Volunteer Management Update
Collaborating with Volunteers to Get More Done
Almost every leader of volunteers I know is overworked, juggling an enormous to-do list without the magical addition of extra hours in a day. So, I often ask audiences: "How many of you have recruited volunteers specifically assigned to help with the tasks of coordinating volunteer engagement?" Typically, only a few hands go up - and of that small group, most delegate administrative things like helping with recordkeeping and scheduling. Consider the irony of being the only person in an organization with unlimited permission to recruit talented people to contribute their skills in so many units and projects, but not getting the help we need in the volunteer services office!
July Hot Topic
By Susan J. Ellis, President Energize, Inc.
The "Social Compact" and Voluntary Action Are the Foundation of Democracy - Even Today
On July 4th, Americans celebrate the concept of independence. We should recognize that the founders were also defining co-dependence or inter-dependence as the basis for the "common good" of their wished-for democracy. Both citizen volunteering and taxes are implied in this social contract. See if you agree with Susan's perspective.
Read this Month's Hot Topic.
News from the Field
It's July...and that means it's happening!
We're going to St. Paul for the
We're excited to meet old friends and make new ones at this very special conference. Energize is getting involved in the following ways:
Energize president Susan Ellis is leading the Bloggers Affinity Group meeting and presenting three breakout sessions. She's also organizing the conference bookstore, which is where you can find her when she's not at a microphone.
Sheri Wilensky Burke and Betsy McFarland, the Associate Directors of Energize's Everyone Ready® online volunteer management training program will be at the exhibit booth. Come meet them and learn more about this resource for individuals, teams, and whole organizations. Enter to win a drawing for a free 1-year membership!
You will also be able to get up-close-and-personal with many of the trainers in the Everyone Ready program, authors of the books Energize sells, and contributors to our e-Volunteerism journal. They want to meet YOU, too.
Don't Miss Out! There is still time for you to join us: Register NOW.
Survey: Does the political landscape influence volunteering?
Our Canadian colleague
has begun volunteering-related research in reaction to public activity
we've all been seeing i
n the past several months: increased levels of civic engagement, often in the form of donations, marches, and social media activity in response to political figures and current events. Erin seeks to answer the question
: Has the increased support in some areas (fundraising, advocacy) also impacted volunteerism?
As a result, Erin has created an online survey and wants to hear from volunteer management peers and other non-profit leaders about their recent experiences with volunteers. She hopes her research will help volunteer engagement professionals respond and adapt to any changes, as well as to create a foundation for better understanding of the interconnections between the political landscape and volunteer behavior.
The survey is open now - please take a few moments to share your recent experiences and share it widely!
Spotlight on Resources
Tool for Focusing on Older Volunteers
We're happy to announce a book title has been newly added to the Energize Online Bookstore. Published in Australia by Volunteering SA&NT,
Positive Ageing: Think Volunteering
presents scientific studies, first-hand accounts from senior volunteers, and snapshots about volunteer-involving organizations focused on the older generation. The book's goal: to demonstrate that seniors who volunteer gain as much as they give. But,
can serve as a convenient tool for
of volunteers as well. Those focused on volunteer management will find it useful for:
- Examining how the role of the older person is changing in our society and volunteer-involving organizations.
- Contemplating if the volunteer roles in their organizations contribute positively to the lives of older people.
- Seeing how a sample of volunteer-involving organizations in Australia present themselves to potential senior volunteers.
is a valuable resource for any volunteer-involving organizations wishing to broaden their appeal to older communities.
New Articles Available
Volume XVII, Issue 3
Free Access this Month
From the Archives:
A Goat Story: How an Eagle Scout and 38 Goats Volunteered to Make a Campground Safe from Poison Ivy
(Vol. XV, No. 1 - October 2014) - This fascinating example of an unusual set of volunteers (with lots of pictures) at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Illinois, has important implications for volunteer resources managers in any setting. How do you react when a teenager proposes an unfamiliar or nontraditional service project? What does it take to convince others in the organization to support the idea? This special article will show you why the nontraditional and the unknown can be a very good thing.
From the Current Issue:
Mistakes and Failures Are Our Greatest Teachers: Do We Make the Most of Them?
When was the last time you went to a conference workshop that focused on how someone failed? Don't we most often focus instead on the successes we've had? We should learn from mistakes and be willing to share what we learned with others. Activities without risk may seem safe, but "are actually dormant. Worse, they may no longer be helpful to your mission, which means that you are asking volunteers to waste their time."
