunteer program planning and implementation.
  3. Recruit volunteers who have the availability, interest, and skills necessary to meet the needs you've identified.
  4. Screen and place volunteers based on #3 above.
  5. Orient new volunteers thoroughly to the organization of the school and the volunteer program.
  6. Train new volunteers thoroughly to ensure THEIR success.
  7. Evaluate your program regularly (get feedback from volunteers, teachers, parents, and students) so that you can make changes whenever necessary.
  8. Utilize current volunteers to recruit new volunteers (they are your best ambassadors).
  9. Recognize the efforts of all volunteers, both informally (saying "thank you") and formally (certificates, parties, pins, etc.).
  10. Communicate, communicate, communicate with volunteers, students, teachers, administration, parents, and your community. The more information they have about activities and volunteer opportunities, the more success your program will have.

Dear Connie:
Do you have any advice on how to evaluate the benefits of joining a professional association for volunteer managers/administrators? I need to present to my supervisor the benefits of membership in an association, but need some input on what to look for. Thank you,



Dear Rachel:
I believe the benefits of belonging to a professional association for volunteer program managers are the same as for any other profession:

  • networking with your peers to learn about what works and what doesn't
  • sharing your own challenges
  • advance notice of professional development opportunities
  • discounts on products and services
  • acquiring new knowledge and ideas
  • celebrating your successes and those of your peers

It's vital to be linked to your colleagues who do the same work you do in volunteer management. The tangible benefits of your membership will most likely result in:

  1. Increased effectiveness of your volunteer program to help your organization meet its mission.
  2. Stronger ability to recruit and place volunteers in your program, which expands community involvement in your organization.
  3. Increased retention of volunteers in your program due to what you learn through your professional association.
  4. Increase in your own professional development for a relatively small financial investment, which translates as increased job satisfaction for you.

In short, I can't think of any reasons NOT to belong to a professional volunteer management association. I hope you're considering joining the Association for Volunteer Administration,, the national membership organization for volunteer program managers. Membership information and benefits can be found on the website. The site also has a list of local volunteer management associations that you can search.

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.

Send your questions to Connie at

Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
2939 Van Ness Street, NW - Suite 1248
Washington, DC 20008
VOICE: 202-966-0859 FAX: 202-966-3301

Copyright 2002 by Nancy Macduff.

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