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Volunteer Today is looking for one or more authors to write about technical issues, computer or otherwise, in the volunteer management world. If you are interested in contributing or know someone who is, please contact our managing editor Nancy Macduff at: editor@volunteertoday.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

This month's articles are provided by Nancy Macduff, the Managing Editor of Volunteer Today.

~ April 2006 ~ Topics

Managing Files
"Where Should I Call You?"

Managing Files

If the "desktop" on your computer looks like most, it is crammed with a mass of documents, with titles of cryptic origin and in no order. Here are some tips to get and stay organized.

  Whatever programs you use create a "cabinet" (folder) to hold all your files. In Microsoft Office it is called My documents.
  What is your back-up system? Where are you storing those crucial files? Have a plan and back up your important documents once a month.
  Find a consistent system for creating files in your "cabinet." Say you have a documents folder for everything. In it always make folders for specific things. A manager of volunteer's folders in the document file might include such things as: Databases, Correspondence (by year), Applications (if you receive online applications), etc.
  Get a consistent system for naming files and train yourself to stick to it. And keep those names short. Brief and clear is the watchword. Abbreviations work well. Write it down so you keep consistent.
  Separate ongoing and current work. Create separate "history" folders when a project is done and then move everything into it. History folders should be moved out of your "cabinet" with current projects and moved to a CD or to an organizational server.
  In each folder create sub-folders. For example, the Database folder might have sub-folders titled "2006 Volunteer Database," "2006 Art Auction Database," etc.
  If you have more than five sub-folders in anyone main folder, you need to subdivide. Folders can get too big and unwieldy and finding information becomes impossible.
  If one document needs to be in several places create short cuts, rather than having it in several locations. Many programs allow this. MS Office and Mac OSX even have a "right-click" option to create short cuts (alias). You can drag and drop documents when you need them.
  Be selective about what you save. Do you really need it in its electronic format?
  Use dates in folders and in documents.
  Color code folders or change their icon. Makes it easier to find them in a hurry.

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"Where Shall I Call You?"

Managing volunteers means communicating with them. Most volunteer applications ask for work and home phone numbers. That is a limited view of how to communicate with volunteers. The technically savvy may prefer email. Others might want a printed newsletter. Here is a way to determine how to communicate personally and to groups.

A revision to the volunteer application is in order. This table below is a sample of what information could be collected. It provides an array of methods to communicate with volunteers. Give clear directions or adapt the form to get the information you need.

For example:

  • Ask them to indicate the address for email messages that is preferred.
  • Have them list the best way to be reached if there is an emergency (snow or storm days and the work site is closed.
  • If you use telephone trees to communicate information, have them indicate which number should be used.
    May We Contact or Send Information To You This Way?   May We Contact or Send Information To You This Way?
Type of Communication Home Number Yes No Work Number Yes No
Cell Phone            

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