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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.

~ August 2006 ~ Topics

Quick Get Acquainted Tip
Being a Reference for a Volunteer
“An Ounce of Prevention”--Quick Tips on Listening

Quick Get Acquainted Tip

Big meeting coming up? Lots of people who do not know each other? How can you get them to mix in a hurry?

As people arrive, give them a playing card. Ask them to mingle and find others with cards that might make a good poker hand. Give prizes for the top three hands.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for Secrets of Leadership by Rick Lynch & Sue Vineyard and Best of All: The Quick Reference Guide to Effective Volunteer Involvement by Linda Graff.

Details for Secrets of Leadership Book Details for Best of All Book

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Being a Reference for a Volunteer

Volunteers are encouraged to list their volunteer organization as a reference if applying for a job or another volunteer position. This is especially true for young people. How can you provide references with consistency that do not harm the program or the volunteer.

  • Stick to facts. Restrain the need to editorialize or add personal opinions. Provide the dates of service and the types of work done by the volunteer. Then sit silently. Let the interviewer ask questions. Answer specifically to the question, trying not to veer off into personal observations.
  • Ask to see the position description. Get a look at what the organization is seeking. Learn the parameters of the job. Respond to questions as they relate to the job the individual will be doing.
  • Be specific. If the person is a team player, get specific. Give examples, with time, place and situation. "We had a project that required a team of very different people to work together, X was a member of that team and..."
  • Set your reference in context. Qualify your comments with phrases like, "In our experience..." or "In this situation..." People respond differently in different situations. And it is important to remind the person asking for the reference of this in a subtle manner.

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“An Ounce of Prevention”--Quick Tips on Listening

Encounter a sticky situation and communication plummets? Wonder what someone is trying to tell you? Confused? It could be a listening break down. Not to worry. Here are four quick steps to get the communication back and going.

Clarify. Ask open-ended questions. Do not restrain yourself. The gap may be filled by clarifying what is intended, what a word means to the person, but not you, or a lurking misunderstanding. "Can you clarify for me what you mean when you say...."

Affirmation. Nodding your head or saying affirming things can help a speaker's confidence. They are likely to expand on what is being said and the meaning becomes clearer for the listener.

Restate. Use your own words and repeat the gist of what the person has said. "Gosh, I think my brain took a nap. Let me make sure I have this clearly. You said,..."

Lead. Someone who asks us to tell more or explain more fully is likely to get a whole boatload of information. "Go on."

Question: You're in a rush and you can remember this article—vaguely—but forget the steps. Answer: It is the CARL method of effective listening.



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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