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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.

~ May 2006 ~ Topics

Making the First Day Count
Assess Your Leadership Skills
Energize A Committee

Making the First Day Count

The volunteer completes the application, is successfully screened, and is showing up tomorrow. Here are some questions to make the experience of the first day the best one possible.

Why did you decide to join our organization as a volunteer?
Based on your experience so far, how would you describe our organization?
What do you think you need to learn?
What questions can I answer?
How can I support you as a volunteer?

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

Assess Your Leadership Skills

A tongue-in-cheek assessment of your leadership skill done with wit, can allow you to assess how well you lead others.

Directions: The assessments asks about four circumstances confronting most leaders, whether volunteers or paid staff. Indicate your answers to test your skills.

1. When someone admits a mistake, you should:

_____A. Show support. (It’s great when someone can admit to a mistake.”)
_____B. Downplay the error. (“Nothing to worry about.”)
_____C. Reprimand he person. (Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again.”)
_____D. Ask a follow-up question. (“Have you messed up anything else?”)

2. When you are leading a meeting, you:

_____A. Sum up and warm up group with 15 minute monologue.
_____B. Ask open-ended questions and lead discussions.
_____C. Place another person in charge and watch group dynamics.
_____D. Fall asleep during "Old Business."

3. If you are disappointed or angry with someone you are likely to:

______A. Express disappointment.
______B. Let person discover the consequences of his or her transgression.
______C. Think about message you wish to send, and then act accordingly.
______D. Eat a carton of Hagen-Daz to bury your disappointment.

4. The most important trait to display as a team leader is:

_____A. Wisdom of Solomon.
_____B. Inspirational power of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
_____C. Patience of Job.
_____D. The restraint of Adam Sandler in "Anger Management."

Answer Key:

1. A. Leaders should support people who are willing to own up to errors.
2. B. Leaders ask pointed questions and encourage free flowing discussion. . . at least while they are awake.
3. C. Leaders think before they speak. Although D is very tempting.
4. B. All are valuable, but leaders who cannot inspire are not really leaders.

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Energize a Committee

Committees run of gas on occasion. Sometimes it is critical to help them get their energy back with special exercises. This exercise is especially good when a committee needs to brainstorm ideas.

  1. In advance of a meeting, ask people to bring in old magazines. This can be ones they read all the time or new ones. You gather enough magazines from staff and volunteers to cover for those who might forget to bring magazines.
  2. Create a comfortable work space with tables and chairs, snacks and soft music. Then ask people to take a sheet of easel paper and glue, tape and scissors. (You will need to scout up enough of these for every other person to use).
  3. Ask people to look for ads, article, photos, images or headlines that capture their attention. Then, ask them to arrange the things chosen on the easel paper and post it on the walls of the meeting room.
  4. Use a set period of time to accomplish this task. Then ask people to look over the new décor and discuss their impressions. Use this discussion time to work on the issues facing the committee.

This use of the brain gets adults in a mode to be creative and energetic when tackling the problems or issues for which the committee is responsible. It can kindle a new spirit in a small group.


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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