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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’m new in my position as volunteer program manager and I’m filling a position that has been vacant for nearly 6 months.  The files seem to be in a mess and I’m not sure where to begin to see what’s missing and what needs to be updated.  Where should I start?

New in New York

Dear New in New York:

I suggest that you use the checklist below to assess the current state of your program’s infrastructure.  In fact, I recommend that these items be reviewed annually because it’s so easy to let them slide. 

  1. Volunteer Application: Does it gather as much relevant information as possible in one page to enable you to make an informed decision about each potential volunteer?
  1. Confidentiality form and letter of agreement: Is the information contained understandable and free of human resources jargon?
  1. Database and mailing lists: Are addresses current and have inactive volunteers been removed and new volunteers added?
  1. Volunteer Handbook: Is it easy to read and contains the most up-to-date information in a format that has eye-appeal?
  1. Written Policies and Procedures: Review these to reflect the changing role of volunteers in your organization.
  1. Volunteer Program Mission Statement: If changes have occurred within your organization or volunteer program are they reflected here? Does reading the Mission Statement make a volunteer proud to be part of the volunteer program? Does it make you proud to be the director who wrote the statement?
  1. Newsletter: Has it become predictable, even boring, in its format and content? Maybe it’s time to redesign and give it "meatier" content or greater eye appeal.  Or maybe this is the year to “go green” and put your newsletter online!
  1. Personnel Files: Look at each folder and check for an up-to-date application (with references) for each volunteer.
  1. Position Descriptions: Duties change throughout the course of the year so review these for accuracy and completeness (annually!).
  1. Recognition: Are your forms of recognizing volunteers meaningful and cost effective? Get new catalogs for items you order - prices often rise after the first of the year.
  1. Training Materials: Do changes need to be made to reflect requirements of the position descriptions? Start developing training for new positions that will be added during the year.

Dear Connie:

I often hear about “best practices” in volunteer management.  What are your favorite best practices?


Dear Alix:

I’m so glad you asked this question because I do, indeed, have my very own Top Ten list of best volunteer management practices:

  1.  Be clear about what needs to be done, how and by when.
  2.  Empower volunteers to do their jobs.
  3.  Train leadership volunteers to supervise and manage other volunteers.
  4.  Make it fun, even though it’s serious work.  No one volunteers to be miserable (more than once!).
  5.  Never “use” volunteers – no one likes to be used so try words such as utilize, involve, or engage.
  6.  Recognition is a process not an event.
  7.  Tie all activities to the mission.
  8.  Most volunteers will do most any task if they know why – communicate, communicate, communicate.
  9.  Be organized – volunteers expect it.

Ensure that every volunteer has the training and coaching necessary to be successful.  If volunteers are successful then you and your organization are successful!!

Dear Connie:

I’m trying to find some advice to give to our chapters about how to do a volunteer needs inventory.  Our chapters responded to a survey that their main concern is a lack of volunteers.  One of the first things we would like for chapter presidents to do is to discover the skills and talents they already have within their chapters.  Do you have any ideas for the questions, procedures, and/or forms that I can use? 


Dear S.:

I worked for a national organization for 10 years, and we utilized volunteers from all across the U.S. as trainers, facilitators, and public speakers.  I developed an application form that you could easily adapt for your use.  The categories of information that I sought were:

    • Contact information (name, address, email, fax, emergency contact, etc.)
    • Educational background (degrees earned, major areas studied)
    • Professional background (employer(s), type of work, address, phone, email, fax, etc.)
    • Volunteer background (organization(s), type of volunteering, years, offices held, etc.)
    • Skills (specific skills that your chapters are seeking)
    • Availability (weekdays, weekends, nights, etc.)

I compiled the information in a simple database so that it was always handy for placement of the volunteers.


Interested in assessing your volunteer recruiting strategies?

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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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