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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’ve been asked to speak to volunteers at a correctional facility.  What kind of recognition do you think is best?


Dear JD:

Personally I think that recognition should always be as specific as possible.  This can be difficult to do when you’re speaking to a group.  I suggest you talk about specific outcomes that volunteers have helped your facility achieve:  number of families served, hours given both annually and by volunteer position, range of services volunteers provide, etc.  Most important is to place these outcomes in the context of the mission of your organization so that you can show exactly the important roles volunteers play in achieving the mission.  Volunteers want to know that they’re making a difference and exactly how.  So it’s up to you to connect the dots for them both at the task level and the organizational level.

Dear Connie:

I have a couple of questions for you.  I will be doing a training on supervision and a couple of things I have been Googling are: coaching tips for volunteer managers and samples of performance/evaluation reviews for volunteers.  Do you have any samples or tips you can share?  Thank you! 


Dear BT:

Coaching volunteers and employees is both an art and a science.  The “art part” depends on a person’s personality, leadership style, experience, personal goals, etc.  The science is something we can all learn to do effectively.  Here are some characteristics of effective coaching techniques:

  • Understanding the “what” and “why” of what other people say, reducing the potential for misunderstanding.
  • Effectively managing conflict and handling difficult situations/people.
  • Gaining information by focusing on what other people are saying.
  • Being able to facilitate, guide, and close discussions in one-on-one or group settings.
  • Effectively giving and receiving feedback.
  • Building on other people’s ideas, crediting them for the ideas, and avoiding putting others on the defensive.
  • Making a positive impact on the quality of teamwork and productivity within the work environment.
  • Providing the opportunity to go beyond individual effort, emphasizing the achievement of common goals by all.
  • Defining and setting up a method to evaluate individual activity and progress. 


This last point speaks to your question about “performance/evaluation review” of volunteers.  There are many resources, some even free, on the Internet so I encourage you to take advantage of what’s out there.  Be sure to check out the books and articles available at VolunteerToday and Energize, Inc. . Some good general advice comes from the Volunteer Manual of the Halifax Regional CAP Association (Canada): [http://hrca.ns.ca/volunteer/manual/section7/section7.htm]

What are the benefits to measuring performance?
There are many benefits to measuring the performance of our volunteers. They include:

  • Measuring goal attainment.
  • Measuring the effectiveness of the position and the person in this position.
  • Determining if the position is right for the individual.  Is the volunteer happy in this position?
  • Determining areas for volunteer training and assistance.
  • Providing opportunities to give feedback.  Most volunteers are in these positions to make a difference. This process helps them to determine their areas of strength, likes, needs, etc.

When should performance appraisals be conducted?
The standard answer is "It Depends."  However it is suggested, as a rule of thumb, that performance appraisals be conducted:

  • Before beginning an assignment.
  • Every six to twelve months in an assignment.
  • At the end of the assignment.

Even if the position is unchanging and the volunteer is happy in the position, an appraisal should be completed at least once per year. Please note that the frequency of appraisals is dependant upon:

  • Any change involved in processes.
  • Any significant changes in volunteer production.
  • Change in attitude of the volunteer.
  • Any changes in management.
Any significant factors that change the working environment of the volunteer.

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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