Archives Search
Ask Connie
Boards & Committees
Calendar of Events
Internet Resources
Management & Supervision
Recruiting & Retention
Tech Tips
Volunteer Program Evaluation Series
Who We Are
Email Us

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.

~ April 2005 ~ Topics

Tips for Supervising the Grump or Complainer

Some people who are shy or self-sufficient are seen by others as grumpy, aloof, indifferent, and sometimes hostile. Often they do not realize that others see them in that light. How can you help shift attitudes toward that individual.

The Grump
1. Greet everyone, including the "grump," every time they work.
2. Talk to the "grump" about something of interest to them, even though this may be uncomfortable for you at first.
3. Avoid miscommunication by having frequent and open contact.
4. Be patient. Keep this up long enough and the person is likely to come to you and not be gruff. Others among the volunteers will see your behavior and follow suit.
The Complainer
1. Talk about the problem immediately.
2. Give the complainer a fair hearing to tell their side of the story.
3. If the complaints are legitimate, work with the individual to map a plan to fix it.
4. Follow through. Do not expect the complainer to go it alone, or they are likely to go back to complaining.
5. If the complaints are not realistic or legitimate, say so in as tactful a manner as possible.
6. Ask the person if they know how the complaining is affecting the other volunteers. If they say no, be prepared to tell them how it is impacting others.
7. Emphasize that the volunteers are a "team" and it is easy to damage morale and then productivity when people are unhappy.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for Handling Problem Volunteers and Best Practices for Volunteer Programs, both authored by Steve McCurley and Sue Vineyard.

Details for Handling Problem Volunteers Book Details for Best Practices Book

Return to the Menu
Test Your Networking IQ

Some of the most successful managers of volunteer programs are those with "networks." Test your knowledge of what makes an effective "networker."

Suppose you have decided to join a local service club to enhance your network. Take this quiz to see if you know what works when you go off to a meeting.

1. When meeting someone at a networking function it is best to begin with:

A. Casual conversation about current events, weather, movies, etc.
B. Questions about the person’s career or why they are at the event.

2. If you are having difficulty talking at a networking function:

A. Admit you are having trouble, ask for help, and ask a leading question. "I am having trouble getting conversation’s going, maybe you can help, what brings you to this meeting?"
B. Wait for the other person to say something.

3. To prepare for networking functions:

A. Ask the leaders of the group to provide lists of people attending and something about their backgrounds.
B. Keep up to date on world affairs and current events.

4. You meet someone at the networking event you would like to know better:

A. Get a business card and ask if you can call them later to set a time to have coffee.
B. Set an appointment immediately.

Answer Key
1. A. Start with impersonal items at a networking event. Some people consider asking about work and family as rude when they first meet someone.
2. A. Admitting you are nervous can work in your favor. People are usually anxious to put you at ease or admit their own nervousness.
3. B. Keeping current is essential to good conversations. Make it a habit to stay current on world affairs, social issues, and in some places sports scores.
4. A. Avoid looking over eager. Better to call later and set a time for coffee.

Return to the Menu

Delegating by Degree

Delegation of tasks to volunteers can be scary. Will he do the task on time? How much help does she need? Can I trust him? Those and so many more questions cross the mind of the manager of volunteers. Delegating is not an "all or nothing" proposition. Like most things in life delegating can be done in degrees. Begin by classifying volunteers into three categories. Those categories will tell you how much "coaching" and support is needed and what role the manager of volunteers must play in relationship to the person chosen to work on a project.

Old Pro - This is the volunteer who has already proven him or herself in the "fire" of projects, events, or tasks. This is a producer, who is reliable and trustworthy. The job will be done right and on time. The manager can meet with the person occasionally to get updates and stay in the information loop. But, little supervision is needed.

s Laborer - this is an experienced volunteer who has likely been the number two person on more than one project for the organization. The individual has experience and confidence, but is not ready to "fly alone" in the responsibility department. The manager of volunteers works more closely with this person. Attend meetings with the "laborer" and other volunteers often at the start of the project or event, but less as the project progresses and the leader is demonstrating the ability to take on responsibility and complete things on time. Make sure the leader is delegating and not just doing everything alone. . .that is a fast trip to burnout.

Newbie - This is the person to have partner with you on a task. He/she participates in planning and decision-making, but as the manager of volunteers designated helper. A leader-in-training, if you will. It is important to remember the individual is in training to move to the next degree of leadership, that of the laborer, and so needs responsibilities of their own in order to learn how to do it.


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.

Return to Top

A Service of MBA Publishing-A subsidiary of Macduff/Bunt Associates All materials copyright protected ©2007
925 "E" Street Walla Walla, WA 99362 (509) 529-0244 FAX: (509) 529-8865 EMAIL: editor@volunteertoday.com
The content of all linked sites are beyond the control Volunteer Today and the newsletter assumes no responsibility for their content.