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In this issue...
December Hot Topic: From Organizing Charity to Building Community

Happy International Volunteer Day: 5th of December

Plan Ahead for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service:  January 19

Susan's Tip of the Month: "Paying Attention to Changing Needs"

Recognition Idea
Recognition Doesn't Have to Be Expensive

I believe that recognition is one of the most important parts of working with volunteers. This includes simple yet meaningful things such as writing a brief "thanks for being an angel by helping with XYZ project" on angel-shaped notepaper.

One low-cost thank-you gift is a small booklet of quotes about volunteering that I created on the computer. I also gave these to staff at collaborative agencies as a small way to show how much I appreciated how they and their volunteers helped my program.

Recognition doesn't have to be expensive. It does have to be sincere.

- Submitted by Sherry Leigh Mitchell, The Greater Kalamazoo Area Holiday Food Drive, Michigan

Share Your Recognition Idea

Volunteerism Quote
One hand alone does not clap.

- Arab Proverb

Share Your Quote

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Energize Volunteer Management Update
December 2008
a1December Hot Topic: From Organizing Charity to Building Community

December tends to focus on charity to poor families.  The challenge for volunteer resource managers is how to redirect the traditional one-way giving model into community building -- moving from concentrated holiday events to year-round support and looking inside a neighborhood or organization before looking outside for volunteers. Do you agree with this role for volunteer resource managers?

Read this Month's Hot Topic
Remember you can listen to the Hot Topic as a podcast, too!

a2Happy International Volunteer Day:  5th of December

The International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development (IVD) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985. Since then, governments, the UN system and civil society organizations have successfully joined volunteers around the world to celebrate the Day each 5th of December.

IVD offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individual volunteers to make their contributions -- at local, national and international levels -- visible.  Over the years, rallies, parades, community volunteering projects, environmental awareness, free medical care and advocacy campaigns have all featured prominently on IVD.  Go to the World Volunteering Web IVD site and find an array of information and resources, including:

  • Project and planning ideas
  • IVD logos, banners, bookmarks and clothing templates in six languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)
  • Press releases
  • Descriptions of events planned as submitted by colleagues
  • An invitation to post your video or view ones already posted to the IVD 2008 YouTube group
Whether or not your country celebrates IVD, every organization can take notice and use the opportunity to thank volunteers.  Or use the ideas shared here to develop recognition events at any time of the year.
Happy International Volunteer Day!

a3Plan Ahead for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service: January 19

Of all the single "days of service" dotting the calendar, none has gained momentum more effectively than the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday, declaring "Make It a Day On...Not a Day Off!"  And while this is an American event, there is no reason why many of the elements cannot be replicated in other countries.

The 2009 date is January 19, so it's coming up fast.  There are two linked Web sites to help you plan.  The first is the official MLK Day site, maintained by the Corporation for National and Community Service.  The other is MLK Mobilization, co-sponsored by a range of organizations.  You'll find many project ideas and help for publicity.  Register your plans and be part of the collective effort.

a4Susan's Tip of the Month:  "Paying Attention to Changing Needs"

In last month's Hot Topic I mused about the effect of the economy on volunteering and this month I propose some ways to engage clients and neighbors in self-help. I have one more thought about the unsettling financial times we are living through and that is to pay attention to what is happening to the people around us, specifically the volunteers and the paid staff of our organizations.

In 2005, I wrote a Hot Topic on "Volunteers Just Want to Have Fun."  Despite the title, I seriously proposed that we create an environment within which not only volunteers enjoy their work, but everyone else does, too.  While I would not describe us as "cheerleaders," I do think that, as the staff member charged with mobilizing community resources, we have remarkable freedom to keep people productive in ways that go way beyond pay. 

Are you aware of whether any current volunteers have lost their jobs or whether someone in their family has? What about the families of employees? Obviously you cannot pry or ignore confidentiality, but people do tend to talk about personal difficulties and being a good listener has always been a quality of the best leaders of volunteers. So let's assume that, simply in the course of the work week, you learn that at least a few people are dealing with crisis. What can you do?

First, you can make it clear that you care.  You can ask if the volunteer needs to be more flexible with his or her schedule for a while - which, by the way, may mean giving more hours to fill long days without a paying job.  If the unemployed person is the spouse or other relative of the volunteer (or employee), you might mention that you would be happy to consider her or him as a new applicant to be a volunteer, even on a limited schedule.  Remember that self-esteem is damaged by a layoff and by issuing this invitation you are affirming that the person has talents to share.

If several people are in the same boat, or your community has suffered a major plant or company closing, host a "Want to Talk about It?" brown-bag lunch or long coffee break, giving people the chance to vent a bit or to commiserate.  If enough people participate, turn it into a discussion of what people need and how you might be of mutual help.  The holiday no-cash gift ideas I mention in this month's Hot Topic might be a place to start.

If there is a bulletin board in a private space not seen by clients or visitors to your facility, permit volunteers and paid staff to post what types of jobs they are seeking for themselves or loved ones. The larger your agency, the more likely someone might have a referral. Remember, even in bad times, some companies are hiring. 

The bulletin board might also be a place to offer services for hire.  You may be surprised at how many people earn extra money (even in good times) by an array of things from elaborate cake decorating to refinishing furniture.  Not to mention letting others know that they have teenagers willing to shovel snow or mow the lawn for quick cash. 
If this is done in a low-key, but deliberate manner, and not in any way obtrusive to the public, you may find that both volunteers and employees appreciate the chance you are giving them to reach out.  And that appreciation translates into positive feelings towards the volunteer office and to building internal community.

About Us
Energize empowers and inspires leaders of volunteers worldwide. Our specialty is creating and selecting the most relevant, innovative resources in volunteer management. We're advocates for the power of volunteers and for the recognition of the leaders who unleash it.

Energize, Inc.
5450 Wissahickon Ave. C-13
Philadelphia PA 19144
Phone: 215-438-8342
Fax: 215-438-0434
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