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~ February 2003 Topics ~

Museum Ethics Guidelines

The American Association of Museums has issued its first set of ethical guidelines for its 3000 members. The guidelines are directed toward relationships with donors to the museum and its programs. There are six principles on which the guidelines are based. Museums are urged to develop written policies and mission statements to reflect the new guidelines. Need a copy? Visit the Web site http://www.aam-us.org

Evaluating the Volunteer Program: Reflections on Its Importance

MBA Publishing launched a new Volunteer Evaluation Series (online) in November 2002. The online evaluation, with options for expert consultations by phone, has four different evaluations and will eventually have more than twenty. Each evaluation focuses on one aspect of managing a healthy volunteer program. The authors of the first four evaluations responded to a series of questions from the editor of VT about why evaluation is an important part of the vibrant volunteer program. There responses raise issues that bear reflection by anyone who is managing the work of volunteers.

The experts are: Jeanne Bradner, Georgean Johnson-Coffey, Nancy Macduff, and Mary Merrill. For information on these training consultants and others involved in the Volunteer Evaluation series visit the Web site: http://www.volunteertoday.com/vpeshome.html

What is the importance of evaluation and planning to the volunteer program at
the local agency or organizational level?

Johnson-Coffey: "The purpose of evaluation is to move programs forward, further meet the needs of volunteers, their agencies and organizations."

Merrill: "Too often at the operational level there is an attempt to find quick fixes or easy answers. Volunteer management is often reactive rather than proactive. An evaluation process like VPES encourages people at the local level to be thoughtful and strategic in developing programs. The process also facilitates and encourages an inclusive approach by engaging other staff in the evaluation process."

Macduff: "The best volunteer programs are those that regularly take their temperature and blood pressure. It can be a challenge to examine the state of health, whether it is personal or organizational, but the benefits far out weigh the fear. Knowing how things are working in each nook and cranny of the volunteer program provides the opportunity to make changes that benefit everyone—staff, volunteers, clients, members, or patrons, administrators, and ultimately the community in which the program resides. Making evaluation inexpensive, thorough, and on-point is the aim of the Volunteer Evaluation Series. Maybe not painless, but useful."

Bradner: "Very little is more important than evaluation and planning! If you are starting a program, an evaluation can help you form an action plan. Using a standard evaluation keeps you from reinventing the wheel and wasting the time of staff and volunteers. It is efficient! And everyone’s time and talents are used wisely."

Do you have examples of work you have done with organizations to
evaluate the volunteer program? Tell us about the outcomes.

Johnson-Coffey: "A new volunteer program manager arrived at her job to discover through an evaluation process that her predecessor had spent all her energy on the volunteers and virtually none on the needs of staff. The staff was in a 'toleration" of volunteer’s mode. With some work by the new volunteer manager on the needs of staff and improving the internal image of the volunteer program, there was an attitude shift by staff toward volunteers. A much more productive and harmonious working environment for everyone."

Merrill: "One organization I worked with conducted an evaluation, only to discover an internal conflict between the board and staff management levels over the role of volunteers. This eye-opening evaluation gave everyone the chance to step back from constantly seeking to recruit more volunteers and spend more time developing a vision and philosophy for volunteers. The result of this unified/comprehensive vision helped them recruit, long-term volunteers."

Macduff: "Two arts-type of organizations had merged. The draw to merge was money from a city government to provide public arts events (concerts), in order to enhance tourism activities. There was friction from the beginning between board members from the two previous groups, but an evaluation, which included volunteers from the board to those working at the various arts events, unearthed Grand Canyon-sized difference in the perception about the mission of the arts programs. Once camp was thinking fine arts and classical music; the other camp thought fine arts needed to be mixed with more "pop" types of programs to attract larger crowds. Following the evaluation and failed attempts at resolutions, the merged organization agreed to "un-merge" and get back to what they did best. Volunteers, who could have been a stumbling block to the unhooking process, were instead supporters because the evaluation had proven that the initial merger was a mistake."

Volunteer Today in February will bring more observations on the evaluation of volunteer programs and more about the Volunteer Program Evaluation Series at http://www.volunteertoday.com/vpeshome.html. Do you have any questions, please email the VT Editor at editor@volunteertoday.com

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