The Training Page of Volunteer Today has practical trainer techniques and activities to make orientation sessions more productive and valuable. There are also ideas to help enhance the professional volunteer managers training level.

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~ August 2002 ~ Topics

  • A Question from Ask Connie
  • "Quilted" Review
  • Training a Task Force
  • Engaging Staff in Reducing the Attrition Rate

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!



"Quilted" Review

A review of content at the end of a training session can help "cement" those key concepts in adult brains. This quilt construction idea is sure to bring laughter and fun as people conclude a session.

Time: 20 minutes


  • easel paper
  • Scissors
  • White typing paper 8 1/2" X 11"
  • Masking tape
  • Clear tape
  • Markers of various colors.
  • 3X5 cards-use 4 x 6 different colors, depending on the size of the group


  1. Distribute 3X5 cards so groups of 6-8 can be formed by groupings based on the color of the cards. (all pinks together, blues, greens, etc.)
  2. Ask everyone to write one or two key concepts they will remember from the training.
  3. Form everyone into groups after they write on cards, using the color of the 3X5 card to form groups.
  4. Have each group design individual "quilt blocks" to illustrate key concepts. The key concepts should be illustrated, not using words, but drawings. Quilt blocks are drawn on the typing paper.
  5. The blocks are then assembled on the easel paper to share with the group.
  6. A spokesperson from each group tells what their quilt blocks represent.

Training a Task Force

Volunteer programs often use a task force to address a specific issue or design new programs. The launch of the task force is critical. Here are some tips to get the task force moving in the right direction at the first meeting.

  • Begin the meeting with introductions that include such things as name, time with organizations, and the usual. Add an important question. Have each member tell what they think is in it for them to be on the task force. Responses might include things like learning more about the organization, building skills, desire to help, like to work with others in this group, and so forth. This sets the tone that volunteers should be gaining from giving, too.
  • Write out expectations and time lines. Be very specific about what needs to be accomplished and when. Make sure this is a discussion and not a speech. You need to consider the personal schedules of members of the task force, as well as those of the organization, when you are setting deadlines. Be sure everyone has a copy of this. This is also a good time to determine the best times for the group to meeting, if they need to meet with some regularity.
  • Demonstrate your interest in equality among the members by making it clear that the task force will select its own leaders. The role of the volunteer manager is to set broad direction, provide resources and support, as needed. Try hard to avoid making the work too hierarchical in nature.
  • Be clear about barriers or challenges. Let everyone know what constraints exist - money, resources, staff time, transportation, equipment, and attitudes - whatever they might be. This is a place for honesty about what the group faces, so they do not plan something that is impossible from the get-go!

October 9-12, 2002 - International Conference on Volunteer Administration, Denver, CO, Adams Mark Hotel, sponsored by the Association for Volunteer Administration, for more information click on the graphic above.

Engaging Staff in Reducing the Attrition Rate
(see related article on the Recruiting page)

Staff can aid the volunteer program manager in reducing the turnover of volunteers. Positive communication, recognition, important tasks, and "thank you's" now and again can contribute to keeping volunteers. But, first the staff has to believe that a high attrition rate is costly to the organization. Determine the cost of getting one volunteer and share this information at a staff meeting. Here are some possible costs:

  • Time to design, write, and place public service announcements (then divide that cost by the number of volunteers to get a cost per person. The same is true of several other items on this list)
  • Cost of designing, printing, and distribution of recruitment brochures or flyers
  • Web recruiting design and processing of inquiries (Keep track of inquiries - one volunteer program had 100 inquiries for every one volunteer actually placed)
  • Staff and resource support to a volunteer recruiting team (postage, meeting mailings, staff time, etc.)
  • Time to talk to prospective volunteers (phone logs are critical)
  • Interviews-time to train interviewers (if you use volunteers), paper forms used, etc.
  • Cost of criminal records background checks, medical exams, etc.
  • Cost of training: room rental, equipment amortization, paper used, notebooks cost, etc.
  • Cost of recognition items
  • Cost of newsletter distribution
  • Uniforms, badges, name tags

No doubt you have other things you do to recruit and manage volunteers that could be added to this list. Determine the cost per person for each of the aggregate numbers. That gets you a notion of the cost to replace one volunteer.

Some large organizations can tell you the cost to the penny of replacing an employee. Talk with someone who can give you ideas to supplement this list and how they set about determining fair numbers. What you are seeking is an incentive for people to be nice to volunteers and involve them wisely, so they stick around.

For more information on effective volunteer committees read Building Effective Volunteer Committees by Nancy Macduff which can be found and purchased in the Volunteer Today Bookstore.


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 Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

Copyright 2002 by Nancy Macduff.

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