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.
It could be a presentation to a community group, a committee
meeting, or just a conversation with a volunteer. You
go for a thought and come up empty. Your mind is blank and you can't think
of a thing to say! Here are some tips on how to deal with this inevitable
fact of getting older and having way too much stored in your brain!
In public speaking, you can prevent lapses by practicing out loud
and frequently. Never try to memorize, that is a sure fired way to get
trapped with the empty feeling. Understanding what you are saying and
to whom is one of the keys to successful public speaking.
If a group is small and you draw a blank, ask the person who asked
a question to repeat it and ask the group how they would answer that
In some situations it helps to have bullet points or notes to keep
you on track. Not the exact speech, but trigger points to help you stay
on target. They also serve as memory cues.
If you use notes in speaking, print them in large print, and maybe
color. Don't hesitate to refer to them. Be sure they are easy to read.
Use large type font.
Try repeating what you just said or something that is parallel to
it. Sometimes that helps the brain kick into gear with the information
Ask for help. "What was I saying?," is not anything to be
embarrassed about. Everyone has had similar experiences and is sympathetic.
And people like to help. Just keep it simple and move on. Do not dwell
on the momentary lapse. It is a normal part of public speaking.
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.
In the course of managing volunteers
it sometimes becomes necessary to let a volunteer go. Most managers
of volunteers pray for a board member to leave or direct service volunteer
to move to Florida, Arizona, or Spain! Not an effective solution if
the volunteer is damaging the program. There are two stages of releasing
a volunteer: Building the Case and Severance.
Talk to the Person
If it has come to your attention
that there is a problem with a volunteer, start with the volunteer.
Ask how they think things are going. Sometimes this will bring the
problem into the open. Sometimes problems can be resolved easily
with review of the position description or the organizational policies.
If a personal meeting does not solve
the problem, the next step is investigation. Talk to those reporting
the problem and ask them to be specifictime, date, place,
and circumstance. And ask them to please log any similar incidents
while you continue looking into the situation.
While investigating visit, the area
where the volunteer is working, see what other volunteers are doing.
Check the position description and its match to actual work. Review
policies related to the situation. Check procedures for releasing
a volunteer (Don't have them? Now is the time to get them!).
Chain of Command
Keep your supervisor fully informed
of the situation and ask that he/she keep top administration informed
about the situation. Be sure you have support to act.
Outline the problem to the volunteer.
Talk about job duties and relate the problem to the duties, not
the person. "Our policies require that volunteers do X. This
has not been done for over three months." Stick to facts. Ask
the person how they would like to correct the situation. Put the
plan in writing and share with the volunteer and your supervisor.
Monitor, monitor, monitor!
Assuming that all efforts to correct
the behavior of the volunteer have failed, severance is the only
option. Ask for a meeting, but in private. Do this so other volunteers
are not privy to the meeting even taking place. You need to be free
Begin with clarity and honesty. Get
to the point. The news is not good. And that is how the conversation
should start. Do not butter up the volunteer, only to dismiss them.
Let them know that things are not working out.
There might be emotional outbursts.
Never tell people to calm down or be reasonable. You cannot know
what they are feeling and remarks like that can come across as condescending.
differently to bad news and sometimes there is little to predict
what someone will do. If you are concerned, take along your supervisor
to the meeting. Consider your own safety in the event of a worst-case
Sometimes a volunteer
is misplaced. Wrong organization. Wrong job tasks. But there might
be a place in another organization. Offer to open doors for the
person in areas where they might be happier doing the required tasks.
Make some calls to colleagues in other organizations about placements.
You are Not a Bad
for being the person carrying bad news. You did not do this, you
worked to salvage the volunteers position, and you acted in
a professional manner. Let it go and move on to the important tasks
The brochure is designed, the words chosen,
everyone loves it, and it comes back from the printer with two typos,
or no phone number, or the incorrect URL for the Web site. How can you
and the volunteers working with documents avoid those mistakes? Create
a checklist to follow to ensure the perfect document. Everyone follows
all the steps when designing anything from handouts for training to a
Write concisely - Bullets, no long sentences, no
big words, simple.
Be simple and straightforward - Short sentences,
no fancy words, plain clear words.
Read the text out loud. Read aloud to pick up confusing
writing and typos.
Have someone who has not seen the document proof
read for typos and confusing syntax. DO NOT rely on spell check in
your computer. It can miss things because of the way you spelled something
(two, to, too).
Revise. Never be afraid of revising work. It works
better when you do revise. Rare is the author who skips rewriting
and editing. And it is likely you will revise more than once.
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