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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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~ December 2004 ~ Topics


The World Futurist Society magazine, The Futurist, has issued a compilation of trends outlined in its magazine over the past year. Here are trends that have the capacity to impact aspects of organizing and managing volunteer programs.

Credit cards are the bane of the younger generation. 80% of Gen Yer’s got their first credit card in high school. 10% of them are considered clinically compulsive spenders, compared to 1% - 3% of the Baby Boom generation.
African-American economic power is growing. Their buying power will increase by 34% by 2008.
An additional 3 billion people in developing countries by mid-century has the potential to overwhelm limited resources in education, disease prevention, and nutrition.
Adolescents are becoming more obese worldwide. 17.5 million children under age five are overweight.
More people will attend virtual classes. By 2008, distance learning will be the main method of teaching in 30% of training programs. By 2014, it will be the main method used in 30% of universities.
Global warming means coastal mountains of the United States' West will be 70% less snowy in the next half century.
Russia's population decline will accelerate over the next two decades. It is fueled by poor health habits, inadequate health care, and infertility.
Mega cities may soon be replaced by "telecities." Satellites and other telecommunications technology could help reverse urbanization.
Psychologists are studying the impact of happiness and a sense of well being as a deterrent to disease.
AIDS could be reduced by more candid information campaigns by governmental groups.
There is a health gap between Eastern and Western Europeans. The gap could present challenges to the European Union.

More trends to come from The Futurist in 2005.

From "The Futurist" November-December 2004

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for Volunteer Screening: An Audio Workbook, authored by Nancy Macduff, and Managing Volunteers in Record Time, authored by Nan Hawthorne.

Details for Screening Volunteers Audio Workbook Details for Managing Volunteers Book

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The Question: A Managerial Tool

One management tool is the question. Asking questions means you are not making assumptions and you value the person's opinion. Here are some handy questions for managers of volunteers.

    • What was misunderstood?
    • What was too complicated?
    • Would more "hands" have helped?
    • Were there too many "hands" involved?
    • What caused complaints today?
    • What was wasted on this project?
    • What was just plain silly?
    • What made you mad today?
    • Did the job involve too many actions?
Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak. Epictetus

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Tips to Effective Management

Gather managers of volunteers in a room and ask them what tips they have for the effective management of volunteers and they would likely tell you the following things.

  • Share the credit whenever possible. Spread around the accolades. You are viewed as stronger by paid staff and volunteers when you share the credit.
  • If you do not like a volunteer or staff member, never let it show. You never know where that person will go in the organizational structure and it makes you look unprofessional if you show dislike.
  • Be willing to pitch in on any task. Folding flyers, moving chairs, greeting the public, whatever the job, be willing to do it. Doing the least likeable job sets an example for volunteers that no job is too small or unimportant.
  • When you are right, do not gloat. Everyone knows your view and it only makes you look self-righteous when you insist on gloating. The only exception to this rule is when a volunteer says, "You were right. I could chair this project."
  • Move on. Managers of volunteers rarely win all the "battles," or get all the promotions. Let it go. Move on to new things. Harboring grudges hold the possibility for long-term resentment. You do not want to live like that.
  • Admit it when you do not know something. Never be afraid to say you do not know. Spend your energy finding the answer.
  • Ask for help. Sometimes volunteers know more than you do about something, especially if they have been around a while. Meet with them, ask them to help you get up to speed. You will make a friend and ally for life.
  • Never talk about volunteers or staff in a negative manner. Gossip can be deadly. If you engage in gossip you will not be trusted by staff or volunteers.
  • Never talk about your pay. Several studies show that volunteers can be negatively impacted by the fact that staff is paid and they are not, and yet both are working for the same goal or mission of the organization. Never talk about it and no one can complain.


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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