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Visit this page for ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

~ May 2007 ~ Topics

Give Your Brain a Break
Risk Management: Money
Working With Guilds and Auxiliaries
Rate Your Leadership Style

Give Your Brain a Break

Anyone managing volunteers rarely has "down" time. This is time when those pesky jobs you never have time for could be done. It is however, important to give your taxed brain a "rest" during the day in order for it to work more efficiently as the day progresses. Set a 30-minute period aside every other day to do some of the tasks listed below, or other things that you put off doing because you are too busy.

  1. Clean up the computer. Reorganize and discard those email files. Clean up your desktop. Reorganize the tool bar on the computer to make it work better for you.
  2. Spring cleaning for your folders. In the old days of paper, businesses would do an annual clean-up of files. Do the same for your computer folders and files. The project completed two years ago can be discarded or archived. Put a file on the organizational server with such archival material, if you cannot part with it.
  3. Teach yourself a new skill. You really want to create a database for volunteers, but time eludes you and those database programs like Excel are scary! There is a tutorial to learn how to use it. Take time to up-grade your skills.file image
  4. Upgrade databases. Records of events, recognition, names, and hours served. The last thing on a to-do list is database entry. Set aside time to do this, or better yet, recruit an online volunteer who can do it for you. It is a distance volunteer position the person can do on his/her timetable and you have saved a heap of time.
  5. Paper files? Decide to have them cleaned out before July 15 each year.
  6. Write out a training plan. Training plans should be written in a "training plan format" so someone who comes after you can pick it up and the training is consistent from year to year. Take it out of your brain and get it on paper. Include original copies of handouts and list of other resources needed. (handbooks, PowerPoint, overhead, etc.)

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Risk Management: Money

boat image Managing volunteers includes considering the risks to the volunteer, the organization, the person or thing being served, and to the larger community. Most organizations are working toward protecting all these stakeholders from the common types of physical risk. It is also important to consider the risks related to money.

Many volunteers handle money for gift shops, events, sales of memorabilia, and the like. Here are some risk management questions to insure that you are taking steps to protect everyone who deals with money or fiduciary issues.

  • If you are running an organization, are the appropriate audit controls established and enforced? For example, two signatures on all checks and no exceptions.
  • Are the volunteer positions that deal with money rotated on a regular basis? Keeping the same person in a position indefinitely is not good management and has the potential to invite problems.
  • If cash or checks are handled by a volunteer, are they deposited immediately? Establish systems to get money into a secure location as quickly as possible. It might mean deposit slips and bank envelopes for weekend deposits, but better than the trunk of a car.
  • If you use a safe for money, is it fire resistant?
  • Are the premises where cash is kept secure?
  • Do you establish volunteer responsibilities so no one person controls the entire process—receiving money, registering deposits, withdrawals, and balancing the accounts? By dividing up the duties you automatically build in a check and balance system for dealing with cash. Recent cases across the world show that voluntary and nonprofit organizations are not immune from the skullduggery of unscrupulous people.

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Working With Guilds and Auxiliaries

This article concludes a series written by Mary Kay Hood on working with guilds and auxiliaries. Previous articles can be accessed in the Volunteer Today Archives.

bar image It is now over a year later and how are things going with the merger of the guild into the volunteer program? Things are good! There has been no negative feedback, no undercurrents and no undermining of the merger. The skeptics have been quiet because they have seen the guild membership numbers experience a large increase and stabilize. The two entities are one, the guild name is prevalent throughout the organization in marketing, and public relations efforts for the volunteer program are more possible than when there were separate entities. The guild has a future. When when you stand back and take a closer look, it's really just a question of semantics. The secret is that nothing's changed and everything has changed. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.

bullet As regulatory requirements have increased in the healthcare arena through the years, the paid director of volunteer services began to take on more and more of the work that started out being done by volunteers. Those duties expanded in the last 15-20 years to include oversight for annual health screening, interviewing, screening, mandatory education, to name a few. And with the paid director able to devote appropriate hours to the responsibilities of directing a volunteer program, the older generation of volunteers (the veterans) was content to chef imagemaintain things as done in the past.

bullet The dwindling involvement of the guild over the last several years moved more responsibilities and duties to the volunteer services office. The last vestiges of responsibilities for the guild included the fund raising event activities, scholarship selection and the gift shop. Duties for the fund raising events include making conference room reservations, making the initial and follow-up contact with vendors to arrange dates and then following through with the hospital's marketing department to ensure the appropriate efforts were done to ensure a successful event. The final duty was to close out the event when the sale was over. The scholarship committee played a very active role for the guild's scholarship program but the correspondence to potential applicants was handled through the volunteer office. Scholarship applications were received by the office, copied and distributed to the committee members for review with all the arrangements for the scholarship committee to meet with potential recipients arranged by the volunteer services office. The gift shop through the years had become much more than most of the guild members were willing to handle and subsequently had turned over most of the management and purchasing for the gift shop to a paid gift shop manager, under the direction of the director of volunteer services. The end result of all of these examples was that guild membership increasingly relied on the staff within the volunteer services department to accomplish their mission, goals and workload.

