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~ January 2002 ~
  • Respecting Space
  • 211
  • Delegating Your Work
  • The Simple Thank You

Respecting Space

The rules of office etiquette have changed over the years. Many employees work in cubicles or in offices where workers sit 3 to 4 ft. apart, with no walls to separate them. Introduce volunteers into this work environment and there is a potential for problems. If those volunteers worked in offices with doors, there are some tips you can share in training to help them be respectful of the space for staff or other volunteers.

  • If you see that someone is on the phone, come back later to get your question answered. Never lurk in a cubicle doorway. If the matter is urgent, jot a note and leave it where the person will see it when the call is concluded.
  • If you visit the workspace of someone else, wait to sit down unless invited.
  • If you are working with someone on a computer sit down next to them. Avoid standing behind them. Having someone looking over your shoulder can be intimidating.
  • If you need something from someone else's workspace, do not just take it. And never rifle through drawers or paper.
  • Ask if now is a convenient time to talk. If the answer is no, set up a time when you can come back to get an answer to your questions.


You know about 911 and 411, but 211? It is a joint US and Canadian project to provide directory assistance for nonprofit agencies and social services in a given area. Greensboro, NC and Chattanooga, TN already have this service. Do you know what your community is doing about this handy service? The effort to bring 211 to every city in America is spearheaded by The Alliance of Information and Referral Systems Association (AIRS). The idea is to improve access to service. For information on this and other AIRS projects visit their Web site.

Delegating Your Work

The best volunteer managers are "masters" at delegation. Here are some tasks you could delegate to specially trained volunteers.

Screening volunteers is not the sole job of the person who manages volunteers. A volunteer who has been trained can carry it out. The volunteer screener needs to know all the steps in screening; application, background check, etc. If an interview is required then the person needs to be trained to do that. This is a job for an experienced volunteer with a good sense of who will fit in the organization and who won't.

Reading the latest journal or background on your organization or volunteerism is time consuming and often postponed for "later," which never comes. Homebound volunteers could assist by reading material, writing summaries for the volunteer manager. This saves time and involves people who might not be able to volunteer in other ways.

Data or record keeping is a time consuming task. Most volunteer programs have figured out how to have that done by volunteers. But what about analysis of that data? Collecting information and never looking at it seems wasteful. A volunteer could be recruited to do nothing but analyze the information that is collected and write up short reports. This is an excellent distance type of position for someone who cannot come into the office for other types of volunteer service.

The Simple Thank You

Thank you can never be over done. Here are some tips to express appreciation in a quick and simple fashion.

  • Pass on thanks. If someone tells you that a volunteer or staff member has done something notable, pass it on. As soon as possible tell the person who received the compliment what you were told. You could also write a note to the person and ask the originator of the compliment to sign it or write a note on the card.
  • Do your thank you immediately. Tell the person right away how much you appreciate what they have done. If you write a note, do it in 24 hours.
  • Be specific in the thanks. This is the time to hone in on what the person did very specifically. "Thank you so much for dealing with that person while I was on the telephone. You handled the situation in a polite and helpful way that will make my follow-up so much easier."
  • Match the thank you to the deed. Big deeds deserve big thank yous! Small deeds deserve small ones. Match what you do with the size of thing done. Being overly thanked for something small can embarrass the recipient. Keep it appropriate.


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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