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VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism

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.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com

~October 2003~ Topics

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Dear Connie:

I am a Transition Coordinator at a special education high school. I am looking for statistics regarding volunteerism and how it can prepare anyone for a job, and more importantly how it can put them ahead of the pack (making the well-rounded candidate). Do you have any suggestions for me? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Dear Dennis:

There are statistics about volunteering in the U.S. at http://www.independentsector.org. Click on "Giving and Volunteering" in the left-hand column. You'll see why people volunteer, what they volunteer for, and their giving patterns.

One of my colleagues, Mary Merrill of Merrill Associates, has written two excellent articles on the professional benefits of volunteering. You'll find the articles on her website at http://www.merrillassociates.net. Click on "Topic of the Month" and look in the left-hand column for "Creating a Resume to Showcase Volunteer and Service Experience" and "Ten Professional Development Benefits of Volunteering." These thoughtful, well-written articles can be printed out and shared with all of your students!

Dear Connie:

I’m Computer Imagecreating a volunteer mentor program. Can you direct me to any resources that will help me?


Dear Abby:

Do a Google search on the web for "volunteer mentor" and you’ll find pages and pages of information on existing mentor programs – language, forms, etc. For example, there’s a good application form at http://www.businesslincboston.com/forms/mentor-form.html, a good mentor questionnaire at http://www.lboro.ac.uk/pboro/mentoring-pdf/appendices/volunteer-questionnaire-3.pdf, and a job description at http://www.dalycityyouth.org/mentor/MentorJobDescription.pdf.

Dear Connie:

I’ve been the manager of a very large volunteer program (more than 500 volunteers) for nearly ten years. I’m looking for ways in which I can grow professionally in my job. I don’t want to leave my job, but I’m feeling as if I need to do something to expand my professional horizons, such as workshops, college courses, and/or conferences. What do you recommend?


Dear B.B.:

There are many resources to keep you connected to the larger universe of volunteer management and expand your professionalism at the same time.

First, I recommend that you subscribe (if you don’t already) to the many free listservs that discuss volunteer issues such as:

  • CyberVPM – hosted by the Association for Volunteer Administration (AVA). Sign up at http://www.avaintl.org.
  • AAMV – hosted by the American Association for Museum Volunteers. Sign up by sending an email to: AAMVList@npgcable.com.
  • Charity Channel provides a variety of listservs by topic of interest, such as boards, fundraising, volunteer issues, etc. Sign up at http://www.charitychannel.com.

There are two good volunteerism journals available now. AVA publishes the superb Journal of Volunteer Administration, and Energize, Inc. publishes E-Volunteerism.

Of course, you can always take courses at your local university on subjects that interest you and/or are directly applicable to your work. Topics that come to mind are public speaking, marketing, fundraising, organizing special events, nonprofit management, etc. AVA offers certification – Certified Volunteer Administrator – for volunteer managers. And, there are many good online certificate programs now, such as Washington State University’s Volunteer Manager Online Certificate Program

As for workshops, check with your local Volunteer Center to see what they have to offer. And, AVA offers the only annual conference for volunteer program managers, with a wide range of sessions for senior volunteer program managers like you.

Dear Connie:

What is a docent? How can this type of volunteer program be applicable to nonprofit organizations other than museums?


Dear P.B.:

Webster’s dictionary defines docent as “a person who leads guided tours especially through a museum or art gallery.” While the definition is quite clear, I know of many non-cultural organizations that utilize docents in a variety of ways. For instance, a nature preserve utilizes docents to lead walks for visitors through the gardens. A zoo provides docents to give public lectures near animal exhibits. State parks utilize docents to give demonstrations for visitors. And, the Supreme Court docents give tours as well as staff the information desk and give Courtroom lectures. Even though the definition relates to an arts setting, I suggest that you not let that stop you from thinking of creative ways to utilize docent volunteers in your organization!

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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 AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
10103 Edward Avenue * Bethesda, MD 20814 * VOICE: 301-530-8233 * FAX: 301-530-8299

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