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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.

~ June 2005 ~ Topics

Tips on Writing Newsletters

Most effective volunteer programs have newsletters, electronic or paper, or on web sites. These documents are intended to build communication with volunteers and provide information. The best newsletters are read because they contain appealing information. They are more than calendars and "have-to's." Here are some tips to "jazz" up the newsletter.

  • Put in some "how-to" articles. If you run an outdoor-type of program, write something about gardening tips, pruning, the best lawn care ideas. If you run a hospital volunteer program, offer health tips that are practical, how to meet and people. etc.
  • David Letterman has made a career of his "top ten" items. Everyone loves lists. They are also attention grabbers. Five tips for making friends. Ten Ways to Be healthier in 30 days. The topics chosen depend on what the volunteers do and the type of organization they work for.
  • Interviews. Do a standard interview each month of someone important to volunteers or the organization. It can be a client, customer or patron, a volunteer, or staff member. It might also be a funder. And ask "fun' questions, as well as those serious topics. Make the questions consistent from month to month.

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.

Details for Handling Problem Volunteers Book Details for Best Practices Book

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Can You "C" Your Communication?

Commonality Communication is enhanced when there is mutual trust between people. Getting to know volunteers at a personal level moves them from being "their job" to being a complicated person with a life outside the organization. Seeing others as having common needs and experiences enhances the communication exchange.
Contact The best relationships are personal and face-to-face and not by email. Volunteer managers should bargain to work non-standard hours. Visit with volunteers working weekends, or nights, or early mornings. In face-to-face contacts you can read body language and make connections that last.
Clarity You thought you were clear and find out much later there was a misunderstanding. Be sure your message is received. Use active listening skills. Then ask someone to tell you what they understand has been said. Example. "We have been talking for a while, I wonder Eleanor if you can remind me of all we have agreed to." Avoid yes and no questions. ("Do you have any questions?"). No one wants to admit they did not receive the message.
Consistency Match words to body language. If words and body language are opposites, people believe the body language. Consistency between words and tone of voice create trust and a higher level of effective communication.

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Volunteerism Crystal Ball

One responsibility of the effective manager of volunteers is to gaze into the future and begin the managerial process to prepare the program for the road ahead. With assistance from "The Futurist," a publication of the World Futurist Society, Volunteer Today checks out the crystal ball and highlights coming events, changes, or issues that are likely to impact nonprofit organizations, volunteerism, and the management of both.

The economy around the world appears to be moving onto a steady course. In the US, new jobs are springing up and growth is expected to stabilize around 4%. Political shifts in Europe are making for a more mobile work force. Some countries of the old Eastern European bloc are stabilizing their economies, making them likely customers for goods and services from Western European countries.
The growth in population in the world will slide below 1% by 2016.
The population in developed countries is living longer. This puts wealth and power into the hands of the old and increases the market for services to older age groups.
The rapid advance of technology, even in developing countries, will lead to new career paths, industries, and jobs.
Migration is redistributing the world's population. This promises to put strains on the social service network in developed countries of Europe and North America.
The shrinking globe – Internet, travel, and communication - are facilitating cross-cultural exchange and helping break the barriers of discrimination.
The increase in migration will fall heavily on employers. However, libraries and schools can be expected to be asked to make room for new languages and cultures.
Generation X and Millennials in China and India are driving the expansion of the economy in those countries. The younger, entrepreneurial generation expects government to create reforms to make growing new business easy.
Family structures continue to grow in diverse forms. Arguments over the "decline" of the family will continue to polarize people, especially in the US.
Oil prices continue to highlight the developing world's dependence on a single form of energy production. There does not seem to be the political will to fund or study alternative energy sources.
Air and water pollution are on the minds of citizens, especially in developed countries. These concerns will create backlashes with entrenched traditional interests and businesses.
The glut of garbage is going to drive increasing laws for recycling and waste to energy projects.
Industrial development is winning out over environmental concerns in much of the world.
Continuing moves to cities and metroplex areas will aggregate social and environmental problems.


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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