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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.

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~ August 2004 ~ Topics

Canadians Award Good Work

Linda Graff, a consultant and trainer from Ontario, Canada, inspired a unique award program for the  Kawartha Lakes Association of Volunteer Adminstration (KLAVA). During a training session, Linda commented that organizations should be recognized for using good volunteer management practices. She was specifically talking about risk management, but Evelyn Chambers, the Volunteer Support Services Manager for 4-H Ontario broadened the idea, discussed it with the leadership of KLAVA, and some awards were born.

The series of awards recognizes community agencies for Excellence in Volunteer Management. There are three categories of awards: organizations with fewer than 25 volunteers, 26 to 50 volunteers, and 50 or more volunteers. The organizations are evaluated on such things as volunteer training, risk management, screening, recognition, and crisis management.

The idea was so good that KLAVA was joined in its sponsorship by the Lindsay District Chamber of Commerce and United Way in the greater Kawartha Lakes area. The first awards were presented at City Hall in April 2004.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for Beyond Police Checks, authored by Linda Graff.

Beyond Police Checks Book link to bookstore

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Tips to Good Volunteer Handbooks

Volunteer handbooks are where you lay out the rules, policies, and laws of serving in the organization. The handbook is an essential tool to managing volunteers. If you do not have one, now is the time to write one. If you have one, when was the last time it was revised? Here are some tips to help.

  • Avoid using a formulaic type of handbook. Keep it specific to your program.
  • Topics might include, but are not limited to: confidentiality, handling of money, attire, attendance, reason for immediate dismissal, sexual harassment, performance, etc.
  • Avoid being overly specific. This gives the impression that every possible issue is covered in the manual. That has the potential to lead to law suits.
  • Be sure to be consistent with other organizational documents or policies.
  • Make it look like other "official" organizational documents. Avoid being too cutesy!
  • Check out the laws related to volunteers and be sure the volunteer manual is within compliance.
  • Do not put in policies that the administration will not back, no matter how much you might want them. That is unrealistic.
  • Review the volunteer manual annually.

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Motivating with Recaps

Volunteers working on a team project over a long period of time can lose momentum. Keeping the energy and commitment up requires constant communication. As interim tasks or goals are achieved it is time for a "recap." This helps members of the volunteer team know the work is being accomplished and can renew enthusiasm. Here is a quick way to up-date people.

An email - or paper report, for those with no email access - should answer these questions:

1. What was the original project goal?
To hold an art auction to raise money for the organizations endowment campaign.
2. What made it important?
Traditional funding sources are providing less and the need is growing by 15% per year.
3. What made it difficult?
The economy in our area is still recovering from an economic down turn. And there was a scandal with a nonprofit misusing its donated funds.
4. Who worked on the project?
Four teams: acquisition, finance, event, and publicity, led by Harry, Cheryl, Rosita, and Thomas.
5. What made the people right for this project?
Harry knows every artist in the Tri-County area, Cheryl loves to crunch numbers, Rosita never met a party she didn't love, and Thomas is enduringly optimistic.
6. What are the good aspects of the project (get specific here)?
Rosita's team got a donated space that is elegant and Thomas has a team member who is donating all print for publicity and the event - and all this has happened since our last meeting since the last meeting!
7. How were problems solved (get specific here)?
Acquisition of art has been sluggish in the past. As of last week, Harry's team was ahead 23% in the acquisition of art for the auction from the same time last year.
8. What aspects seem to make everyone proud?
Harry: "My team's dogged pursuit of terrific art objects." Cheryl: "My team's all-out effort to raise money to make this the best auction ever." Rosita: "Paul was the champion persuader to get us Monet Gardens for the event." Thomas: "Two team members have the art worked totally designed and ready to drop in text for brochures, flyers, and the Web. Another person on the team got $3000 in donated advertising from a TV station. These folks just don't stop."

Recaps take very little time, but can be a powerful mid-course motivator.

Screen Beans Tin Cup Phone Image

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There is no such thing as a non-working mother.


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.

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