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

~ July 2005 ~ Topics

The Snazzy Newsletter

Whether you are doing an email newsletter or on paper, there are tips to "jazz" it up and make it something all the volunteers will want to read.

Make it look nice. Not enough can be written about the importance of making a newsletter look nice. Bulleted items for e-newsletters; colored paper for paper newsletters are messages to "pick-me-up-and-read-me."

Brief is best. Days and hours speed by. Everyone gets information in 15 – 30 second sound bits. The same should be true for print. Avoid the narrative form. Use bullets to highlight key points. Keep articles or information brief and concise. Save the long pieces for "human" interest stories.

Be fair in coverage. Be sure that all volunteers and the programs they serve are represented in the newsletter. This creates a feeling of inclusiveness for all volunteers and all clients, members, or patrons.

Highlight the volunteers and those they serve. Longer stories should be about volunteers and those they serve. Say you coordinate volunteers at an animal shelter and one of the dog walkers, or cat petters has been outstanding at finding homes for stray pets. Write a story about the person and the contribution he/she is making. Move around in organization to find those stories.

Highlight volunteer achievement. Learn enough about volunteers to highlight achievement; hours of service, or years, people served, years with organization, etc. But, also find out about the volunteers life outside the organization. With their permission, report on events in their life outside the organization. Special tributes from a church, synagogue, or mosque, other awards from volunteer organizations, a birthday milestone, etc. But be sure to get permission.

Tips, hints, helpful advice. Newsletters can be educational. Offer suggestion for specific tasks (and not just those nagging reminders about turning in their hours!). Suppose your volunteers work in a homeless shelter. If they sign people in, help them understand how some homeless people are happy to share their name, but others are not. How do you handle that? Some homeless people are suspicious. How can a volunteer avoid raising their suspicions. Those are practical suggestions and make the newsletter truly helpful.

Keep volunteers in the loop. Put things in the newsletter that provide organizational information. Perhaps you are getting a new administrator or executive director, keep volunteers informed about the process, candidates, and the process of transition. Long-term volunteers can be as anxious as paid staff about new leadership. Keep them well informed.

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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Surviving a Crisis

Some organizations seem to weather a crisis better than others. Do they have anything in common? A new book, "Why Some Companies Emerge Stronger and Better From Crisis," looks at the question of survival in a crisis filled environment. The book, by a crisis management expert, helps to disaster-proof an organization.

Lessons from the book can be applied to volunteer programs. Here are some assumptions that surviving organizations make that help them weather the storms of a crisis.

Proactive organizations make some, if not all of the following assumptions:

  • We are obligated to make the world safe
  • We are obligated to make the world good and just
  • Our job is to have the world be stable and predictable
  • We will limit betrayal
  • The task is to reinforce the inherent good of humans
  • We assume responsibility for our actions
  • We do everything possible to keep people well informed about a looming crisis

The author notes that reactive organizations assume all the same things, but only if it is cost effective.

Source: Why Some Companies Emerge Stronger and Better From Crisis, by Ian I. Mitroff. Available from http://www.amacombooks.com or http://www.wfs.org/bkshelf.htm.

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Interviews: Some Hints

Interviewing a prospective volunteer is one of the tools in the screening toolbox. Effective interviews are both art and science. Here are some more tips on how to do it well.

Pre-screen an applicant on the phone. Save yourself and the volunteer time and travel by talking about the job in general terms in advance. If walking long distances, lifting heavy packages are part of the job requirements, discuss this in advance. These are "deal-breakers" if the person cannot do them. You might have other jobs available, but the phone call can save time for all parties. Develop 3- 5 standard questions to help weed out those inappropriate for the position.

80/20 is the law. In a face-to-face interview you should talk 20% of the time and the candidate should talk 80%. This means developing those open-ended questions that generate responses to help you determine if this is the right placement for the individual. "What did you like about the last volunteer position you had?" "What did you dislike?"

Follow-up. Whether or not someone becomes a volunteer there should be a follow-up thanking him/her for being part of the process. It can be in writing or a personal phone call, but everyone should hear from the organization following the interview.

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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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