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.
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.
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.
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.
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 persons career or why they are
at the event.
2. If you are having difficulty talking at a networking
A. Admit you are having trouble, ask for help, and
ask a leading question. "I am having trouble getting conversations
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.
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
4. A. Avoid looking over eager. Better to call later and set a time
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
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.
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.
Interested in assessing volunteer and
staff relations in your program?
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