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.
Every organization experiences change. And volunteers
are usually the last to know about changes, big and small. Building loyalty
and morale in the volunteer corps requires communication on important
things like change. Here are some tips on managing change that reduces
stress for volunteers and keeps morale and loyalty high.
Tell volunteers about chance as soon as you can.
Sitting on information to protect the volunteers is not wise. Even
if the information is bad, let people know immediately. This needs
to be orchestrated to coincide with information to paid staff.
Be truthful. Do not hold back information in the
hopes "something will change." People appreciate news, even
the bad stuff. It provides an opportunity to prepare for the inevitable.
Also, some studies show that people are resentful when they only get
half the story to discover later there was more information about
the change they should have been told.
Provide information on the future. Most change
comes with a plan for the future. Where is the organization headed?
How will it impact volunteer involvement? What can the volunteers
do to help? Tell people that many ideas are under discussion, but
there are some givens they can count on.
Keep information simple. Complexity is a normal
part of most change. Informing volunteers requires clarity of communication.
Be as straightforward as possible.
Gather feedback. Volunteers need to have input
in the change, especially as it impacts their work. In nonprofit organizations
the board of directors (volunteers) is usually involved in orchestrating
the change. Direct service volunteers are sometimes left out of the
process to influence the change. Engaging those direct service volunteers
is a key to keeping morale and loyalty high.
Interested in more information?
Check out our online
bookstore for Secrets of Leadership by Rick Lynch & Sue
Vineyard and Risk Management: Strategies for Managing Volunteer Programs
by Sarah Henson and Rick Lynch.
Web logs, best known as Blogs,
are no longer new. You likely know half a dozen people with blogs and
maybe even have your own. If the term is new to you, a blog is like
an online diary, but one where people can comment on your thoughts.
Some blogs are highly personal, some political, some product oriented,
and others actually help people work more efficiently. Here are some
ideas for using a blog site with volunteers.
Those interested in blogs could create a blog to provide information
on the work of the organization or program. For example, a domestic
violence shelter could have a blog with information for volunteers on
how to help children when there is domestic violence in a home. The
blog team could "mine" the Internet for information and sites
specific to that need.
Blogs can be used to discuss problems and find solutions. This needs
to be discussed thoroughly as blogs are quite public and anyone can
read or comment. Some organizations have internal blogs to control access
Another organization uses a blog to store information on technology
(but it could be any topic). The blog is organized so information is
provided on technology. It stays on the blog, with clearly identified
topics and that makes everything more retrievable.
Customer service books and workshops teach
the skills to handle people. Information used in the for profit sector
applies when dealing with volunteers, too.
The outline of steps is also a good checklist
for dealing with volunteers.
1. Listen actively. Shut down the
buzz in your own head and concentrate fully on the person doing the
talking. If someone is complaining, it could reflect how others feel
but are unable to articulate. Listening can lead to solutions and quick
resolution of problems.
2. Instant Replay. Rephrase what
the person has said to be sure you understand. No judgments at this
point, just a check to make sure you are understanding what the person
3. Empathize. Empathy is not the
same as sympathy. You may not have experienced what this person has
and cannot sympathize, but empathy is letting someone know that you
understand how difficult this is and you appreciate the trouble they
are having. It is not agreeing or disagreeing it is acknowledging discomfort
4. Look for options. Go over your
understanding of the situation or problem. Then ask the person to review
with you the options available to address the situation. Discuss how
the option will be carried out.
5. Say thanks. Offer a thank you
to the volunteer for bringing the information to your attention and
giving you the opportunity to help solve the problem or address the
6. Check back. Be sure to follow-up
and find out if the solution worked. Did you do what you promised? Did
the volunteer do as requested? And how are things now? Then start the
steps all over again.
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