Visit this page for ideas, suggestions and hints to build recruitment capacity.

Return to 2002 Archives

~ June 2002 ~ Topics
  • Volunteer Today Remodels Its Bookstore
  • Changes at Volunteer Today
  • Compassion Fatigue
  • Holding On To Volunteers

Volunteer Today Remodels Its Bookstore

Interested in books or kits on working with volunteers or boards? Visit the newly "remodeled" Volunteer Bookstore. You can order online, using a credit card, behind a secure "fire wall." You can see pictures of the books and read about the content. And shipping is your choice-fast or pony express!

The snappy new design is due to Laura Bunt our intrepid Web Master, Ruben Bybee of Blue Mountain Internet, and Sara Strickland-the scanner master! It is also so you can find resources in a timely way to run your program more effectively.

Changes at Volunteer Today

The new Bookstore site has kept us hopping for months and it still has some kinks we are working out. It has been a big change for our readers and us. More changes are in the offing.

Georgean Johnson-Coffey has been the writer of "Tech Tips" for some time. She is passing the wand of writing to Michael Stills. Michael is a long time volunteer manager of a county program. He is currently working on his Master's degree in Nonprofit Management at Regis College in Colorado. In addition to writing papers he is joining the VT staff as writer of Tech Tips. He well versed and experienced in this area, even spearheading an online chat for government volunteer managers during the Points of Light annual National Community Service campaign in 1999. He is currently working with the International Conference on Volunteer Administration as the head of the technology team. His view and vision for the use of technology in the volunteer scheme of things is growing daily. We are quite happy he has agreed to take on this challenge.

While Michael is coming aboard, Georgean is not leaving Volunteer Today. She is working with Publisher and Senior Editor, Nancy Macduff to create a page for government-based volunteer programs. It will be several months until this is launched as we seek writers from four levels of government programs; local, state, federal, and military. Stay tuned for more news on this exciting new offering.

Compassion Fatigue

Are your volunteers burning out? Do people drop by the wayside with no seeming good reason? Are you seeing greater turnover than in the past? It could be Compassion Fatigue.

This malady impacts paid staff and volunteers who are exposed to the traumatic suffering of others. It can result in poor job performance, plummeting self-esteem, and cause people to leave their job or abandon a volunteer position. Here are some tips to help address this problem for volunteers and staff.

Do not mince words when recruiting volunteers. Tell the truth. Let people know what to expect. Be honest that they will experience compassion fatigue, but that help is available. Be sure to tell them they are not alone.

Have a stable support system. Volunteers need the opportunity to talk out the emotional parts of their tasks in a safe and supportive environment. Be insistent about attendance. Follow-up if people are not attending. Get experts to come regularly to help members of the group learn techniques to cope with burnout.

Make support formal and informal. Support for volunteers can be formal, such as a monthly support meeting or it can be informal, like a place to go in the building where they work if they need a "timeout."

Volunteers need to be encouraged to talk about their feelings. In many cultures, most notably Northern Europe and North American, some people are inclined to believe it is inappropriate to show their feelings in the face of trauma. Staff needs to monitor volunteers for such things as how often they are angry with a client or how much they have been working directly with clients. If there are changes in the person, the volunteer manager needs to gently inquire what is happening. There is even a self-test to measure compassion fatigue (see below). Some studies show that people who express their feelings in the work place, where they are surrounded by traumatic events, work more productively than in those where nothing is mentioned and the unwritten rule is to ignore feelings.

Consider outside help. Staff and volunteers can work together to note the need for outside help. If turnover is high and tempers are short it might be time to bring in an expert on secondary traumatic stress. A workshop for staff and volunteers can help identify symptoms and how people can help one another.

Here are some resources for addressing compassion fatigue.

    • The Compassion Fatigue Self-Test. Designed by Charles R. Figley, founder of the International Traumatology Institute, measures levels of compassion fatigue, burnout, and satisfaction. Go to
    • Secondary Traumatic Stress: Self-Care Issues for Clinicians, Researchers, and Educators, ed. Beth Hudnall Stamm, Sidran Press
    • A video, "When Helping Hurts: Sustaining Trauma Workers." Can be purchased at
    • The Association for Trauma Stress Specialists can be accessed at

Holding On To Volunteers

Younger workers are job hoppers and they bring that to their volunteer work, as well. Here are some tips from the corporate world to keep volunteers on the job longer.

Thank you every day in every way.
You can never say thank you enough. This is true for the staff that directly supervises the volunteer, too, not just the volunteer manager. A small note or reward is a nice way to say thanks.
Visit them.
Check in with volunteers at their work site. Set aside a minimum of 1 hour per day to check on how people are doing. This gives them a chance to have a one-to-one conversation with you where they can voice concerns.
Keep them laughing.
Humor in the workplace is good. Use it to relieve tension or just lift the mood.
Give feedback.
Give volunteers regular feedback on how things are going for staff, clients, or members. Plan training if there seems to be a need. Treat people well, especially when times are tough. 
Provide a mall map.
Volunteers can sometimes forget why they are stuffing 3000 envelopes. Make sure everyone knows the big picture. Shopping malls have maps that show the patron where they are, but give the big picture. Volunteers need this, too.


The Points of Light Foundation has forms available to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future.

The award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like nomination forms, contact Crystal Hill at 202-729-8000.


By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.

Copyright 2002 by Nancy Macduff.