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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.

~ July 2011 ~


Volunteer Today is doing its first special issue.  The September issue will focus on the employment issues facing many nonprofits and government based volunteer programs.

Supplementing is the role volunteers play, especially in government based programs.  Volunteers do things to supplement the work of paid staff.  Supplanting is when volunteers do exactly the same as paid staff.  Public sector unions frown on supplanting. 

With lay-offs and reductions in force volunteers are being asked to do things formerly done by a paid staff person.  This can be a challenge for the administrator of volunteer programs.  Staff can push in one direction while administrators are pushing in a different direction.  After lay offs the remaining paid staff can be resentful of volunteers.  Volunteers can be confused. 

What is happening?  How widespread is this issue?  Is it a problem?  What is an administrator of volunteers to do about it?  Volunteer Today will tackle this issue and more in our special issue.

Different writers for Volunteer Today will bring a unique perspective to a discussion of supplanting and supplementing.  To help guide our research and writing efforts, we are seeking the experience of our readers with volunteers who are doing the work of formerly paid staff.  Or the other way around......volunteer work now done by paid staff. What is working?  What is not working?  How are you coping?  Do you have questions?  Send your comments, stories, and questions to Nancy Macduff at nlmacduff@gmail.com

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An often asked question in the world of volunteers is:  “How do I calculate the dollar value of a volunteer service?”  There are two place to find the formula for doing this.

There are hot links on the Volunteer Today Home page

Independent Sector

Volunteer Calculator

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Fall September 26 , 2011

  • Want to improve and organize your recruiting efforts?
  • Plan a recruiting campaign with a volunteer recruiting team.

Beginning in September the Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Program (VELP) offers the online course, Recruitment of Volunteers (8 weeks) in conjunction with the School of Public Administration’s Institute for Nonprofit Studies and the Department of Extended Studies.  The class is part of a series that leads to certification in Volunteer Administration and can be taken pass/fail or for college credit. Recruitment of Volunteers engages students in a marketing approach to the recruitment of volunteers.  Interactive activities involve students in practical discussions of the different styles of volunteering—traditional and episodic; building a recruiting plan, advertising and promotion for volunteers, and the organization of a volunteer recruiting team. Assignments in all classes are interactive and designed to build skills directly applicable to a manager of volunteers program.  Assignments can be used immediately in existing volunteer programs. 

For more information on the program visit: http://distancedegree.pdx.edu//programs/v_engagement.php

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Reaching the wired young adults (20 somethings) and young families (30 somethings) who are electronically savvy and connected through social networks is a growing priority for many organizations.  A recent report in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (June 30, 2011) provides the results of research and experience of successful organizations trying to reach those groups. Here are some highlights of that report.

Use social networks such as FaceBook and Twitter well.  These sites are not just low cost advertising.

Engaging people through a sort of “mutual voyeurism” seems to get the best results.  Example: Bartrams’s Garden is a public botanical garden in Philadelpha.  (With a budget of $800,000 annually). For a special exhibit Botanist Mark Dion in 2008 created an installation of plants gathered from around the world.  Dion’s travels mirrored the work of the founder of the garden who traveled the world to get specimens.  Using a GPS tracking system people could follow Dion’s travels around the world collecting plants for the special exhibit.  The garden reached out to young families, targeting young parents with well developed social networks.  Users were offered the chance to track Dion’s two year progress around the world for this project.  Results of this online engagement?.  Participation is up 34%.  Membership is up 28% with 900 new families.

Invite people to share.  Example:  A theatre company in Philadelphia created a identities for three fictional characters on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube called Fatebook.  The goal was to engage 20 somethings as “insiders” and bring them into the constellation of the theatre as a “tribal” member.  Actors played the three main characters online and had one session that was a dinner discussion about their fictitious friends.  120 people online assumed the role of the fictional “friend” characters, becoming secondary players. This mingling online between actors and characters occurred over several months.  The online discussions were turned into a real-time play.  When the multimedia performance of the play was held, based on the online and real time experiences, 1300, mostly sign 20 years olds showed up.

Fill pages with reusable content.  Example:  Experts say you must keep your social media sites fresh with constant new content—social networks, Twitter, blogs, etc.  Younger people are hungry for information they can put up on their sites.  On your site—quotes, photos, links to relevant applications or downloads. Young people need material for their sites.

Humanity is key.  Example: 20 somethings are an idealistic generation who crave intimacy.  They also embrace organizationsthat represent “grand” missions.  Have spokespeople admired by the young and speak in all postings as if talking to a friend.

Word of mouth through social networks is the way to reach the young.  Example:  A theatre group in Chicago learned from experience that with young people surprise, delight and discovery of new things is more appealing than being “told.”  They now try to spread the word of new productions through the online word of mouth, calling it a “subtle sell.”

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Online College Class --Begins September, 2011

Recruiting Volunteers

Portland State University

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