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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.

~ February 2005~ Topics

Who Are Potential Donors?

Some organizations overlook volunteers as donors. In fact, those who volunteer know the organization's needs the best. And are quite often the best donors. A recent survey by American Demographics and e-Poll surfaced some important information about the characteristics of likely donors. A demographically-balanced survey asked people about their inclination to give during the December holiday season. College graduates were most likely to donate money, with 55.7% saying they are likely donors to charity. Only 35.8% of those with some college or less said they would donate to charity. People earning more than $50,000 per year are also likely donors (50.1%). While 28.3% who earn less than $50,000 indicated an interest in donating to charity. 45% of women said they would donate, versus 39.3% of men.

Knowing a profile of your volunteers based on these categories can help predict who might be a potential donor. That information could be shared with those raising money for the organization.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for Episodic Volunteering: Organizing and Managing the Short-Term Volunteers by Nancy Macduff and By Definition: Policies for Volunteer Programs, authored by Linda Graff.

Details for Episodic Volunteering Book Details for By Definition Book

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Motivating the Episodic Volunteer

Many more volunteers are volunteering episodically. How do you keep people motivated with a positive view of your organization when they are only around for a few hours? Here are some tips.

    1. 15 minute orientations. In a quick orientation, explain the tasks to be accomplished (a simple handout is good to leave with the person), what are the absolute dos and don'ts, and brief information about how the work they do impacts the organization and its clients, members, patrons.
    2. Mix-up the tasks. It is tempting to give episodic volunteers the "grunt" work and save the more appealing work for the long term volunteer. Better to mix up the work, so everyone shares in the grunt load of tasks.
    3. Offer flexible hours. The episodic volunteer is balancing a demanding life with the desire to donate time. Be flexible with the time people can work and it pays off on the motivation meter.
    4. Provide a work "pal." A friendly mentor from among other volunteers is a good motivator for most episodic volunteers. This could be a long term volunteer or staff person, or it might be another episodic volunteer who only works for the organization on a single event or activity, but does it year after year.
    5. Build a team spirit. One danger with integrating episodic volunteers into a program is the problem of hard feelings between the long term continuous service volunteers and the short service volunteers. Set the tone, keep communication lines up, stress the impact of all the work on the mission of the organization, and how everyone has a contribution to make.

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Challenges to A Career in Volunteer Administration

What is it that keeps managers of volunteers from pursuing a career path in volunteer administration, learning its various competencies, and what can be done about it? These two questions were tackled in a research project by Barry Boyd, of College Station, Texas and reported in a recent issue of the Journal of Volunteer Administration (Volume 22, #4, 2004).

Boyd used a Delphi technique, a panel of experts in a field developing a consensus around a series of questions, to identify the barriers that discourage administrators of volunteers from acquiring leadership and management competencies. The Delphi process also surfaced motivating factors to remove the barriers and concrete activities to enhance professional development.

Listed below is an abbreviated review of Boyd's findings. The full report is available through the Journal of Volunteer Administration. The full report would make for an interesting round-table discussion at a meeting of managers of volunteers in local associations. Boyd concludes his article with specific suggestions to remedy this situation. A few of those recommendations are also listed below.

Barriers to Leadership and Management Competencies
  • Organizational
  • Lack of organizational support to volunteers
  • Hiring practices
  • Too many responsibilities not related to volunteer administration
  • Individual
  • Lack of basic understanding of volunteer systems and the drivers of those systems
  • Unwillingness to learn or change
  • Lack of Opportunities
  • Lack of pre-service or in-service training
Motivating Factors That Encourage the Attainment of Volunteer Administration Competencies
  • Recognition of volunteers contribution to the organization
  • Rewards for attainment of volunteer administration competencies
  • Inclusion of administrator of volunteers in overall organizational decision making process
  • Profile success stories
  • Create environment and desire for life-long learning
How to Remove Barriers
  • Orient administrators of volunteers to the complexity of their job
  • Provide appropriate levels of guidance and support
  • Reimburse staff for professional development activities
  • Allow flexible work schedules
  • Offer exciting professional development opportunities

For more information on the Association of Volunteer Administration and its Journal are available on line. Visit the Volunteer Today Internet Resources portal page for a hot link to that site.


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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