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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.

~ October 2006 ~ Topics

Courteous Communicating
Fun and Creativity in the Work Place
Putting the Pieces Together of the Priority Puzzle

Courteous Communicating

40% of Executives polled by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal state that today’s professionals are less courteous than ten years ago.

Here are some tips on courteous communicating:

Phone calls:

  • State your name and the agency/program you work for.
  • Smile – it translates through the air waves.
  • Establish rapport with executives but get to the point, save the small talk for volunteers and people you know well.
  • Respect the time of the person you are calling by asking if it is a good time to talk.
  • Make a list of what topics you want to cover and how long you want the call to last .
  • Don’t eat, chew gum or smoke on the phone.

Leaving Voice Messages:

  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • State the date/time you called, your name, organization and phone number.
  • Let the person know when you can be reached.
  • Repeat your name and phone number at the end of the call so callers don’t have to listen to the message multiple times.

Recording Voice Messages:

  • Let others know if you are gone and when they can expect a call back.
  • Leave an alternative number if they need immediate assistance.
  • Try to answer calls within 24 hours even if it is just to let them know you are busy and when you are able to give them your full attention.


  • Use your business writing, save abbreviations and slang for Instant Messenger.
  • Don’t type in capitals unless you intend on shouting.
  • Use spell-check, especially in the subject line.
  • Proofread by reading out loud and/or waiting a short period before undertaking.
  • Use the subject line.
  • Respect other’s identity by using BC (blind copy) to hide e-mail addresses if it sent to multiple people.
  • Try to answer emails within 24 hours even if it is just to let them know you are busy and when you will be able to give them your full attention.

Being courteous takes minimal effort to create a lasting positive impression about you and your organization. Recipients of your courtesy will also tend to be more responsive to your requests.

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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

Fun and Creativity in the Work Place

My daughter has a book entitled "Where did the baby go?" It's about a little girl who sees a picture of herself as a baby and wants to know where that baby went. She looks all over the house for the baby until she finds her as she looking at herself in the mirror.

We all start off as babies and then grow older, go to school, get a degree, start working, and have families of our own…yada, yada. So what happened to our youthful side? Does our reflection compare to what we were like in our youth? We pat ourselves on the back for how many volunteers we recruited, events that were successful and funds we raised. What if we remembered the times at work we made someone smile or we laughed so hard our stomachs hurt? Do we allow ourselves to play dress up or be silly anymore?

Fun in the workplace doesn't mean a loss of productivity or something you do while the boss is away. It means relieving stress, increasing energy, breaking up monotony, and building camaraderie. So what does it look like in the workplace? How do we still get work done while having fun?

Here are some suggestions:

» Smile and laugh often – it's contagious
» Laugh at yourself; tell others about your "senior" or "blonde" moments
» Allow yourself time for fun, even better - schedule it
» Give others permission to be merry
» Provide opportunities for others to use their own creativity
» Bring creativity into your office décor
» Give a good excuse for an office party such as birthdays, holidays
» Interact with others "off the clock"
» Have brainstorming sessions where ideas run wild
» Be spontaneous and break up your daily routine
» Listen to music at work
» Have a casual dress day at work
» Spice up e-mails to co-workers with clip art
» Lighten up work place with a cartoon now and then

"Humor is a serious thing. I like to think of it as one of our greatest earliest natural resources, which must be preserved at all cost."
James Thurber

Putting the Pieces Together of the Priority Puzzle

Sometimes the work that needs to be completed feels like a 2,000 piece puzzle that doesn’t have a picture to go by. You have all the pieces of your workload but need a strategy to put them all together.

Here are some suggestions I have gleaned from putting puzzles together with my family:

Select which puzzle you want to put together: Identify what your passion is and/or which problem(s) you want to solve.
Decide how much time you want to allocate putting it together: Estimate how much time it will take to complete.
Take all the pieces out of the box: Write out everything that needs to be done.
Implement your strategy: Make a concerted effort to work on small sections at a time and celebrate accomplishments when completed.
Pay attention to things going on in other areas: Deal with priorities in your life outside of your workload.
Ask others to help with the puzzle: Delegate sections for others to do.
Notice strategies that others use while working on the puzzle: Could it be that someone has an efficient method you hadn’t thought of?
Find time to put it together: Do a little bit at a time, especially the parts that give you the most satisfaction.
Realize the pieces can get mixed up: Anticipate there will be days when things will not go the way you planned.

Just like a puzzle, you can organize your workload and apply a strategy to get it all done gradually.

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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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Liz Needham

Liz Needham is currently the Volunteer Services Coordinator for the City of Raleigh Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and Foster Grandparent Program. She has 12 years of managerial and supervisory experience in the non-profit, local government and business sectors. She can be reached by email at: elizabeth.needham@ci.raleigh.nc.us or by phone at: (919) 831-6098.

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