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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~ January 2002 Topics ~
  • New Year's Resolutions for Managers of Volunteer Resources
  • "Best of Ask Connie"


In keeping with the spirit of the season, I've compiled some "New Year's Resolutions for Managers of Volunteer Resources." Feel free to add your own and Happy New Year!

"New Year's Resolutions for Managers of Volunteer Resources"
  1. Join the Association for Volunteer Administration and become active in your local DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies). Networking with others will stimulate your creativity and strengthen your professionalism.
  2. Create an annual recognition plan and budget for your volunteer program. Don't count on always remembering to implement recognition - plan for it!
  3. Keep a stack of note cards in your desk for those quick, important thank you notes to volunteers.
  4. Update (or create) your volunteer program policies and procedures (organize a task force of volunteers to help you do it!).
  5. Practice "active listening" more often so that you "hear" what volunteers and staff are telling you.
  6. Share your program's successes and activities more often (articles in your organization's newsletter, reports at staff meetings, report to your supervisor, report to the Board of Directors, statistics for your fundraising staff, etc.).
  7. Take better care of yourself this year because if you're tired and cranky, everyone else will be too!
  8. Most of all enjoy yourself and everyone around you. . . laugh out loud at least three times every day!

During the past four years I've been asked some timeless questions about volunteer management practices. Here are a few "Best of Ask Connie":

Dear Connie:
I'm in charge of a large special event. I know how many volunteers I need and what they need to do, but I don't know what to do next to recruit them. What advice do you have for me?


Dear Frazzled:
Congratulations for already identifying how many volunteers you need, for how long, and for what tasks! But, have you put the information into position descriptions? Position descriptions (PD's for short) are the foundation for a successful recruiting campaign. When you organize your workforce needs into PD's, you'll be able to identify where to recruit volunteers because you'll know exactly what you're looking for to make your event a success. PD's also provide prospective volunteers with the information they need to make an informed decision on whether or not they can help you. The most effective PD's include:

  • Purpose of the position and/or why the work needs to be accomplished.
  • Who the volunteer is responsible to (another volunteer, staff member, etc.)
  • Time commitment required (days, hours, whatever is appropriate for the job)
  • Specific skills required to accomplish the job
  • Specific duties/tasks to be accomplished (in chronological order if appropriate)
  • Benefits of volunteering (gain new skills, meet new people, make a difference, etc.)

An easy way to get started and organize the PD information is to use a spreadsheet program (Excel, Lotus, etc.). Set up columns for each of the categories above, making the first column the title of the position. Then as you complete the columns for each position you can see at a glance where the overlaps are and what positions/tasks are missing. Finally, take the information from your spreadsheet and create formal PD's. Once you've completed your PD's, you'll know where to recruit volunteers based on your specific needs. Good luck and happy hunting!

Dear Connie:
When is National Volunteer Week? I have a limited budget, but I'd like to plan an activity for my volunteers or give them some kind of recognition gift. Any suggestions?
Ted from a hospice organization


Dear Ted:

The dates for National Volunteer Week are April 21-27, 2002. There are many good sources on the Internet for recognition gifts to fit every budget. Check out these web sites:

* - At the bottom of the new home page you'll find links to The Thanks Company, VolunCheer, and ­ all great resources for thoughtful inexpensive gifts for volunteers.

* - There's a great "Gift Bazaar" near the bottom of the main page on this site.

* - The Points of Light Foundation has a promotional kit for sale on National Volunteer Week. It contains publicity tips, a sample press release, copy for PSA's, service project ideas, recognition ideas, and much more. Just click on "Programs and Initiatives" and then on "National Volunteer Week."

* The California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems sells a wide range of recognition gifts and materials. Call their Volunteer Sales Center at 916-928-3950 to receive their catalogue.

Dear Connie:
I'm presenting a workshop for a state volunteer management organization covering the topic of Volunteer Staff Relations. Our attendees will be from a large, diverse volunteer director/manager/coordinator background. I am purchasing Building Staff-Volunteer Relations by Ivan Scheier, but I am also wondering if you are aware of other solid material. I am also wondering if you've had other questions about this topic. Thanks for your help.


Dear DMK:
It must be the season for this topic because I've had several requests for information about volunteer/staff relationships! These unique partnerships have in them the element of "human nature," which sometimes makes them difficult to create and manage effectively. I have found that productive partnerships between staff and volunteers are characterized by:

 => Two-way communication that informs both staff and volunteers about "who is doing what, when, and how."
 => Team building that involves volunteers in all levels of the organization's planning and decision making to increase the ownership of institutional goals by everyone.
 => Open honest evaluation of volunteer activities by both staff and volunteers to increase the success of all volunteer efforts.
 => Public and private recognition of the accomplishments of volunteers AND their staff partners.

Dear Connie:
I'm trying to find some advice to give to our chapters about how to do a volunteer needs inventory. Our chapters responded to a survey that their main concern is a lack of volunteers. One of the first things we would like for chapter presidents to do is to discover the skills and talents they already have within their chapters. Do you have any ideas for the questions, procedures, and/or forms that I can use?
Sandra in Toronto


Dear Sandra:
I worked for a national organization for 10 years, and we utilized volunteers from all across the U.S. as trainers, facilitators, and public speakers. I developed an application form that you could easily adapt for your use. The categories of information that I sought were:

  • Contact information (name, address, email, fax, emergency contact, etc.)
  • Educational background (degrees earned, major areas studied)
  • Professional background (employer(s), type of work, address, phone, email, fax, etc.)
  • Volunteer background (organization(s), type of volunteering, years, offices held, etc.)
  • Skills (specific skills that your chapters are seeking)
  • Availability (weekdays, weekends, nights, etc.)

I compiled the information in a simple database so that it was always handy for placement of the volunteers.

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 NW Street, Suite 1248 Washington, DC 20008
VOICE: 202-966-0859 FAX: 202-966-3301

Copyright 2002 by Nancy Macduff.

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