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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.

~ August 2005 ~ Topics

Movies About Service

Periodically those Internet listserves pose questions like, "We're having a party for the volunteers and want to show a movie. Is there a good movie where volunteers are shown in a positive way?" or "We are having a movie night and want to highlight service. Anyone have any suggestions?" Believe it or not there are answers to those questions.

Check out the Web site http://www.idealist.org/npofaq/16/54.html for a comprehensive list of movies with an uplifting or service oriented theme. There is more explanation about the movies on the site and the owner of the site is always looking for more suggestions. Here are a few samples from that page.

  • The American President
  • Dead Poets Society
  • Heaven Help Us
  • Scrooged
  • Remember the Titans
  • Tunnel of Love
  • Dave - editor's addition

Can you add to the list? Send your movie selections to VTEditor and we will post them in future issues of this newsletter.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for Secrets of Leadership by Rick Lynch & Sue Vineyard and Risk Management: Strategies for Managing Volunteer Programs by Sarah Henson and Rick Lynch.

Details for Secrets of Leadership Book Details for Risk Management Book

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The Giving Circle: An Option for Volunteers

Giving circles are a growing force in the United States (US) according to the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. This way of raising money involves a group of people who are usually friends (and most often women) who pool resources to make donations to improve conditions in their own community. Since 2000, groups like these have raised and donated $44 million. New Ventures in Philanthropy completed a study that showed that 57% of the groups have female only or majority female membership. The causes range from aid to disaster victims across the world to donating video games to a local children's hospital. Donations can be as small as $1.00 per month. This form of philanthropy allows everyone in and is a possible way to engage volunteers in raising money for very specific projects for the organization.

Source: http://www.GivingForum.org

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Building the Future Through Scenarios

Direct service volunteers have a vested interested in the survival and health of the organization's they serve. But, rarely are they included in the types of futuring and visioning activities so prevalent with a Board of Directors or Advisory group. They can however, work with the manager of volunteers to look into the future and begin the planning process to move the organization and its volunteer workforce toward that health future.

One method to do this is using futuristic scenarios. Humans are hard wired for story telling. Long before there were alphabets, there were stories. A growing technique for futuring is using stories to illustrate the future and then asking people to reflect on how you get to that place. It isn't about debating whether the changes in the world are right or wrong, but what we do to be ready. For example, the explosive growth of technology is likely to put a helpful robot in the organization within thirty years, so that robot would be part of the scenario or story about life in the world of volunteers.

The scenarios need to paint a vivid picture of the future including such things as the pace of technology, new workplace systems of operation, new roles for volunteers. It should include personal and professional details to help the people reading it see the world as it might be. It needs to touch on human elements, systems or processes, and technology. The story needs to paint something quite different from what exists, but, that is rooted in the reality of the future.

Once the scenario is prepared, then key volunteers are organized into a planning group to read and reflect on the future and make recommendations for activities that can begin now that will help move the organization toward the future in a more orderly fashion. Changes in volunteerism grow more dramatic by the moment. Using scenarios might be a method to move your program forward.

To get you started here is the beginning of a scenario. You need to finish it!


Paula arrived early with her PDA in hand and directions to check in with Roland, the robotic trainer. At the beginning of the year she signed up to do occasional volunteer work, no more than 3 hours per month for the year. The "Volunteer Brokerage" has an Internet sign up process where she completed an interest survey (organizations and topic or causes) to direct her placements. Placements are automatic, with directions to the job site and list of tasks being emailed to her PDA. She remembered that she said in her application, "nothing with tools or dirt" and so far the assignments have been tidy office types of things. Paula was sure her degree in accounting helped with "clean" placements. Each month she got acquainted with a new organization. She was surprised at how much she enjoyed learning about these different organizations. Each group so far had provided an electronic tool to learn more about the mission and work of the group. Sometimes it was a CD for her computer and one organization sent a DVD with information. But this organization has a robot trainer named Roland.

The PDA also allowed Paula to keep in touch with her husband, who works from home, and is keeping an eye on her daughter who has a bad cold. Paula consulted electronically with the Nurse Practitioner, but she and Tom wondered this morning about taking the child to see a physician at the Health and Well-Being Center. Tom is working, while a "parent" robot tends to the baby.

Paula's focus for the moment, however is on her volunteer service. Not all the organization’s she has served had Roland type assistance, but she sure liked it when a robot showed up. Quick training, and right to the task as hand, no idle chitchat. Paula inserted the volunteer identification card she received from the Volunteer Brokerage two days ago into the machine Roland indicated and waited for Roland to get the results. A printout appeared telling Roland where to take Paula and what training and equipment she would need prior to beginning her 2-hour shift of work.


  Everyone will travel with electronic devices to keep them connected to work and home 24/7.

Signing up to volunteer is likely to be done by a brokering organizationthat does all the screening, including what positions a person will fill.

  Interaction with volunteers will be electronic.
  Access and practice of health care have shifted taking advantage of the wide a range of electronic services. Also, medicine seems to be preventative, rather than proscriptive.
Electronic aids, like robots, will do work previously done by humans, and more efficiently. Humans will work seamlessly with machines to accomplish more in less time.  

Now it is your turn to continue Paula's story. Use your organization at the placement site. Think 2050. . . not just five or six years out.


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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