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VolunteerToday.com~~ 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.

Management Image

~ June 2004 ~ Topics

Arrows Image Polish Volunteer Phone Skills Arrows Image

Talking on the phone can be tricky. Here is a self-assessment for volunteers to check their "Phone Quotient." Have the volunteer do the assessment and then talk with them about ways to enhance weak areas of performance.

Directions: Read the statements below in the left hand column. Rate your "Phone Quotient" by marking one of the boxes below the appropriate column heading. The purpose of this self-assessment is to help you determine areas where some instruction might help improve your skills.
Not Often
1. I respond to callers by name.
2. I project a positive image using enthusiasm.
3. I speak slowly to be better understood.
4. I encourage questions by the caller.

5. I stand periodically to get blood circulation and keep my energy up.

6. I speak clearly.
7. I repeat names and phone numbers when taking messages.
8. I do not interrupt callers when they are speaking.
9. I practice listening outside my volunteer assignment.
10. I use positive language when responding to inquiries.
11. I thank callers.

Interested in more information on volunteer management and supervision? Check out our online bookstore for One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions, authored by Mary Kay Hood and Handling Problem Volunteers, by Sue Vineyard and Steve McCurley.

One Minute Answer book Image Handling Problem Volunteers book Image

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Morale Boosters

Volunteers sometimes need a boost. A big event or project can be wearing, dealing with certain types of clients or customers can sap energy, and some volunteer work is hard. Here are some possible activities to boost morale for your volunteers.

  • For regular volunteers - give them a day off. Negotiate with them and other volunteers for a "day off" from regular service. Encourage them to do something special; shopping, movie, golf, naps, etc.
  • Have a special "dress" day. Have a day a year when you wear an ugly sweater, or tie, or pants, brightest shirt, or wildest hat. Have prizes for the people with the best examples of the "special" day attire.
  • Guess the Baby contest. Ask volunteers to bring in their baby pictures. Photo copy them and return the original. Then post two or three a month and ask people to "guess the baby." They identify who the person is now.
  • Smile. There is nothing more contagious than a smile. Managers of volunteers who smile and are upbeat bring morale up.
  • Have a humor corner. Set up a bulletin board suitable for posting cartoons. Ask volunteers to contribute their favorite cartoons. Keep it fresh with frequent changes. Hint: this is an excellent task for a volunteer to do.

Balloons Picture

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Ask for a Raise

Turnover in the field of volunteer administration is high. Budgets get tight and the manager of volunteers is cut to half time or assigned other duties. Survey after survey of nonprofit and voluntary organizations throughout the world say that the thing administrators want most is a fully functioning corps of volunteers, managed and behaving in a professional manner. That cannot be done without professional volunteer management. And keeping good people means paying them well.

If you are a paid manager of volunteer programs or someone who is managing volunteers for free (but know it is time for this to be a paid position), here are some suggestions to build the case for a pay increase or a budget to pay the manager of volunteers.

  1. Begin with a review of your job description. If you don't have one, begin the process to get one. You cannot make a case for additional funding without it.
    • Have your responsibilities increased since you started?
    • Are there duties that should be included that are being done but are not on the job description?
  2. Write a report with facts and answers to the questions above and below:
    • What do people in similar positions make?
    • How has the size and/or complexity of the volunteer corps changed since you started?
    • Have you increased the things volunteers do or the number of volunteers?
  3. Find out how your organization make raises or pay increases. Get your request in synch with that process.
  4. Demonstrate your value to the organization.
    • List things you have done to aid the organization, beyone the management of volunteers. Put a financial value to it.
    • If appropriate, do a comparison with people who manage others in the private sector.
    • Most managers of volunteers run the single-largest department in the organization, in terms of individuals supervised. Translate that into financial terms.
    • List the types of things that you do to enhance your skills to be a better manager of volunteers; attend local workshops on volunteer administration, read Volunteer Today monthly, attend national training conferences like the Association for Volunteer Administration conference.
  5. Report to your supervisor why you cannot be replaced.
    • Managers of volunteers generally need at least one year to understand, let alone manage, the operation of a full-scale volunteer program.
    • Replacing the manager of volunteers every two or three years is more costly than raising a salary and keeping someone who has proven he/she can do the job. Demonstrate this in terms of money. For example, the first year of managing volunteers does not usually produce dramatic results, as the person is learning the ropes. So the organization is paying for a near-zero gain.
  6. Schedule a meeting to report the results of this effort.
    • Provide the supervisor with the information in advance.
    • Stick to facts and financials in discussing the need for a raise.
    • Be positive and direct. Never apologize. You are worth every penny you are asking for.
  7. Stay upbeat.
    • Even if the answer is "no," do not make threats or pout. You are a professional (or trying to be one).
    • Say "thank you" for the time the supervisor took to hear you out.
    • Ask what it will take to get that raise.


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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