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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

~2009 ~


Dear Connie:

I am updating my volunteer application.  Are there any new questions I should add?


Dear AR:

One of my clients recently updated their volunteer application and added a section that I really like called “Previous Experience.”  We usually ask for any previous employment or volunteer experience, but they expanded this section by adding the following:

  • Service as a volunteer, mentor, or coach
  • Hobbies that relate to our mission
  • Drama or other public speaking or performance experience
  • Foreign language(s)
  • Experience with special needs groups

Each of the above categories provides space to give a brief description, name of organization, years of service or participation, etc.  You could also add categories that relate specifically to your organization and “mine” more information about potential volunteers.

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Dear Connie:

I would like to get feedback from my volunteers on their likes and dislikes about our volunteer program, but I’m unsure exactly what to ask them.  Do you have any suggestions?


Dear NR:

First, I recommend that you ask questions that you really want answered so as not to waste anyone’s time.  Second, ask questions about subjects that you can do something about so that volunteers don’t think they can solve all the problems they see (or think they see!) at your institution through your survey.  Here are a few suggestions for you:

  1. Do you receive the training you need to do your tasks?  If not, how can that be improved?
  2. Do you enjoy working at our organization?  If not, why not?
  3. Do you recommend volunteering here to your friends/family?  If not, why not?
  4. Do you receive enough/too much/too little communication from us about the volunteer program?
  5. Same question as above but for the organization.
  6. If you could change one thing about our volunteer program, what would it be?
  7. What's the best thing about your volunteer work here?
  8. What's the worst?
  9. Do you feel that your time here is well utilized?  If not, why not?
  10. Do you feel that your efforts are appropriately recognized?  If not, why not?

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Dear Connie: 

Do most organizations require interested applicants to attend general orientation sessions prior to becoming registered volunteers?  Thanks for your help!


Dear RP: 

Most successful volunteer programs do require new volunteers to attend an orientation.  In my humble opinion, orientation is one of the most important activities for new volunteers.  It’s the best opportunity to share with them your organization’s mission, introduce volunteer and staff leaders, get a tour of the offices, and meet the other new volunteers.  Too often volunteer program managers focus on training – providing information on specific tasks to be accomplished – as the first gathering of new volunteers.  Orientation is the time to introduce new volunteers to the culture of your organization and your volunteer program.  It is the best time to share your expectations for how volunteers support your organization’s mission and each other.  The primary purpose of orientation is to provide volunteers with the context within which they'll work.  An effective orientation will provide your volunteers with the following:

    • A description of the history of your organization.
    • A description of the overall programs and clients of your organization.
    • A sketch of the organization charts of your organization.
    • An orientation to the facilities and layout of your organization.
    • Knowledge of general policies and procedures in your organization and your volunteer program.
    • A description of your volunteer management system.

    Interested in assessing your volunteer recruiting strategies?

    Use a self-directed evaluation tool

    Get help with one of the Volunteer Program Evaluation Series.

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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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