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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 2013 ~




Portland State University

Earn a Professional Development Certificate

Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Program

Online Classes

  • Recruiting Volunteers
  • Training Volunteers
  • Leadership and Communication
  • Supervision and Manageme
  • Evaluation and Recognition of Volunteers

The VELP program is moving departments and will be up and running in the fall of 2013.

There is an email list for those who wish to be notified about the new location and how to register.

Send inquiry to: mba@bmi.net


Modern organizations have problems.  The words complexity and acceleration are frequently used to describe the issues and problems.  Here is a way of looking at the vexing issues in the volunteer program.


  • Problems are from isolated causes.
  • Problems are identifiable
  • They fall with distinct bureaucratic categories
  • The problem can be isolated, addressed, and put back together
  • There are pushes and pulls in seeking a solution
  • Permanent solutions are put in place


  • Problems are interconnected.
  • Multiple events and actions eat away at the existing boundary’s
  • Problems can not be isolated
  • To solve the issue they must be addressed as a system that is interconnected
  • These problems do not automatically stabilize
  • Chaos ensues if the problem is not systematically managed
  • Likely that the problem is not solved
  • Usually the problem appears as a new problem, because the systems have been tampered with

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400 houses burned in the Colorado fires. Entire towns were blown away in Moore and El Reno, Oklahoma.  A nonprofit organization in Philadelphia lost a building under an avalanche of bricks.  Disasters are a fact of life.  Here are tips to stay nimble in face of the unexpected.

  • Check out the government and nonprofit organizations that coordinate responses at the time of an emergency.  Get acquainted. Ask how your organization could help.
  • Determine what your role as an organization is during disasters.
  • Establish an emergency fund that can be accessed quickly.
  • Create a communication plan.  Have sample news releases and contact information for the media.
  • Organize a communication process to inform volunteers.wordle of disaster words
  • Create a database to handle donations you are likely to receive.
  • Periodically back up the information on your computer and store it in a place other than the office.  Do not lose your precious volunteer and program data.
  • Create a crisis response. Folks in Oklahoma had hours to plan for the looming tornados.  The worse thing possible is to have a nightmare  occur for which volunteers have had no practice.

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Likely you have been urged to have an “elevator speech” to “pitch” your organization’s volunteer program.  Here are some new ideas on how to get the message across.

Question pitch

Most people when trying to sell the value of volunteering make statements when trying to persuade .  Research shows that asking a question is more effective when you want to persuade.  “Have you ever visited one of our city’s parks?”

One-Word Pitch

Take the word “search.”  What comes to mind?  Google, maybe. Wikipedia. Here is a method of determining the One-Word Pitch for the volunteer program. Write a 25-word pitch for volunteering. Reduce it to 10 words. Then reduce to 5.  One of those words is likely your one word pitch. 

Subject Line Pitch

Pull up “sent” email messages on your computer used with volunteers.  Select 20 at random that you have sent to volunteers.  How many of the words in the subject line appeal to usefulness or curiosity.  If half meet one of the criteria, try to change the one’s that do not to be more useful or pique curiosity

With thanks to Daniel Pink.

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