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VolunteerToday.com ~~ 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.

~July 2003~ Topics

NEW at our online bookstore: BETTER SAFE... RISK MANAGEMENT IN VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS & COMMUNITY SERVICE by Linda L. Graff. This risk management manual is packed with practical, directly applicable tips, tools, checklists, and worksheets, all accompanied by a step-by-step narrative that leads you through the risk management process. Better Safe... book Image

Win at the Telephone Tag Game

The most frustrating game in the work world is “Telephone Tag.” You call, she calls back and you are in a meeting, you call back and she is at lunch, she calls and you have left for the day, you call and she has gone to Pago Pago for two weeks.

Here are some tips to end those endless phone messages with one person:

Square Bullet Image Leave a message that tells a person specifically what to do, if you are unavailable. “If I am not in when you call, contact my colleague Pat and leave the figures.”
Square Bullet Image If you call someone and they are not in, leave a message that asks the person to tell you the best time to call back.
Square Bullet Image If you leave a message, spell out exactly when you will be available and then be sure to be in your office.
Square Bullet Image The best time to catch people is very early in the work day; 10 minutes before noon, and 10 minutes before 5:00 p.m.
Square Bullet Image Treat phone calls like meetings. Exchange emails to set a time for a phone meeting, when you are both in the office.

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Make a PACT with Volunteers

New volunteers and/or employees are impacted by the example set by the volunteer manager. Here are four different steps to show your commitment to the new people and set an example to be followed.

P - Be polite and courteous. Smile, greet people, say hello, it costs nothing.

A - The way the professional dresses sends a message about how seriously the volunteer manager take him/herself. A professional appearance sends messages about the organization and about the role of volunteers.

C - Communication needs to be positive. The new person has permission to gripe about others in the organization, if that is what they hear the professional staff does.

T - Meet people in a timely way. Being prompt sends the message that this organization expects people to arrive on time and avoid lateness.

"Light has come into the world, and everyone must decide whether he/she will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness."

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How to Alter the Position Description

A hospital volunteer coordinator had been recruiting volunteers for several years to work in the dialysis unit. The position description listed duties such as visiting with patients while they spent hours on the dialysis machine, or reading to people. Volunteers in that area began quitting or asking to be transferred elsewhere. She decided to visit the unit and learned that the staff was asking volunteers to help in lifting patients onto hospital equipment and off again. Some of the older people had not bargained for this and needed a change in location. The truth was the staff did need assistance on occasion and the “duties” for a volunteer in the dialysis unit had changed by necessity. If this happens how can you handle the fall out?

    Review all position descriptions on a regular cycle. No more than a year should go by without evaluating all positions. Staff and volunteers need to review the current position description and suggest changes.

    Be enthusiastic. If there are changes, the support of the volunteer manager for the new duties can help motivate people to meet the new challenges. Griping or complaining about the changes and the terrible people out in the organization is no way to energize volunteers.Notepad & Pencil Image

    Be available. Make sure that there is staff support for volunteers, related to the new duties. If not, spend some time in the work unit to make sure volunteers know how to carry out the new duties.

    Prepare volunteers. Get volunteers ready. Offer to organize training. In the example above, some training in lifting and team lifting of patients could likely have stemmed the outflow of volunteers. The volunteer office can organize that training for volunteers who have added new duties.

    Set priorities. Help volunteers stay focused on what is important. The volunteers in the dialysis unit were only occasionally lifting patients, but it became the most important issue because it was new. Help volunteers list all duties and the ones they do the most. It is called “keeping your eye on the ball.” Do not lose focus.

Interested in assessing volunteer and staff relations in your program?

Looking for help from an expert?

Get help with one of the Volunteer Program Evaluation Series.


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
Robin Popik, who is a Volunteer Resource Supervisor. She can be reached by phone at 972-941-7114. Be sure to mention you read about this in Volunteer Today.

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