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Visit this page for ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

~ April 2005 ~ Topics

Disability Facts

Individuals with disabilities are interested in living a full life, including the opportunity to volunteer. Here are some facts to build the case for seeking the services of those with disabilities as volunteers.

  • One in five Americans has a disability.
  • One in ten have a severe disability.
  • 18.7% of those aged 15-64 has a disability.
  • 8.7 have a severe disability.
  • Studies by the Job Accommodation Network show the following:
    • 15% of accommodations for the disabled cost nothing
    • 51% of accommodations cost between $1.00 and $500.
    • 12% cost between $501 - $1,000.
    • 22% cost more than $1000
  • A DuPont survey found 90% of disabled workers rated average or better in job performance (safety, performance of duties, attendance, stability, and attendance) compared to 95% of those workers without disabilities.
  • Disabilities are increasing in younger adults. Between 1990-94, there was a 16% increase in people with disabilities.

Facts are from the Courage Center. For more information visit http://www.courage.org.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for: Volunteer Recruiting & Retention: A Marketing Approach, by Nancy Macduff and The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions, by Mary Kay Hood.

Details for Volunteer Recruiting & Retention Book Details for One Minute Book

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Checking References

Checking references of volunteers went out of favor for a decade, but it is making a comeback. The expense of criminal records background checks, efforts to protect clients, and the continuing increase in lawsuits are only some of the reasons for the return of the personal reference. If you are deciding to put references back into the screening process for volunteers or you have been doing it haphazardly, here are some tips to help.

1. Start with the position description. The position description for volunteers should be clear as to duties, requirements, qualifications, time commitments, and training required.
2. Standardize questions to ask all references. Using the position description as your guide, craft questions that relate specifically to the jobs and tasks the volunteer will carry out.
Example: "The volunteer position this person is interested in requires them to work closely with other members of a team. Have you ever seen this person work with a group? Can you describe that experience and how the person contributed to the overall health of the group."
3. Get a release form. Devise a release form for the volunteer to sign giving you permission to ask questions of their references or former employers. Get it checked by an attorney to make sure it protects the organization from later lawsuits.
4. Make calls after the volunteer interview. Calls after the interview allow you to add questions about things discussed during the interview with the prospective volunteer.
Example: "Mr. Smith tells me he was responsible for managing the money for a large fund raising project. Can you tell me how he handled that situation and how he worked with paid staff around the finances?"
5. Check the basics. The reference should verify information you have about the candidate based on the interview or information from the application. Discrepancies in what the reference tells you and what the applicant says are signals to do additional checking.
6. Too positive or too negative references are "red-flags." Almost anyone can find someone to tell you they are the next best thing to sliced bread. And there are some people who dislike someone and are anxious to tell the world. Stick to facts that are related to the position for which the person has applied. Tepid responses might be a clue that the reference is uncomfortable telling you details for fear of legal action. Do not push, just go to other sources to see what you can learn.
7. Say thank you. Be sure to thank the reference and tell them how important this process is to making the best match between the volunteer and the organization.

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Be a "Master" Communicator With Volunteers

Establishing effective communication with volunteers is both art and science. Here are some tips to enhance your communication and become a "master" communicator.

  • Talk with volunteers not at them. People in leadership positions can be too direct sometimes to the point of abrasiveness. Do not confuse confidence with authoritativeness. Avoid the impression that you know everything. You can learn from volunteers, too. These rules apply no matter how long you have been with the organization.
  • Be straight with volunteers. No one is thrilled with bad news, but best to deliver it straight and get to solutions immediately. Sugar coating does not fix the problems and unattended problems can fester and abscess.
  • Speak without judging. Try to organize words to speak to a problem and not a person. Example: "I expected you to attend the training session for team leaders. Please make sure you can be at the next training."
  • Allow dissent. Encourage, in a formal way, dissent. If discussing a project say, "Does anyone have a different take on this? What might I be missing?"
  • Be clear about expectations. Volunteers complain when the manager is vague or sends mixed signals. When telling volunteers what you need them to do use action words - "update," "fix," or "use." Example. "I need you to update the awards records file on the computer."
  • Laugh at your mistakes. Volunteers know you make mistakes. The ability to laugh at yourself and your errors is what they will remember, not whether or not you made a mistake.

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The Points of Light Foundation has forms available to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future. The award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like nomination forms, call 202-729-8000.


By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.

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