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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.

~ July 2006 ~ Topics

Leaders Believe in Lifelong Learning
Managing Complainers
Build Your Credibility

Leaders Believe in Lifelong Learning

Leaders are believers in lifelong learning. If you expect volunteers to attend training and special workshops to better do their jobs, then you need to model that behavior.

  • Remain open to new ideas. Even if you think you have been to every training course on managing volunteers, go to the one that is next month. Knowledge is provisional, never static. Things you learned 5 years ago might be different. Attend training and challenge the conventional wisdom of the past.
  • Seek humility. If you think you have all the answers, you have cut off new avenues of thinking about volunteers, volunteer management and administration, and the basics of your position. Humility can help tap into insights that enhance skills, bring new perspectives to old problems, or answer questions. Lifelong learning gives you a limitless knowledge base.
  • Seek broad ranges of information. The editor of this newsletter is a member of the World Futurist Society. That membership brings with it publications on all manner of what the future holds. Some applies directly to working with volunteers and other things relate to fossil fuels and space exploration, but the broad sweep of information is always thought provoking and builds a knowledge base in a different way. Seek out the unfiltered. Listen to competitors in the volunteer recruitment market. Think two years out.
  • Acknowledge personal bias. Information is filtered through a person's previous experience and learning, and is influenced by "how" we learn. Know what those biases are. Recognition of one's own limitations is a step toward avoiding the pitfalls of making bad judgments, due to a bias.

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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Managing Complainers

There are chronic complainers in the world. Seems like something is wrong with everything, as far as they are concerned. How can you deal with them? Pointed questions are one effective tactic: "What would you like to see happen here?" "How can I help you handle this right now?" This sends the message that complaining has a time limit. It might not end it forever, but it can shorten the time you spend with it.

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Build Your Credibility

A manager of volunteers joined the old organization for practitioners, the Association for Volunteer Administration. She subscribed to the journal. In an issue of the journal she found an article she knew would be of interest to the leader of her organization, in this case an executive director. So, she dropped the issue of the journal off with appropriate notes to direct the woman to the article in question.

A couple days later the executive director dropped by with the journal and said, "I had no idea there were scholars who studied the management of volunteers. This was helpful. Can you find more for me? Are there journals that talk about working with boards?" Thus began a new relationship with the head of the organization and the manager of volunteers. And it was all about credibility.

Seems as if this executive director saw her manager of volunteers in a different light when it became obvious there were scholars studying volunteerism, professional associations with standards, and so much more. Adults have credibility "radar." We respond more favorable when someone backs up an opinion, idea or suggestion with a quote, some research, or data from a reputable source.

The good news is that while AVA no longer exists, the Journal of Volunteer Administration has found a home at North Carolina State University, in the capable hands of Dale Safrit, Editor. The journal has been renamed, the International Journal of Volunteer Administration, which is to be an online journal, for a modest sum, and will soon be available for subscriptions. Volunteer Today will provide subscription information when it is available.

In addition to this journal there are others, some more scholarly in their approach than others. Here is a list:

If you lack funds to subscribe or join the organizations that sponsor some of these journals there are things you can do to maintain credibility. Keep a file on data, research, and information that can bolster your ideas and suggestions and give you credibility. You might start with the UPS Study that clearly shows the impact of a paid manager of volunteers on the quality of a program. It can be found at the UPS site: Volunteer Management Capacity Survey Summary of Key Findings at http://community.ups.com/philanthropy/toolbox.html. Be sure to share it once you have found it.

Do you conduct surveys? Write questionnaires? Check out the article on survey questions on the "Training" page of Volunteer Today?


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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