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On this page are ideas to help you work more efficiently with volunteers. There are tips on recruiting, engaging, coordinating, and managing the work of volunteers.

~November 2009~

Distance Volunteers: What Is This?

Some organizations have distance volunteers. These are people physically distant from the point of recruitment and management. For example, the state offices for AARP rely on networks of members in various parts of the state to deliver programs such a safe-driver certification. The Red Cross might serve a large geographic area and volunteers can be hundreds of miles from one another and headquarters. These are the most obvious forms of distance supervision. Here are some other options to consider when using the term “Distance Supervision.”

Cultural Distance: Distance can be created by a gap in the “cultural” paradigms of volunteers from the parent organization or program. It can be a “distance” based on community norms, physical distance, language and cultural differences, or physical mobility considerations. Anything of a more personal nature that is “different” from the norm of volunteers who have traditionally and historically served the organization.

Educational Distance: Certain skill sets are needed for certain types of volunteer tasks or services. If an organization decides to expand the volunteer corps with people who do not arrive with a certain skill set, the distances can create a problem with engagement, as well as management.

Virtual Distance: As organizations explore the role for “virtual volunteers,” those doing their volunteer service via the Web (writing blogs, researching grant opportunities, doing data base management, etc.) the strategies to engage and manage might be challenging.

In considering the expansion of “distance” volunteers the coordinator of volunteers needs to keep in mind some key elements to be successful in engaging people. As an example, several studies of virtual volunteers shows them to have the same complaints as their on-site colleagues when it comes to management. (An earlier article in Volunteer Today outlined the complaints.) Here are some key elements to use to more successfully recruit and engage the distance volunteer.

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Personality Inventories-Brief History

Personality inventories like DISC or the Myers/Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) are staples in the training and professional development of those who work in nonprofit organizations. Understanding the various personalities in a volunteer corps can be helpful to managing those volunteers and resolving conflicts. The inventories give a window into why someone might enjoy working with one person rather than another.

Many people believe that these inventories that categorize people by their personal preferences are an invention of the 19th and 20th century. In fact, since the advent of recorded time (and likely before that) human beings have been try to figure out why someone is different from them, why they are attracted to certain types of people and not others, and what it might take to get alone better with a family member.

Check out the designations given to personality types long before the days of MBTI or DISC. Click here for Personality Inventories-Brief History.

Check out the article on micro-volunteering on the TechTips page.
Another pertinent article deals with the impact of age generations on volunteering. It is on the Health Volunteer Programs page.

Live in Michigan? Want training on Volunteer Recruiting? Check out the dates on News page

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