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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.

~May 2003~ Topics

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Constructive Criticism and Conflict: Some Tips

Volunteers can often use a tune-up in their performance of skills to do the job. Here are some constructive feedback techniques to help them on their way without anger at the supervisor.

Use positive language. Try to lead from the positive. Questions like, “Did you ever try to do this like this?” are loads better than, “You never seem to get this right.”

Constructive feedback comes without strings. Helping people do a job better or more efficiently should never have strings attached. The person giving the feedback needs to present it in an unthreatening manner, designed to help. This allows the receiver to ask questions, take risks with the new things (and not fear retribution or rejection), and know that help is being sincerely offered, not merely as a “gotcha.”

Be specific. Limit constructive feedback to a single topic. Even if the volunteer has several areas needing improvement, stick with one at a time.

Set the tone for change. Change is hard for everyone. Good feedback acknowledges the difficulty of change, and provides a roadmap to get there. It may be outlining new training, assigning a mentor, monitoring by volunteer and supervisor, and an award when the change is fully implemented. But it is the person sending the message who starts laying out the road map for change.

If there is conflict when presenting constructive feedback here are some do’s and don’ts.

Don’t Say Do Say
Do this. Here’s what we need to do.
You’re confusing me. I’m confused.
Who did it? What happened?
You’re wrong. Why do you say that?
I disagree. I see things in a different way.
That’s not your job. Let’s see what you are doing and who can help us with this problem.

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Volunteer Burnout

Much has been written by Sue Vineyard, Marlene Wilson, and others in the field of volunteer management about the need to “care for yourself.” The stable and healthy volunteer manager is more capable of leading a corps of volunteers than one who is burned out. But, what about volunteer burnout? A reader of Volunteer Today sent a request to this writer asking for some help with the topic of volunteer burnout. The topic is a big one. In this issue we will tackle what to look for.

Is a volunteer burned out? Who decides? What are some symptoms, both for the supervisor to notice and the volunteer to experience? Before assuming someone is burned out check out these symptoms.

For the volunteer manager to ask: For the volunteer to ask:
Do volunteers say there is no fun in volunteering anymore?
Is a volunteer fretting or worrying excessively?
Does a volunteer get excitable and combative over something very small?
Is the volunteer cranky and irritable with other volunteers, worse yet with clients or patrons?
Is the volunteer missing assignments due to minor health problems?
Is there less laughter when the volunteer is around?
Has the enthusiasm for your volunteer work dropped considerably?
Does the volunteer work you do feel like a heavy weight?
Are you fretting and worrying about your volunteer job, even when you are doing other things?
Is there a feeling of emptiness in your volunteer work?
Has the satisfaction gone from doing this volunteer job?
Do you think about quitting this volunteer position?
Are you cranky with other volunteers or clients or staff members?
When was the last time you had a great laugh during your volunteer working hours?

June’s issue of Volunteer Today will bring tips and hints for dealing with burnout.

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Member Idea Exchange

One more reason to join The Association for Volunteer Administration (AVA): a member idea exchange. The Member Knowledge Exchange is part of member benefits. On the Web site members access the restricted area and click to the Member Knowledge Exchange. You can be listed as willing to answer questions on areas of recruiting and managing volunteers. Or you can find an expert to help with your problem. There is an inventory to complete or people to contact if you have a question. If you are not a member of AVA this is one more reason to pay your dues. If you are a member, visit the web site at http://www.avaintl.org/.

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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