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ENGAGING & MANAGING VOLUNTEERS

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.

~October 2009~

INFRASTRUCTURE

     


    An occasional series of articles in Volunteer Today on program infrastructure started in 2008.  Infrastructure is defined as;  “an underlying base or foundation” or “a basic structural foundation.  Volunteer programs, like all other institutions of society need a solid infrastructure to be successful.  This month continues the series with information on collaborations or partnerships.  To see all the elements of a volunteer program infrastructure or to assess the infrastructure of your volunteer program, click here for an assessment

    Partnerships: Essential to Volunteer Program Health

    Partner:  “One who is associated with another in a shared activity.” (Riverside Webster’s II Dictionary)

    It goes by names such names as collaboration, cooperation, working together, civic partners, and so many more.  At root it is partnerships.  The well-run volunteer program has carefully crafted partnerships with others in the community.  Examples;

    1. Working with local volunteer center to list volunteer positions
    2. Having a position for an AmeriCorps volunteer to work with clients or members and volunteers
    3. Professional membership in a local manager of volunteer association

    Partnership are not all the same and require different involvement by the manager of volunteers.  There are four basic types of partnerships or alliances.  Check out the list, examples, and rate your program as to its successful partnerships.

    COMMUNICATION

    Individuals and organizations develop communication links in order to exchange information and resources.  The emphasis is on tapping into each other’s organizations for information and resources.  The initial focus is rather narrow and specific.  Contacts can become long term, however.  Since little institutional legitimization exists here, the risk is low for the managers of volunteers to establish these informal contacts with others.  “Stay in touch” is the language of this loose agreement.

    EXAMPLE

    The manager of volunteers at a homeless shelter might stay in touch with social service organizations that are aware of the needs of the homeless; state agencies serving the poor, religious groups serving the poor, or the police who often know about the background of those who are homeless.  It is informal contact and done intermittently.  Sometimes these organizations have more formal types of information networks, like newsletters or Web information sites that can be checked for pertinent information.

     

    COOPERATION

    Participation at this level centers on trying to accomplish a specific purpose, or goal.  Work here is driven by individuals, rather than the organizations they represent.  A loose, informal association of a few people for some mutual benefit, or easily obtainable goal (workshop), may develop.  Individuals at this level can be vigorously involved without really doing anything differently in their jobs.

    EXAMPLE

    The manager of volunteers at a homeless shelter might stay in touch with social service organizations that are aware of the needs of the homeless; state agencies serving the poor, religious groups serving the poor, or the police who often know about the background of those who are homeless.  It is informal contact and done intermittently.  Sometimes these organizations have more formal types of information networks, like newsletters or Web information sites that can be checked for pertinent information.

    COALITION

    The coalition builds linkages at the organizational level.  Organizations participate in a more formal way around an issue or common set of interrelated issues.  The purpose of forming a coalition is to create synergy.  Synergy is used to amass enough influence and resources in order to have an impact on an issue beyond what one group can do alone.  Coalitions tend to be short-lived, even though the issues they work on are complex and difficult to resolve.  At this level, each organization shares a measure of responsibility for the success, or failure, of the coalition.  The level of commitment is moderate.

    EXAMPLE


    The organizations serving the poor and homeless form a coalition to create a larger body to be eligible for grant money, to better monitor who is in the “poverty services” system, and to prevent resource abuse.  The “Coalition” applied for a grant to purchase large family sized tents for use when demand for shelter exceeds available beds, during the warm weather months.  The coalition is creating voucher systems for anyone requesting assistance.  The voucher system is designed to prevent over use of the available resources, thereby assuring that families and individuals have food and shelter, if needed.

    COLLABORATION

    The highest, and most difficult, level of working with others is collaboration.  Organizational relationships are formalized, and involve a long-term commitment to working together in order to accomplish a common mission.  Collaboration requires a commitment to shared decision-making, allocation of resources, and responding to mutually identified needs.

    EXAMPLE

    Drug abuse among high school students is at epidemic proportions.  The youth serving agencies, police, hospitals, and social service organizations want to create an umbrella organization to coordinate services and activities to tackle the problem.  Each organization has to agree to provide human and financial resources to establish the programs.  This involves a formal agreement among the partners in order to accomplish a mission they have each been trying to address alone.

     



 

Interested in new ways to raise resources? Check out TwitCause on the Tech Tips page.

 

 

 

 



JOB CUTS AT NONPROFITS

For some readers this is old news. . . .nearly half of nonprofits have had to lay off staff in the last year (47.5%).  This was caused by dwindling donations.  A job survey in July by Campbell & Company showed some of the following:

  1. Half the nonprofits surveyed had frozen salaries
  2. Close to 16% have a hiring freeze
  3. 10.5% have required staff to take unpaid leave
  4. 25% of nonprofits had increased budgets, and the others maintained budgets at the previous year’s level

Chronicle of Philanthropy, August 20, 2009


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INTERVIEWS THAT SCREEN: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Many volunteers have jobs that require some sensitivity to clients, members, or confidential information.  Asking the right questions can make a huge difference in the selection and placement of volunteers.  The use of Non-Direct questions during an interview elicit key information on a volunteer and his/her background and appropriateness for a job.

Direct

Non-Direct

1.  How old are you

2.  Have you ever volunteered?

3.  What jobs have you held?

4.  Are you available on Thursday?
(Some of these might be considered illegal or unimportant depending on the task for the volunteer.)

1.  What personal goals do you consider when choosing a volunteer position?

2.  What was the best thing about your last volunteer position?

3.  What type of work do you enjoy most?

 

NOTE THE DIFFERENCE IN THE TWO TYPES OF QUESTIONS

Non-Directive Interview Style

  • Interviewer is catalyst

  • Interviewee has more control

  • Depth of answer is greater

  • Gets at attitudes, motivation, and stability

  • Uses silences appropriately

 

Some possible non-direct questions

1.  What did you enjoy most about your last volunteer positions?  Least?

2.  What do you enjoy as a leisure activity?

3.  What would you like to be doing in 3 – 5 years?

4.  What type of people do you enjoy working with most and why?

5.  Describe your work habits.

6.  What are the most important decisions you have made about your life?

7.  What did you like the best about the last work supervisor you had?  Least?

8.  What would be an ideal volunteer position for you?

9.  How do you deal with anger—on the job or in your private life?

Live in Michigan? Want training on Volunteer Recruiting? Check out the dates on News page

 


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