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~ February 2002 ~
  • Voice Mail that Communicates
  • Tips to Deal With the Media
  • Work Load Getting You Down: Tips to Lighten the Load

Voice Mail that Communicates

Do you ever wonder if your voice messages get through? Here are some tips to enhance communication.

  1. Identify yourself. Do not assume someone will recognize your voice. Tell who you are, name of your organization, and your job title. This is true even if you are calling someone you know well.
  2. Early in your message leave contact information; phone, e-mail, cell phone, mailing address. This lets the person contact you in a way most convenient to them.
  3. Clearly state the purpose of your call. If possible, put the call in context. "You asked about the number of people attending the training session. I wanted to let you know that 16 people have signed up, but we are expecting more. What is the maximum number of people you can accommodate for this session?"
  4. Highlight your questions and what you need. Do not be vague about expectations. Pose your questions or statement slowly and then explain specifically when you need a response.

Tips to Deal With the Media

Build and developing good relationships with reporters is a good step in a plan to working with the media. Here are some tips:

  • Determine who at a TV or radio station, or newspaper is likely to be assigned stories related to your organizations.
    • Call and introduce yourself, leaving your contact information.
    • Ask them the type of criteria they use in selecting stories for the media. Write it down.
    • Call the reporter with ideas for stories, even if it is not about your organization (they will be grateful.) Do it more than once.
    • Use the reporter's criteria and suggest a possible story on your program. Be understanding if they decline. Keep doing this until you find the things that are of interest to them.
    • Sometimes you can offer an "exclusive" to a particular media outlet. This means they get the story and it is not carried by other media in the area. This is risky!
    • Always be honest and never fear saying, "I don't know."
    • Never ask to see a story before it is printed or aired.
    • Send a thank you note whenever the media outlet carries a story on your program.
    • Avoid being thin-skinned about stories that are printed or aired. Look at the overall impact of the story and do not sweat the details. If there is a terrible mistake, contact the writer, and tell them you will correct in a letter to the editor for a newspaper, and ask how to handle it if it is radio or TV. Assure them you know mistakes happen and you are not upset. Screaming at media types is contraindicated.
  • Know what is news.
    • Know the media and what it emphasizes. Read the paper or watch the show several times before deciding the type of story that will interest them.
    • Step back and pretend you are the editor of the paper, or TV or radio station. Would you find the story of interest to your readers, listeners, or viewers?
    • Avoid jargon
    • Speak and write with clarity. Not "aquatic facility, " when you mean swimming pool.
  • Know how the business works.
    • Respect deadlines. Never call reporters when they are on "deadline." In addition, make sure your information is in well before the deadline.
    • Be accurate. Be sure information you provide to the media outlet is accurate; correct spelling of names, the right contact information, and good grammar.
    • Check to make sure the reporter has all the information they need. Make a call or send an e-mail to inquire if they need more.
  • Never disappear when bad news lands.
    • The true test of the relationship is when bad news hits. Be available or get someone who can speak for the organization to talk with the reporter.
    • Never try to hide bad news.

Work Load Getting You Down: Tips to Lighten the Load

Here is a test to see if your workload is a problem.

  1. Do you ask yourself on a daily basis why someone didn't tell you this was needed so soon?
  2. Do volunteers and staff accuse you of "dumping" things on them at the last minute?
  3. Do you usually finish projects within minutes of them needing to be done?
  4. Are you frequently distracted from your tasks by emergencies or crises?

If you answered yes to at least two of these questions, you probably need help with your workload.

Here are some ideas to make life easier:

Develop an annual work plan.
The work plan is usually based on the organizational strategic plan for the coming year. Ask the administrator or executive director to help you understand the organizational plan and how your work fits into that direction.
Work plans begin with goals.
Goals are measurable, achievable, flexible, and challenging. Using the organizational plan and advice from your list specific steps to accomplish in the ensuing 12 months. Example: The Volunteer Program will increase the number of new volunteers by 25% in the next 12 months.
Set monthly goals.
Once you have goals then you organize your work into chunks that are doable. Figure out what you have to do each month to reach your goal. Use a calendar to list monthly activities to reach the goal for each month and hence the entire year.
Make a weekly plan.
Weekly plans are ways to take the monthly objectives and break them into yet smaller parts. Each week should have five to six main tasks for completion. Any more than that is unrealistic.

Control your daily time use:
  • The daily to do list is a good idea, but only if it is based on those larger yearly goals. By sticking to your goals, you avoid unimportant activities that so often lead to chaos. There are many ways to organize daily work. Here is one:
  • Label each item as to its importance:
    • 1 is really important for today,
    • 2 is important, but can wait until tomorrow,
    • 3 is not important.
  • Estimate time needed to complete each of the items on the agenda (Do not forget to have a goal on communication. Returning phone calls and dealing with e-mail takes time)
  • Check off activities as you complete them
  • Only schedule 50% - - 60% of your day
  • Use a pretty piece of paper for your daily list
  • Set aside time each day to read, think, and relax. Yes, take those breaks. Read a newspaper or magazine at lunch.
  • Transfer activities to a new list at the end of every day. This means you arrive at work with your "marching orders" and do not dither about figuring out what to do.

~ Every 15 minutes spent in planning results in a savings of one hour ~

"You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."

~ Martin Luther King, Jr. ~


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.

Copyright 2002 by Nancy Macduff.

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