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The Recruitment and Organization of Volunteers page and the Management & Supervision page have been merged into one new page. Everything from ideas to help you work more efficiently to the latest in research on keeping volunteers happy and productive, as well as ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

~ August 2007 ~ Topics

Recruiting Online Volunteers
The Story of Database Selection
Managing the Difficult Volunteer

Recruiting Online Volunteers

Many of today's volunteers find positions online. A recent email from Katherine Watier, at the Points of Light Foundation, steered Volunteer Today to a blog on recruiting volunteers by using Search Engine Optimization. [Yes, a manager of volunteers needs to know the Key Words to put on a recruiting page. The Web designer at your organization does not know this market like you do!]. The blog (http://www.1800volunteer.blogspot.com/) has a readable article on Search Engine Optimization and marketing, specifically focused on best practices for recruiting volunteers online. There are also some dandy tips on retaining people through the use of email.

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The Story of Database Selection
  • Why a database for a volunteer program?
  • Can count volunteers by the head
  • Can count hours of service by program
  • Can develop a demographic profile of volunteers
  • Can determine who is NOT volunteering demographically
  • Can use data for writing grants
  • Can use data to provide information to the volunteer recruiting team on the current state of volunteering in the organization
  • Provide statistics for the annual report
  • And the list goes on and on.....

This story begins with Robin, manager of volunteer programs, who is seeking information on purchasing a database for her program. She writes to several colleagues to ask their advice. She receives reviews on several different commercial programs. Then Sue writes and says, "Wait, you may have the stuff already and if you don't there is a Web site that can help." Sue directs Robin to Coyote Communications (Web Master Jayne Cravens) where the work has been done on evaluating software for volunteer databases. If you are considering a big purchase or wonder if what you have is right for your organization, visit the page on software databases: http://www.coyotecommunications.com/tech/software.html. We do not know the ending of the story, but thanks to Sue for providing this terrific resource.

Be sure to cruise around the Coyote Communications site. There are some other terrific resources and ideas for you to use: "Keep Your Vintage Computer Humming"; "How People in Remote Locations Can Work on the Same Document"; "Introducing New Technology," just to name but a few.

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Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for: Episodic Volunteering: Organizing and Managing the Short-Term Volunteer Program, (now available in downloadable PDF format) by Nancy Macduff and The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions, by Mary Kay Hood.

Details for Episodic Volunteering Book Details for One Minute Answer Book

Managing the Difficult Volunteer
  • What are the effects of the problem on the work done by the volunteer? [Clients are upset, work is done incorrectly, other volunteers refuse to work with this person]
  • Describe observable behaviors? [Observe rude behavior toward a client, work done is bad and unusable]
  • Is this a one time, "bad day" problem or a pattern?
  • Does the volunteer understand the "who, what, and why" of the task at hand?
  • Are there complicated or new processes or policies about which the volunteer is unfamiliar?
  • Does the person have the skills to do the work?
  • Was training comprehensive enough?
  • Is there a higher expectation than skill and training of volunteer warrant?
  • Could it be the volunteer is not really interested in this particular task?
  • Does the volunteer have burdens outside the work arena that is impacting performance?
  • Are other volunteers making the problem or making it worse?
  • Begin with a meeting with the volunteer where observable facts are presented to demonstrate the problem.
  • Listen to the volunteer's view of the situation. Ask the person to listen to your view and look at the "evidence."
  • Work to establish agreement about the problem and its causes.
  • List expectations for changes in behavior.
  • Work together to develop an action plan to correct the behavior.
  • Set a timetable for progress and date for next meeting to check on the progress.

Keep formal records of meetings and copies of evidence of the problem. Sometimes volunteers need permission to resign or quit a job. They may, in reality, be over-committed and think if they quit, they'll be letting you and the team down. The job of the manager is to give the volunteer permission to quit. In the long run it'll be better for the team and the organization if you can refill the position with someone who can make the commitment to accomplish the job.

Sometimes a volunteer is in the wrong place. It is also true that helping them to decide to resign, if the problem is very serious, is a good thing. Here are some discussion starters to help a person move on to another assignment (perhaps in your organization or in another):

    • Given your commitments, this volunteer position might not be right for you at this time.
    • Would you be more comfortable in resigning this position?
    • Given your duties with this volunteer position, might the expectations be more than you expected?

Probably the most difficult task a manager of volunteers can confront is that of removing a volunteer. Be sure written records are in order, summaries of meetings, any communication to and from the volunteer, and the most recent policies and procedures of the organization. Always keep the supervisor informed of progress on resolving the problem.  

Communicate in person with the volunteer, NEVER through email. Follow up to the meeting is a confirming letter, but with thanks for service given. Document the meeting and response to removal. Be professional in dealing with this information when answering questions of other volunteers.

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The Points of Light Foundation has forms available to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future. The award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like nomination forms, call 202-729-8000.


By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.

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