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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.

~ March 2005 ~ Topics

Quick Recognition

Most volunteers will tell you that recognition for them is more than plaques and pins. It is acknowledgement of their work. Here are three quick ways to say thank you to volunteers.

1. Tell a story. Volunteers do incredible things - saving events with inventive solutions, doing just the right think for a client or customer, touting the organization at the right time, in the right place, to the right people. Learn to tell those stories in a compelling way. Be sure the volunteer knows you are sharing their accomplishments with paid staff and other volunteers.

2. Give people choices. More and more volunteers are asking for choices in their work assignments. Veteran volunteers can sometimes be given options in their assignments. Check in once per year with the volunteers to find out if the individual might like to try a new job with the organization. It can re-energize someone who might be thinking about cutting back on his or her commitment.

3. When possible, let the volunteer present the work. A Finance Committee chair should present the budget developed. An Event chair can be invited to present reports at Board meetings. Volunteers can do program up-dates for administrators in government based programs. Not only is this recognition of the volunteer's efforts, but it shows the leadership of the organization that the manager of volunteers is someone who builds leaders.

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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Managing the Younger Volunteer

Managing the younger volunteer requires attention to a few details. A recent survey of Generation Yers (those born after 1977) outlined what they looked for in work. Some of the information translates easily into volunteer management strategies.

1. Make it fun.

2. Provide opportunities for personal and/or professional development. Teach skills, encourage someone to move from being a committee member to the chair, or suggest a direct service volunteer be considered for a position on the board of directors or an important advisory body.

3. Organize projects for competition between like groups and scout up Gen Y friendly rewards for the winners. Such things as access to a favorite young people 'watering hole" or restaurant, tickets to events or games would go to members of the winning "team."

4. Be sure there are wide ranges of tasks or services. Gen Y folks have vastly different interests and need many choices.

5. Talk to young people about the benefits of the work; for networking, for future job connection, making a difference in their community, on the résumé, or meeting people with similar interests. If romances have flourished in the younger volunteer crowd, never hesitate to mention it. Many young people want to meet others in places outside of single's bars!

6. Can you provide travel? If your organization is state, province, or region-wide, include the Gen Y person in opportunities to travel and do the work or train others, or even recruit people in their own age bracket.

7. Flexible scheduling. Examine those position descriptions and divide up tasks and the way things are done. Consider tasks that could be done in a distance manner using the Internet, small chunks done in evenings and or weekends, jobs shared with another person, or anything that indicated flexibility to the volunteers. If a Gen Y volunteer has a job change that makes it seem they must quit, do your best to flex the schedule to keep him/her on. The volunteer will tell others in that age bracket how flexible your organization is.

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Evaluating Volunteer Programs

Organizing and managing volunteers is no longer a guesswork process. There is substantial evidence of what works in volunteer programs and why. Managers of volunteers are now in a position to assess their programs based on tested assumptions. Even in programs where everything is working well, there is always room for improvement. Here are some tips to assess your program.

Decide an area of organizing and managing that you want to assess for its efficiency and effectiveness. Is it recruiting, working with committees, volunteer and staff relations, or risk management? Organizing and managing volunteers is too large an operation to effectively evaluate the entire operation in a short period of time. Think of plans made on a vast scale and how they never quite get done. Better to take short "chunks" and really implement the needed changes.

Form an ad hoc committee to work for one or two months to assist in the evaluation. Be sure to include former volunteers, current volunteers, staff, and an outsider who understands volunteer programs.

Establish areas of assessment. These can be ones your team creates or you can begin with something from a tested source. For example, The Nonprofit Risk Management Center has several types of evaluations on that topic. Some are even free. Volunteer Today has several evaluations available at a modest charge. (Volunteer-staff relations, recruiting, governance, risk management, etc.)

Set guidelines and timelines for the work of the team. Make sure everyone knows what is expected. Stick to the schedule. Do not expect volunteers to stay over the ending date.

Keep everyone informed of the work of the committee; volunteers, staff, clients or customers, as the work proceeds.

When the assessment is complete, issue a report with specific attention to what is working well and an itemized list of things to be done with corresponding dates. Make sure there is a buy in by the management and administration of the organization. Having a board member or key administrator on the team is an excellent strategy for getting support in high places.

Thanks go to the members of the team, privately and publicly.

Rest up and try to achieve your set goals for improvement, than next year tackle a new area of operations for the volunteer program.

Washington State University Extends Deadline for Training Institute

Washington State University will offer the first face-to-face Volunteer Management Certificate Program at Port Hadlock from April 26 – 29, 2005. This is an up-close-and-personal version of the award winning online course. Hosted by the WSU Learning Center the training is in the shadow of the Olympia Mountains and across the Straits of Juan de Fuca from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Join three top-drawer faculty in an intensively interactive institute designed to hone your skills in organizing and managing volunteers. For detailed information visit the Volunteer Management Institute Web site at http://emmps.wsu.edu/volunteer. Deadline for registration is extended to March.


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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