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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

~ March 2008 ~

Dear Connie:

Three months ago I joined an agricultural services company, and one of my responsibilities includes corporate social investment (CSI). I would like to start an employee volunteering program in the next two-three months, and would greatly appreciate it if you could give me advice on how to start. The company is quite diverse in terms of the services it offers; has branches all over the country and spoken and/or business languages are mainly English and Afrikaans. The CSI unit was only established at the beginning of last year, and generally I would say staff (and possibly management) is not really exposed to CSI and employee volunteerism programs specifically. I have just started an internal newsletter, and circulated the first issue last year December; no feedback yet from any person yet; however, I don’t give up easily and know that once people are used to it they will participate.  Please help!


Dear TM:

The Points of Light Foundation and Hands On Network website http://www.pointsoflight.org/networks/business/ has excellent resources on starting and promoting an employee volunteer program. 

Here's a list of all the FREE resources available at the site:

Employee Volunteer Programs (EVPs)
An Employee Volunteer Program is a company-supported effort to leverage organizational resources and engage employees in projects that target real community needs. Successful workplace volunteer programs meet core business goals and address issues that affect a company's or organization’s ability to operate. The Principles of Excellence serve as guidelines for developing and sustaining an effective EVP. The Principles are:

ACKNOWLEDGE that your company's community service involvement and its employee volunteer efforts contribute to the achievement of its business goals.

COMMIT to establish, support, and promote an employee volunteer program that encourages the involvement of every employee and treat it like any other core business function.

TARGET your community service efforts at serious social problems in the community.

FREE Benchmarks of Excellence Series includes:
How the Best EVPs Structure Themselves
Magnitude & Nature of Volunteering at the Best EVPs
Policies & Procedures of the Best EVPs
Compare the Practices of Your EVP to Those of Award-Finalist Companies

FREE Workplace Volunteering Brief Series includes:
Top Seven Trends Affecting EVPs
Using Employee Volunteering to Benefit HR Departments

FREE Opinion Series includes:
For Better Employees, Nudge Them Out of the Office

FREE Recent Publications & Resources:
The Promise Employee Skill-Based Volunteering Holds for Employee Skills and Nonprofit Partner Effectiveness
Family Volunteering – A Guide for the Workplace (Courtesy of Disney)

Service Tool Kit – How to Develop and Manage Powerful Community Service Events (Courtesy of Timberland).

Dear Connie:

I am looking for resources that speak to professional staff partnering with volunteers as a means of expanding program and service delivery for non-profit agencies.  Professional staff often seems reluctant to share responsibilities with volunteers as equals and transforming themselves into a “Team Leader” role.  I wish to explore, and promote, the “Team Service Delivery System” within our agency.


Dear BK:

These unique staff-volunteer partnerships have in them the element of "human nature," which sometimes makes them difficult to create and manage effectively. I have found that productive partnerships between staff and volunteers are characterized by:

  • Two-way communication that informs both staff and volunteers about "who is doing what, when, and how."
  • Team building that involves volunteers in all levels of the organization's planning and decision making to increase the ownership of institutional goals by everyone.
  • Open, honest evaluation of volunteer activities by both staff and volunteers to increase the success of all volunteer efforts.
  • Public and private recognition of the accomplishments of volunteers and their staff partners.

Ivan Scheier's book, Building Volunteer-Staff Relations, is an excellent resource.  You'll find valuable philosophical insight about staff-volunteer partnerships as well as helpful checklists.  He provides tools to diagnose why there’s so often tension between employees and volunteers and guides you in taking the steps to develop successful working teams.  Ivan believes that, "The success of a volunteer program depends as much on staff motivation as it does on volunteer motivation."  Available at Energize, Inc. www.energizeinc.com in electronic format $9 and printed format $16.95.

Another good resource is Building Better Relationships with Volunteers by Nan Hawthorne.  This training kit has all you need to bolster positive relationships between the staff and volunteers: step-by-step training manual, handout masters and transparencies - even a flyer announcing the training!  Help staff understand why people volunteer, and use this information to enhance both their work and their jobs!  Available at Volunteer Today www.volunteertoday.com for $28.70.

From the Top Down: The Executive Role in Volunteer Program Success by Susan J. Ellis is another excellent book that addresses the top decision-maker's role in a volunteer program. It illuminates the issues necessary to facilitate volunteer program success, including developing a vision for volunteer involvement, addressing questions of policy, budgeting funds and other resources, staffing the volunteer program, assessing the impact of volunteer contributions, and dealing with legal, risk management, and insurance issues.  Available at Energize, Inc. www.energizeinc.com bookstore for $24.95.

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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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