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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

~2010 ~

Dear Connie:

How many volunteers can one Volunteer Manager realistically manage? WHAT is humanly possible?!


Dear SA: 

There's no set number and my research reveals that organizations are "all over the park" about the ratio of staff to volunteers.  For example, in disaster relief situations the Red Cross uses a 55:1 (volunteers to staff) ratio.  Other organizations, such as a small environmental group uses a ratio of 3:1 for outdoor activities.  One approach might be to think about specifically training selected volunteers to supervise and/or manage other volunteers.  This way you would be "overseeing" the leadership volunteers who are in turn supervising other volunteers.  This works particularly well for special events because the volunteer program manager can’t possibly be everywhere all the time. 

If you’re trying to make the case for more staff support, I suggest you create a chart that visually demonstrates exactly how many volunteers you are supervising at any one time/day/event.  

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Dear Connie:

Do you have a website that can give me some inspiration for a Volunteer Recognition Banquet theme? 

Thank you!

Dear LT:

I certainly do have some websites that will give you lots of great ideas for banquet themes.  The first two sites are provided by your colleagues from all over the country at Energize, Inc.  You'll find them at:

http://www.energizeinc.com/ideas/gift.html great ideas for unique volunteer gifts

http://www.energizeinc.com/ideas/banquets.html dozens of descriptions of volunteer recognition banquets in all price ranges and amounts of labor involved

At VolunteerToday.com there's a great article about recognition banquets that may inspire you too.  Here's the link:


Finally, here's my Two Cents worth of suggestions about recognition:

Fun and Easy Recognition For All

Recognition doesn't have to be expensive. It doesn't have to take a lot of time to prepare, nor does it have to be formal. It does need to be sincere and often. Some of the least expensive and easiest forms of recognition can be found right in your grocery store. Here are some ideas that have proven successful for many years.

    • Tree seedlings or flower seed packets – "Thanks for helping us grow"
    • Paper clips or a glue stick – "Thanks for holding us together"
    • M & M candies – "Thanks for being Marvelous and Motivated volunteers"
    • Lifesaver candies – "You're a "lifesaver" for our organization
    • Candy mints – "We care a 'mint' about you" or "Thanks for helping us raise a 'mint'"
    • Ruler or tape measure – "Your contributions are immeasurable"
    • Party whistles – "Let's celebrate our success"
    • Package of batteries – "Thanks for energizing us"
    • Stick of chewing gum – "Thanks for sticking with us [or with this project]"
    • Flash light – "Your vision is our guiding light"

Now use your own creativity and think of a few more! If you have difficulty, walk around the grocery store, look at all the products available, and see what you can create as some recognition plays on words. Hint: The candy aisle is a good place to start. You will find volunteer "Paydays, $100,000 Bars," etc.

If you are conducting a planning meeting or leading a discussion group you can use some of these forms of recognition to set the tone for the meeting. Pass around several small baskets of goodies as you open the meeting, explain their meaning, enjoy the chuckles, and start your meeting off in a positive direction. Goodies to include are:

    • M & M's for being Motivated members and for all the Marvelous and Meaningful ideas they are going to create;
    • Snickers for the laughter everyone will enjoy;
    • Small boxes of raisins for those who raise some difficult questions or issues; and
    • Lifesavers for continuing to bring new life to your organization or committee.

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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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