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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

~ July 2004 ~ Topics

Dear Readers:

Owl Reading Book Imagehi·a·tus n : an interruption in the intensity or amount of something. Yes, I’ve been on hiatus for several months, so there has been an interruption in my column. I appreciate your inquiries while I gave my column a "rest." During my hiatus, I was "in the trenches" of volunteer program management, recruiting, interviewing, and training new volunteers for a new science museum in Washington, DC. Here are just a few of the things I learned about what you do every day:

1. How do you recruit volunteers? One volunteer at a time! No matter how many announcements I placed in a wide variety of places, I was still talking to one person at a time. I estimated that recruiting new volunteers required approximately 3 - 5 hours per person plus training time, which includes phone and email conversations, personal interviews, and follow up communications.

2. What's your best recruiting tool? Your organization! Seeing the new museum exhibits and walking the space helped volunteers to visualize their role and get excited about volunteering. This "mini tour" during the interview also helped me get a better sense of the motivations and interests of potential volunteers.

3. How much training do you provide for new volunteers? As much as is needed! I created a training curriculum for new volunteers that was 25% orientation, 50% exhibit training (how to be an exhibit interpreter and how to work with the public), and 25% practice.

4. Can't we skip the practice time because they will get that "on the job?" No! Adults take on new ideas most effectively when they can read about them, talk about them, and practice them. Volunteers were very grateful that they had plenty of practice before the museum opened to the public.

5. What did I enjoy the most? Seeing the volunteers and visitors engaged in lively conversations about the exhibits. Those smiles made all the hard work worthwhile!

Thanks again for your support during my absence. I hope you're getting some must needed rest and vacation time this summer! Best wishes to everyone!


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Dear Connie:

I am the Volunteer Resource Development Coordinator of the Institute for Research and Development of Volunteerism in Israel. In a recent survey of volunteers and staff, what paid staff regarded as suitable rewards for volunteers, the volunteers themselves had differing ideas. Paid staff preferred field trips (obviously an excuse to work less) and assumed that volunteers would enjoy these perks. Apparently 80% of our volunteers preferred to attend interesting lectures. Only 30% indicated that they would be interested in field trips. What a gap between staff and volunteer perceptions. Have you come across creative ideas to reward volunteers aside from the annual awards, dinners, and outings?



Dear Yael:

Often perceptions (the key word here) are very different between volunteers and staff. I would rely on the results from the survey if you feel it was a sound process. In my experience, volunteers indeed know best what they appreciate and value most about volunteering.

Personal and professional development is often cited as a "benefit" of volunteering, e.g., lectures, field trips, behind-the-scenes tours, and quality time with the organization's leaders to learn more about the goals and plans. One of my clients holds an all-volunteer gathering twice a year for volunteers to renew their friendships and to hear an interesting speaker, either from the organization or from the community.

I think of "rewarding" volunteers as a continuum -- with personal thank you's at one end, dinners and parties in the middle, and personal development at the other end. There are many good resources on the rewarding and recognizing volunteers. I suggest you check out the bookstore at Volunteer Today and Energize, Inc.

And, here are "Twenty Great Ways to Reward Volunteers" found at Charity Village:

  1. Phone just to thank them.
  2. Give a monthly award for contributions.
  3. Create a yearbook of volunteers.
  4. Send a letter to their CEO, and copy Human Resources.
  5. Give tickets to an event.
  6. Offer a free professional development session.
  7. Write an article about them.
  8. Nominate them for a leadership position.
  9. Help them network.
  10. Use them as consultants or advisors.
  1. Designate levels of achievement.
  2. Celebrate anniversaries of volunteer's years with you.
  3. Produce a video of their work with you.
  4. Provide incentives for volunteers' contributions.
  5. Provide fees for educational or self-improvement programs.
  6. Create a special assignment for special volunteers.
  7. Give the volunteer ownership of the task.
  8. Donate to the volunteer's charity of choice.
  9. Name an award for an outstanding volunteer.
  10. Establish a group award to promote teamwork.

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Dear Connie:

I am looking for tips, resources, materials, and/or models (anything/everything) on how to recruit volunteers who are leaders – chapter chairs, committee chairs and also how to help them do succession planning with other volunteers. Can you steer me in the right direction? I am meeting with all our regional managers in mid-July and I know that is an area they all want a lot of input and advice. Thanks very much.



Dear Shelley:

I tend to think of "growing" leaders rather than recruiting them. And, I find that this "growing" begins the minute a volunteer joins your organization. Future leaders are the ones who understand how their contributions of time make a difference and value their role in the organization. This is achieved through training, mentoring, motivation, and support.Flowers Image

The committee structure is the next opportunity to grow future leaders – get them engaged in the work of the organization. Identifying potential volunteer leaders usually happens at the committee level. Clear job descriptions, motivation, and recognition help you grow future leaders. When they are ready, you can ask them to co-chair a committee because they have worked on it for 1 or 2 years and understand what needs to be done.

There are two good articles written by my colleague, Mary Merrill of Merrill Associates. "Four Challenges for Volunteer Leaders and Volunteer Managers" and "Understanding Volunteer Motivations." It might help your regional managers to read these in advance of your meeting. I also suggest that you and the managers spend some time identifying the barriers to taking leadership positions (requires too much time, don't understand the job, afraid to lead, etc.).

Knowing the barriers will help you figure out strategies to overcome them. And, don't be afraid to talk to potential leaders and ask them to share their concerns about leadership. They are always your best source of information!

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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