The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism
Find tips to oversee the work of volunteers and practical suggestions
to supervise them. Everything from ideas to help you work more
efficiently to the latest in research on keeping volunteers
happy and productive.
Day All the Volunteers Left, is a stirring article in the Journal
of Volunteer Administration Volume 21, No. 3, 2003, on how volunteers
were banished from Torontos Hospital for Sick Children in the
wake of the SARS scare. Suzanne Lawson, Director of Volunteer Resources
recounts, with professional aplomb, the need to ban visitors, volunteers,
and in some cases parents to contain the spread of a virus. She tells
of efforts to explain the situation to volunteers and keeping people
engaged and informed over a period of weeks. What ensued was a revision
of business-as-usual to one where attorneys and risk management
specialist helped plan for the re-entry of volunteers to the hospital.
lists, Lessons learned: flexibility, get back to the basics of
managing volunteers, recruit new types of volunteers, work as a team,
know as much as possible about risk management, organize clear and honest
communication, and remember that managing volunteers is always a 'work
are some more tips on coping with a crisis:
to other organizations in the community who have weathered the
storm of crisis, and the more the organization is like your organization
the better. Visit with them about how they managed the crisis.
senior management support
time to plan for a potential disaster can look like wasted time
and $$. It is essential that administrators or boards back the
efforts to plan for a disaster, so when it comes there is a plan.
For example, for decades people living in Western Washington State
have been practicing earthquake drills. Elected and appointed
officials have scrapped together meager funds to support drills,
earthquake kits for employees, renovations to buildings, and collaborative
exercises between disaster responses agencies. A big earthquake
in 2001 proved how valuable that planning was. No loss of life
and a quick return to the normal workday!
organization will likely have a team with members being responsible
for certain things. The same is true for the volunteers. Is there
an advisory group for the volunteer program to help plan the response
in event of a disaster? Who is communicating with volunteers driving
in? How do you keep morale up and not lose volunteers? Who speaks
to the media representing the interests of the volunteers?
an off-site location
the organization is likely to do this, but how do the volunteers
fit in. Do they need to come in to help with off site tasks? Should
volunteers come to a different location? Plan this all in advance.
for different contingencies
a plan of action with steps spelled out for different contingencies.
No access to building, access to building but only by certain
people, access to building but new tasks need to done. The plan
should include what is to be done and who is to do it, not by
name but by title.
the plan annually
disaster plan needs to be revisited at least once a year by the
advisory team and up-dated with the overall organizations
plan in mind.
your volunteers know of the progress being made in your organization?
Is it clients served? Children tutored? Reading scores improved? Meals
delivered? Court cases settled? Homes for lost cats? Concert attendance?
What are the measures and what are you doing with the numbers? Volunteers
are encouraged by the knowledge they are part of a bigger project than
their individual job. Here are some tips to tracking and reporting progress.
the things to be measured. Make a list of all the things that
can be measured and who is the keeper of those
numbers. Ask volunteers to tell you what they know about what
is being measured. They are likely to have a good view of
for information on the things being measured. Get in the information
loop on all the things being measured in the organization
that are impacted by volunteers. Get a volunteer statistician.
This is a great virtual volunteer job. Check out the confidentiality
issues before tackling this.
a means to communicate. Giving volunteers information on progress
can be deadly dull or enlightening. Determine ways to present
information in an effective manner. For example, one nonprofit
presented a monthly program budget. It included
all types of progress information, just as if it were the
financial budget. Volunteers came to expect getting it.
the system. It is essential to check information gathering
and disseminating systems periodically to make sure you are
gathering the right information and sending out what is of
interest to the volunteers.
volunteer program has a whiner or complainer in its midst. Sometimes
there is more than one. Here are tips to address the problem.
the source of the complaint. Why is the volunteer unhappy? Set up
a meeting and really listen without trying to defend. Get facts or
feelings as to why the individual is unhappy.
the truth. Determine if the complaint is valid. Does it have even
the germ of truth for the volunteer? Get information from others closely
connected to the situation.
privately with the individual. This is not time to agree with the
complainer. Just share facts, make the person feel that you have listened
and done something about what they have said. Emphasize that you are
on their side, but this is the situation. Try to get the person to
suggest solutions to the problem.
it seems appropriate, you can also share with them the impact of the
complaining on other volunteers or clients. And ask if they can help
you to dispel bad feelings by sharing the positive information you
have gathered. Make them an ally.
has about 175,000 registered nonprofit organizations. A recent research
study by Mel Gill, at the Institute on Governance, Ottawa, Ontario surveyed
20 nonprofits on the quality of governance. There was a survey and then
analysis of supporting documentation. Organizations included in the
study were from education, health, community/health service, and crown
agency sectors. Organizational size ran from a small rural Lions Club
to a pan-Canadian study of school board governance. Media budget size
was $3 million. Here's a sample of what was found.
concerns of boards
turnover of CEO
board and staff leadership
recruiting credible board members
practices while running a human service program
depletion of reserve funds
agreement of key stakeholders on the values, mission, objectives
of the organization
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.