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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.

~ June 2007 ~ Topics

Managing the Creative Volunteer
Turning the Volunteer Corps Green

Managing the Creative Volunteer
1. Organize a workspace where creativity can flourish. Provide your volunteers with an environment conducive to creativity. This means knowing if someone is most creative by being alone or working with a group. Get them in the right spot. Observe your volunteers and note when they do their best work.
2. Remember that everyone is creative. Some people are creative about some things and not others. Be a good observer. See where and when people shine and get them into that place as often as possible.
3. Provide some structure. Creative people can sometimes be flighty. Give enough structure to keep volunteers on track and on schedule. Let them know when it is time to complete the task and move on to something new.
4. Give employees time to dream. People need time to recharge. Initiate sabbaticals for volunteers. Give that stalwart volunteer a six-month hiatus. Mark your calendar and call them six months to the day from giving them the sabbatical and welcome them back for their fresh ideas and energy. Give room and time to think, explore, question, even play.
5. Seek balance. Some creative volunteers can neglect, routine aspects of projects or tasks. Paperwork must be completed, clients must be attended to. Routine work must get done. Be flexible with volunteers, but never apologize for insisting that they not neglect the less exciting aspects of their job.
6. Give volunteers real problems. Provide volunteers with information on a problem. Set some parameters (this does not mean telling them how to solve the problem!) Let them get the big picture. Turn them loose - the results may surprise you.
7. Be generous with praise. Provide reinforcement and support for your creative volunteers. Volunteers engaged in creative work need support as much as anyone else. Avoid taking creative people for granted. These volunteers are no different from your other volunteers - everyone needs praise and recognition for work well done.
8. Be open to new ways of working. As much as possible, creative volunteers should have the freedom to work on their own terms and on their own schedule. Allow them to be responsible. This does not mean there is no accountability, but the accountability is not necessarily measured in hours hunched over a copy machine. Rather, the accountability is seen in quantifiable results - that brilliant new idea, amazing new project, or anything else they can dream up.

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Turning the Volunteer Corps Green

Global warming, climate change, recycling, environmental degradation, not enough water for alligators in Florida, tsunamis in Asia, the list of planetary issues is a close as the front page of most papers and news magazines. So what does that have to do with volunteers?

Many of you may not remember the hole in the ozone, and if you do, we know how old you are! It was a concerted effort on the part of every day folks, like volunteers, to avert a global catastrophe caused by the chemicals in spray cans of just about everything. Individuals can make a difference in changing the health of our fragile island home.

If you do email updates or send out paper newsletters to volunteers, you can include tips or hints on things individuals can do to work toward a healthy planet. A wonderful, wacky source of daily "green" tips is Idealbites.com. You subscribe (no cost) and each day you get a new idea on a variety of topics to make for a more hospitable environment. Some of them are quite funny and irreverent.

This is a wonderful task for a homebound volunteer. It can all be done via email, limiting the work of the manager of volunteers. A small church in Washington state has a volunteer who sends out an email to the parishioners about twice a month with tips and hints on being "green." She created a "Green Team" which is made up of anyone who sends her a "green" idea. The owner of a new Prius (hybrid car) thinks he should get a better parking space because his car is so nice to the environment! The project has engaged people of all ages and best of all it is good for the planet. Why not engage your volunteers in such an endeavor. It will take all of us to clean up the mess.

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

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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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This month's author is Nancy Macduff, our managing editor. Email: editor@volunteertoday.com.

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