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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.

~ June 2006 ~ Topics

Workplace Skills of Volunteers Go Largely Untapped
Quick Tips
Who Pushes Your Button?

Workplace Skills of Volunteers Go Largely Untapped

Workplace volunteers report their skills as being unused in volunteer assignments. A study released in April outlines the problem. For more details see the report on the News page of Volunteer Today, with hot link to the actual report.

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.

Details for Secrets of Leadership Book Details for Risk Management Book

Quick Tips

Pull more visitors to your Web site by hyper linking keyword laden-text , rather than just hyper linking the phrase "Click Here." The hyperlink is more interesting to visitors and the search engines that bring visitors in the first place, will also come to the site. Don't understand this? Take it to the person in charge of creating the organizational Web site. He/she can tell you if this is being done.
You can speed up brainstorming sessions by changing the way you record things on easel paper. Use script, not print in the writing down what people say. It is 30%-50% faster.
Project that you are a professional. Never asks permission to ask a question or make a comment. Banish the phrase "May I add something?" from your lexicon of sentences. When you have something to say, wait for a break in the discussion and say, "I have a comment on that," or "I have a question about that."
Have a hard time saying no? Here are two phrases to help you when the answer really needs to be no. "If I do this, I won't be able to finish the other things I've committed to do." "I am sure I won't do as good a job as I would like on this, because of my other commitments, and that would disappoint both of us."
Want to build good volunteer meetings? Start with something that gets everyone participating. Ask each person to take 30 seconds to express expectations for the meeting.
One way to create an edge in your recruiting is to offer flexibility. Remind people that the one thing your organization prides itself on is the ability to be flexible and find the right tasks or services for anyone who wishes to volunteer. And mean it!
Screening volunteers for challenging positions can be difficult. If you use references, look for the tepid or luke-warm response to questions. Ask the person if they would allow a family member to work with the person. The answer could be revealing.
Are you having a down day? Slump? Ask yourself, "If I were gone to Cancun, Mexico for two weeks, who would complain?" It is a way to remember just how important your contributions are to the organization.

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Who Pushes Your Button?

Most managers of volunteers are comfortable with a wide array of personality types. There are, however, certain people who push our "buttons" and are more difficult to cope with than others. Here are some of those personality types and strategies for coping with them. Read the list and identify your personal "button pushers." When you know which type it is, you can likely cope with them more effectively.

Type Description Strategy to Cope
Side Talkers Distract group or meetings by chatting with their neighbors when others are talking.
  • Confront directly about behavior.
  • You should continue talking, but move physically closer if you are standing.
  • Stop talking and wait until they stop talking, then pick up where you left off.
Arguers Want to establish their authority by arguing with you or anyone else in a leadership role. Their aggression often masks personal insecurities.
  • Acknowledge comments without being defensive.
  • Play to the challenge—invite more comments and information from them and the rest of the group.
Ramblers Long-winded answers come from simple questions. The person never seems to get to the point.
  • Do not allow them to go on and on. When they take a breath, summarize their points and conclude with some observations.
  • Get others opinions on the topic.
Earnest & Eager Know everything and are the first to chime in with opinions. Always have ideas and suggestions. Do not let others in on the fun.
  • Never squash the enthusiasm. Groups need energy he/she often provides it.
  • Invite others to build on the person’s ideas.


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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