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.
of employees show that one of the things important to them at work
is "being respected." How does a manager of volunteers make
that happen? Here are some tips.
the part. If you want people to take you seriously, you need
to dress the part. This does not mean a new wardrobe or expensive
jewelry, but it does mean higher-level professional attire; skirt
and blouse, suits on the days of big meetings, slacks with shirt
and vest or sweater. Keep jewelry and/or make-up understated.
more than the minimum. Organize the volunteer program to consistently
be helpful in "crunch" times. Work the occasional early
morning or early evening hours to help accomplish the necessary
tasks. Find volunteers willing to work on short notice and utilize
them to help others. People respect individuals who are alert to
needs and have the talent and skill to help out.
unto others..." You need to give what you expect to receive.
Behave in a way that is respectful of everyone in the organization.
Listen, even when you do not agree with someone, respect others
opinions, treat everyone fairly, never, ever bad mouth volunteers
or paid staff, and learn names and faces and use them. Give respect
and it will come back at you.
a knowledgeable professional. Belong to a professional association.
Read professional journals. (There are six that write about the
field of managing volunteers and nonprofit organizations.) Share
your knowledge with volunteers, your supervisors, and other staff.
Help educate the paid staff on working effectively with volunteers,
and not in a patronizing way. Professionals gain respect by staying
current in the skills in their field. For example, if you are not
formally organizing the episodic volunteer work in your organization,
get started. And help the organization see that the structural changes
in the culture (family life, work life, marriage, etc.) are going
to impact more than just the way people volunteer and it is time
to examine the way business is done.
a professional atmosphere in the work environment. Be calm,
set systems in place, keep everyone well informed, take advantage
of training the organization makes available and that provided exclusively
for those who manage volunteers. No matter the crisis, a good manager
is the center of calm and sanity. It will be noticed.
Australia has a new manual on volunteer risk management according
to Grapevine. "Running the Risk? Risk Management Tool for Volunteer
Involving Organisations" is available online at http://www.volunteeringaustralia.org/risk.shtml.
There are worksheets and case studies. The aim of the document is
to help volunteer programs create risk management plans that give
volunteers confidence in the organization for which they are providing
from Grapevine: The Volunteer Managers Newsletter, $25.00,
in more information on volunteer management and supervision? Check out
bookstore for Better Safe...Risk Management
in Volunteer Programs and Community Service, authored by Linda Graff.
of volunteers are frequently required to work with a vast array of
personality types. Here are some tips to help you work with just about
by determining who is "different" and who is difficult.
People with a working style that is different from yours can seem
"difficult" when in fact they are just different. For
example, someone who is a stickler for details can drive the creative-big-picture-thinker
crazy. Learning to prize the "attention to detail person"
for what they bring to a project is a first step toward accepting
and celebrating the value of differences.
difficult person is difficult to others. It is rare that a difficult
person is only difficult to one person. The individual's behavior
often influences everyone else as being non-helpful. They might
do things like withholding key pieces of information, consistently
becoming over-emotional, or being rude. Observe the person's behavior
if the behavior impacts you directly. Does what the individual
works on directly impact what you need to accomplish in a day, week,
month, or year? If the answer is yes, then coping skills are in
a note to yourself, "I cannot change someone elses personality."
You need to accept that your stress is being cause by wanting to
"fix" something that is beyond your capacity to change.
Difficulty people didn't become that way overnight. And they are
unlikely to change under your guidance. So the only behavior you
can change is your own.
kind but direct. If the difficult person's behavior is destructive
to the program, other volunteers or paid staff, or the health
of the organization, it should not be ignored. You must identify
who owns the problem and then communicate, with specifics, what
the problem is and directly explain the needed solutions.
sure to focus on behavior not on the person. Solutions to problems
need to focus on what is needed to correct the situation. Avoid
words like "attitude," rather focus on a specific behavior
and what needs to change. "I feel frustrated when you leave
your work station with no explanation; leaving clients to wonder
if anyone is in the building. I need you to notify your supervisor
or another volunteer, if you must leave your post." Hard to
argue with such a request.
It is important
to remember that you do not have to be "best friends" with
every single volunteer. What is important for the manager of volunteers
is to create a rational, productive relationship that aims to accomplish
the mission of the organization.
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.