Subscriber Access Only
for a full year or 48-hour access)
New Postings Since the Last Update:
Preparing for Success: Strategies for Training Teenage Volunteers
- Teenagers are a rich and sometimes untapped volunteer force for many organizations. Not only are teens the volunteers of our future, they have gifts to offer today. What must we consider when working with young volunteers? How can we train teens to set the stage for success? Using the successful 4-H Youth Experiences in Science Project (4-H YES Project) as a case study, this Training Designs by Marianne Bird and Sue Manglallan explores what works to bring young volunteers into the fold and explains how to develop training specifically for teens. It's part 1 of a two-part series concluding next quarter.
New Issue Launches on July 15th
Volume XVII, Issue 4 will go online on July 15th and will contain a rich array of interesting and useful articles, including: part 2 of the Training Design on how to teach adults to train teenage volunteers; Rob and Susan's new Points of View essay urging "Passion, Not Mimicry"; Web resources about emergency services volunteers who are experienced specialists in the art of great outdoor rescues; an interview with Dr. Curly Bubba, a volunteer clown who visits adult cancer patients; the story of New Orleans teenagers who just published a book - with the help of volunteer writing mentors - about the experience of surviving Hurricane Katrina; a look at the role of volunteers in meeting the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals; and more. As always, the articles from all past issues remain available in the journal
You can subscribe to
for a full year or for 48-hour access. Note that subscribers have full access to the Archives of all 16 previous volume years.
Copyright-free Graphics about Volunteerism
Did you know we have created copyright-free graphics to use as you wish in motivating volunteers? Here's a sample. Visit
our Pinterest page
to see this board and more images we collect for you.
Susan's Quick Tip Continued...
What stops us from collaborating with volunteers ourselves? Lots of things, from feeling that our priority is to help
departments to our own reluctance to give up control over our own work. Diagnose any resistance you may have to the idea of finding skilled volunteers and delegating volunteer management roles to them, and think about what this tells you about why so many paid staff are reluctant to welcome the help you offer to them.
If you are serious about recruiting volunteers to help coordinate volunteers, begin by listing all of your ongoing activities and then answer these questions for each task:
- Do I have to be the one to do it? Why? (Approving the final product doesn't mean doing all the tasks.)
- Am I the best person to do it? Is anyone else more qualified?
- Do I like doing it? Might someone else be happy to do it?
- Would involving other people benefit our volunteer engagement effort?
Once you've identified roles that a
qualified and interested
volunteer might do, here are some ideas for finding the help you need.
Recruit New Volunteers Who Might Love Focusing on Volunteer Management.
Write position descriptions for key roles and determine what qualifications would be great to round out your skills. Then brainstorm where you might find prospective volunteers with those skills and invite them to the opportunity. For example, past presidents of civic groups have relevant experience, as do human resources managers. Graduate students studying nonprofit management might develop an internship with you.
Offer Current Volunteers the Chance to Do More at a Leadership Level.
Even volunteers who love their assignment can get bored - or be interested in more than one thing. It is a powerful form of
to show volunteers that you feel they can contribute to strengthening volunteer engagement in your organization. Here are some ideas:
- Don't typecast volunteers into their first role.
- Keep records on each person's special skills and update what they may have learned since you first interviewed them.
- Create a "skills bank" so that you can quickly find unusual talents.
- Create true feedback loops.
- Always invite opinions and suggestions, and be clear on how to transmit them.
- When you really want advice, be specific with your question!
- Report back on what you were told and how you acted on it (it's OK to decide not to use suggestions as long as people know you considered them).
- Create an online community for discussion.
- Respond to reports volunteers submit and you'll get better reports.
- Form short-term task forces or focus groups on specific challenges and project planning:
- Rotate membership.
- Allow volunteers to choose whether to add such meetings to their regular schedule or whether to take a brief break from their normal responsibilities.
- Use such groups to generate ideas, identify community resources, and generally expand your own lists.
- Consider ways to "refresh" an ongoing volunteer assignment:
- Buddy experienced volunteers with newcomers (with clear expectations as to what that means).
- Let experienced volunteers train others, either in person or via short videos.
- Assign "team" or "shift" leaders - not necessarily be managers, but to be your designated representative when you can't be present.
- Ask volunteers to represent you in the community at a meeting or online in a discussion group.
- Ask for small actions to help: distribute recruitment flyers; repost social media messages.
- Ask volunteers to do research of any kind, especially online.
Ultimately, if you are still uncomfortable with the idea of sharing responsibility with the right (skilled and willing) volunteer, pinpoint why and learn from it.
Then get over it!
This Quick Tip comes from Susan J. Ellis, President of Energize, Inc.
Want more of Susan's Wisdom? Read her books
You'll find them in our Online Bookstore.
has been on the Web s
offering over 1200 pages of information about successfully involving volunteers in your efforts. Visit our site to learn all about volunteer engagement techniques; find ways to connect with colleagues; gain insight into trends, issues, and even controversy in the field; locate conferences and other professional development opportunities; and more!
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