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VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com

~ October 2005 ~ Topics

Dear Connie:

Help! My organization is holding a major community open house in 7 days and I still need 90 volunteers to help with crowd flow, set-up, ticket taking, etc. Where can I find this many volunteers quickly?


Dear BB:

You have a secret weapon right in your own back yard – your subscribers (patrons, visitors, etc.)! If you haven’t already done so, send out an email to them. Make it short, snappy and informative so that you can get the maximum response quickly. Don’t write long grammatically correct sentences! Use bullet points, phases, and engaging language. You want to move them to reply “yes” immediately, so make your message fun and inviting.

I encourage you to recruit regularly to this group once your open house is over. You’d be surprised to learn how many of your subscribers, patrons, visitors, donors, etc., don’t know that they can volunteer or don’t know how heavily your organization relies on volunteers. Good luck!

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Dear Connie:

Somewhere I read a statistic that people who volunteer live longer. Do you know it this is a fact or a tongue-in-cheek statistic?


Dear Sue:

It’s not a myth and there’s research now that supports the idea that volunteering has a positive impact not only on quality of life but the length of it too! Here are some excepts from recent articles:

Volunteering Could Be Secret to Long Life: Study
A new study suggests thousands of volunteers in Canberra receive more than satisfaction from their community work. An Australian National University (ANU) study into the benefits of different employment has shown people who volunteer regularly have a high sense of well-being, which improves their health and life expectancy. ANU social analyst Richard Eckersley says volunteering could be the secret to long life and happiness. "People who gave volunteering as their main area of work came out top in terms of their satisfaction with life overall," he said.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1105271.htm

Boomers' Key to Long Life? Volunteering, Study Says
June 16, 2004, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The nation's 77 million post-World War II "baby boomers" can live longer, happier lives by trading leisure in their golden years for volunteer community service, according to a study released this week by the Harvard School of Public Health and the MetLife Foundation.

The two organizations also announced they were launching a national campaign to encourage boomers to volunteer with service organizations when they retire - and to prepare those organizations to take advantage of new volunteers. Jay Winsten, associate dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and director of the school's center for health communication, said the campaign will be modeled after successful efforts to persuade Americans to adopt the "designated driver" program to help cut drunken-driving deaths and adult mentoring of youths to reduce youth violence and drug use. "For those baby boomers who head to the health club each week, civic engagement in retirement is the next health club in terms of maintenance of fitness, good health and longevity," Winsten told a conference of experts convened to discuss the implications of the Harvard study.

Source: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/chc/reinventingaging/news/seattle_post.htm

The Secret to Long Life and Happiness!
Today Richard Eckersley from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the ANU addressed the annual Summit on Volunteering in the ACT and revealed the secret to happiness as he has discovered it through his work on the fourth survey of Australian's Wellbeing.

We heard that Volunteers tend to enjoy a high sense of well-being, which in turn makes them healthier and extends their life expectancy, not surprising to those of us who are involved on a day-to-day basis!
"Whilst the precise causal relationship between volunteering and happiness is uncertain, (from this study), the finding is consistent with a lot of other research, as well as advice from sages through the ages, on what makes a happy life" Richard told his audience.

"Other longitudinal studies overseas have actually tracked an improvement in the physical well being of those who regularly volunteer, possibly related to the release of endorphins into the blood stream. And who can measure the pleasure and benefit that a person might gain from the simple exchange of a generous act"? Mary Porter CEO of Volunteering ACT said today.

Leaders from the ACT Government, Business and Community groups, Unions ACT and Volunteers themselves also heard about the progress that has been achieved and the discoveries that have been made in the dynamic environment of volunteer effort. For instance do you know in April 2001, some 30,400 Canberrans volunteered their services to sport in "non-player" activities? Over a year this contribution equates to 2.3 million hours of work. The estimated value of this to the community in 2000 was $44.3 million. Looked at another way sport and recreation volunteers contributed an additional 0.36 per cent to the ACT's GDP in 2000-01. "Were it not for our sporting volunteers who among us would be able to afford to have their children coached in their favorite sport" Ms Porter said.

Addressing the Summit this morning Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said "Volunteers play a crucial role in Canberra's community - they are fantastic contributors to our city and our daily lives. More than 80,000 Canberrans regularly volunteer their time, which is an amazing contribution for a city of Canberra's size.
In response Mary Porter said she agreed that volunteering does add tremendous value to our lives but it isn't free and it does need urgent resourcing. "Lately we have become pre occupied with counting the costs and attempting to measure the economic benefit to society, however National Volunteer Week is about celebrating its success and its intrinsic value!" Ms Porter said.

Source: http://www.volunteeract.com.au/2004/news/05/eckersley.htm

Seniors Volunteer for Longer Life
A little volunteering can prolong your life say researchers at the University of Michigan. Seniors who spend less than an hour a week volunteering are helping themselves as well as others.

The study documents the link between moderate levels of volunteer activity and increased chances of survival. "Quite a few people assume that older volunteers should benefit in terms of better health and well-being," says Marc A. Musick, a research fellow at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and first author of the study. "This study is one of the first to document that's true in a nationally representative sample of older Americans." It's also among the first to establish that people live longer because they volunteer, rather than that people volunteer because they're healthier and hence more likely to live longer.

Researchers found that seniors who volunteered for a total of less than 40 hours over the past year were less likely to die over the next seven-and-a-half years than those who didn't volunteer at all. Volunteering for a greater number of hours did not reduce the likelihood of death, and even tended to increase it. Musick believes that for seniors, "taking on too much volunteer activity may incur just enough detriments to offset the potential beneficial effects of volunteering."

Musick and colleagues also found that the protective effects of volunteering were strongest among older men and women who had low levels of social interaction, seldom seeing or talking to anyone other than their spouses or the person with whom they lived. One explanation for these findings may be that volunteering provides meaning and purpose in people's lives. Such qualities may in turn have protective effects on mortality and other health outcomes.

The research was funded by grants from the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Michigan Exploratory Center for the Demography of Aging.

Source: http://www.demko.com/m990308.htm#three

Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
10103 Edward Avenue * Bethesda, MD 20814 * VOICE: 301-530-8233 * FAX: 301-530-8299

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