bullet In recent years, the guild's board members had put forth their best efforts and because the board members were the same people re-cycling through the officer ranks as bylaws permit, the guild was lacking any new blood or any new members representing younger. Couple that with the fact that those who came to volunteer at the hospital were not interested in joining a guild -- they just wanted to volunteer. The end result was dwindling guild membership numbers. Those who were willing to step up for leadership positions, were all of the same generation -- and in my case of my facility, that was the veterans era generation. You may remember from the first part of this series that the veterans era generation is known as the stable, loyal generation. Change comes hard for them. If a guild worked for 35 or 40 years, then why should things change? It is that mindset that was undermining the future of the guild. I had challenged them on previous strategic planning retreats to re-invent themselves so that there would be something to "sell" to new volunteers, potentially increasing interest in the guild and increasing membership numbers. But because they were stuck (a generationally challenge for some), it was difficult to see the future.

bullet It was during the strategic planning retreat where I had the "aha" moment, that I realized most of the guild membership believed there was no difference between the guild and volunteer. And with this concept, I then proposed the merger. After all, the volunteer services department had been doing much of the work of the guild anyway. So with this thought in mind, things have continued in much the same fashion as previously when there were two separate entities. The biggest difference is the overarching structural change of an appointed advisory board rather than elected leadership. And with the merger, the guild's future is solidified at the hospital.

bullet I'm not so naive to recognize that there were some things that allowed this to happen without much turmoil. The first thing is the timing. And this is something that you need to pay attention to and pick and choose your time for change carefully. In my situation, the numbers had dropped off dramatically in recent years and those in positions of leadership within the guild were ready to "retire" the guild and do away with it altogether by turning over the last responsibilities to the volunteer services department. present image

bullet The second thing that aided in the success of this venture is the fact that there were some people in leadership positions for the guild that had a bit more vision than most. They recognized the potential future and longevity for the guild by consolidating the two entities into one. And with these two things in my favor, the merger allows us to "honor the past while setting course for the future" for the hospital guild. Change is difficult for almost everyone. In this case, the change was in the packaging.

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Rate Your Leadership Style

Directions: Assign a numeric value to each of your answers.
Always = 4 points       Often = 3 points       Seldom = 2 points Never = 1 pt.






1. I make the final decisions for the volunteer program





2. I take the time to explain the reasoning behind decisions to volunteers.





3. I usually ask others to offer new ideas or untried solutions before going forward.





4. I like taking on difficult problems with no clear solutions





5. I usually rely on my own judgment and experience to make decisions.





6. I believe that too many procedures can hamper creativity and the chances for success.





7. I often delegate responsibility once volunteers have been properly trained.





8. I make decisions based on “gut” instinct, rather than experience or research.





9. I work to get feedback from volunteers on priority setting.





10. I believe that without clear guidelines, volunteers can make mistakes.





11. Before changing policies or procedures, I talk with volunteers and work for consensus.





12. I invest in professional development opportunities for myself and for volunteers.





In the chart below, fill in the scores for each question, as recorded above. Then add up each one in the total box. The highest score indicates the leadership style you are most comfortable with. See the chart below for descriptions of the strengths and pitfalls of each style.

Drill Sergeant
Task Focused Style

Goal Focused Syle

Group Focused Syle

Idea Focused Style

Questions Score Questions Score Questions Score Questions Score
1   2   3   4  
5   7   9   6  
10   12   11   8  









Task-Focused Style



  • Shows determination
  • Results oriented
  • Decisive
  • Values consistency and history
  • Might not listen to volunteers
  • Can be abrupt or impatient
  • Value action over wisdom
  • Stubborn

Goal-Focused Style



  • Delegator/Teacher
  • Team oriented
  • Logical and orderly
  • Long term commitment
  • Can be controlling
  • Set goals too high
  • Dumps too much responsibility too early
  • Individual performance might not be acknowledged

Group-Focused Style



  • Cautious
  • Avoids risk
  • People oriented
  • Listens
  • Open
  • Likes change and creativity
  • Waits too long
  • Wants to be liked, sometimes to a fault
  • Over analysis
  • Not good at organization and structure

Idea-Focused Style



  • Vision oriented
  • Likes big ideas and enthusiasm
  • Personable
  • Uses intuition in leading
  • Impetuous
  • Lacks follow-through
  • Can rely on charm to motivate
  • Too optimistic
  • Easily distracted
  • Not detail oriented

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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


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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