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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~ May 2002 Topics ~
  • Youth Volunteers
  • Volunteer/Staff Partnerships
  • Identifying Volunteer Skills and Talents

Dear Connie:
I am a new youth volunteer coordinator at a large nursing home. We do not have a specific youth program at present. "Resident workers" already take most jobs that would be great for the kids. Our main areas of volunteerism are in the activities department and greenhouse. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!


Dear Kim:
If you haven't already done so, I suggest you check out the Points of Light Foundation site, , for information on youth volunteers. (Click on "Training, Products & Services" on the left side of the home page.) Also, go to Energize, Inc., , and get their books on the same subject. I think that if you first understand WHY you want to involve young people in your organization, you will find it easier to "imagine" how you could do just that.

Also, talk to you colleagues on the staff and engage them in identifying the various projects that are their responsibility and which ones (or pieces of them) might be appropriate for young people to help with. In other words, think outside the box beyond the barriers that exist naturally -- a youth entertainment troupe for residents; reading to residents; clean-up projects around the facility; etc.

Dear Connie:
I'm presenting a workshop for a state volunteer management affiliation 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:
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.

Ivan Scheier's book, "Building Staff-Volunteer Relationships," is an excellent resource. It is available at Energize, Inc., You'll find valuable philosophical insight about staff-volunteer partnerships as well as helpful checklists. Ivan believes that, "The success of a volunteer program depends as much on staff motivation as it does on volunteer motivation." Happy Training!

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:

  1. Contact information (name, address, email, fax, emergency contact, etc.)
  2. Educational background (degrees earned, major areas studied)
  3. Professional background (employer(s), type of work, address, phone, email, fax, etc.)
  4. Volunteer background (organization(s), type of volunteering, years, offices held, etc.)
  5. Skills (specific skills that your chapters are seeking)
  6. 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 Street, NW - Suite 1248
Washington, DC 20008
VOICE: 202-966-0859 FAX: 202-966-3301

Copyright 2002 by Nancy Macduff.

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