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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.