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VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com

~ April 2007 ~ Topics

Top 10 Best Practices
Robert and His Rules: Online Resources

Dear Connie:

I am a new volunteer program manager. What are some basic best practices you can share about managing volunteers? Thanks! I always enjoy reading your column!


Dear PH:

Welcome to the profession! Here are my favorite:

Top 10
Best Volunteer Management Practices

10. Be clear about what needs to be done, how and by when.

9. Empower volunteers to do their jobs.

8. Train leadership volunteers to supervise and manage other volunteers.

7. Make it fun, even though it's serious work. No one volunteers to be miserable.

6. Never "use" volunteers - no one likes to be used so try words such as utilize, involve, or engage.

5. Recognition is a process not an event.

4. Tie all activities to the mission.

3. Most volunteers will do most any task if they know why - communicate, communicate, communicate.

2. Be organized - volunteers expect it.

1. Ensure that every volunteer has the training and coaching necessary to be successful - if volunteers are successful then you and your organization are successful!!

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Dear Connie:

I've recently become the chair of my organization's major fundraising committee. I think know the basics of Robert's Rules, but where can I get an easy refresher?


Dear RK:

Congratulations on your new position! Have a working knowledge of Robert and his Rules will help you be a more effective committee leader and ensure that your committee members work more effectively too!

In the 1800's, General Henry M. Robert was an engineering officer in the regular Army. Without warning he was asked to preside over a church meeting and realized that he did not know how. He tried anyway and his embarrassment was supreme. This event, which may seem familiar to many readers, left him determined never to attend another meeting until he knew something of parliamentary law.

Ultimately, he discovered and studied the few books then available on the subject. From time to time, due to his military duties, he was transferred to various parts of the United States where he found virtual parliamentary anarchy since each member from a different part of the country had differing ideas of correct procedure. To bring order out of chaos he decided to write Robert's Rules of Order as it came to be called. The First Edition was published in February, 1876.

Here are some important Web resources about Robert and his Rules:

http://www.robertsrules.com - The Official Robert's Rules site. On this website you'll find information about:

  • Robert's Rules of Order and its up-to-date current edition, Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR);
  • the short book that provides a simple introduction to parliamentary procedure, Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief (RONRIB);
  • the authors who have created the leading manual of parliamentary procedure; and
  • how you can use Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised to help your organization run more smoothly.

If you have a question about what Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised prescribes for a particular situation, check out the Frequently Asked Questions - you may get a quick, accurate answer. Also see Official Interpretations clarifying questions of parliamentary law by the authors of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised. If that doesn't settle the matter, you can participate in their Question and Answer Forum.

http://www.rulesonline.com - This site offers an adaptation and helpful outline to
Robert's original document. Although the copyright on the original Fourth Edition of Robert's Rules of Order Revised has expired, it remains an important work. RulesOnline.com contains the full text of the book, including lesson outlines and Plan for Study of Parliamentary Law, along with the added convenience and functionality of index and keyword search. This handy online reference tool is useful to the student of parliamentary procedure and the parliamentarian alike.

http://www.jimslaughter.com - Jim Slaughter is a Certified Professional Parliamentarian and Consultant. In addition to selling the latest edition of Robert's Rules, he offers a free "cheat sheet" that is invaluable.

http://parliamentarians.org - The web site of the National Association of Parliamentarian (NAP) is the home of Registered Parliamentarians. NAP offers a full range of information, most of it free. For example, did you know that April is "Parliamentary Law" month? NAP also provides a wide array of products and services to its members and to the general public in support of its educational mission. It produces educational materials for everyone, from the first-time member of a board or organization to the professional parliamentarian. Books provide essential reference material for parliamentarians and regular members alike, and these can be supplemented with reference cards, electronic references, and other essential meeting toolkit items.

http://www.parliamentaryprocedure.org/ -- The web site of the American Institute of Parliamentarians (AIP) is the home of Certified Parliamentarians. AIP's purpose is "to work for the improvement of parliamentary procedure to the end that decisions are made by parliamentary means rather than by violence or by dictatorial actions, and that mankind will learn to live in peace through effective implementation of sound democratic principles." AIP offers training, certification, and member services and products.

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Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
10103 Edward Avenue * Bethesda, MD 20814 * VOICE: 301-530-8233 * FAX: 301-530-8299

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