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In this issue...
April Hot Topic: Confidentiality and Other Objections to Volunteers

Great New Online Resource for Local Volunteer Coordinating

Advanced Volunteer Management Institute, June 21-22, San Francisco

Susan's Tip of the Month: Beyond the Norm
Recognition Idea
Quick & Creative Gifts

Pair an inexpensive gift with a clever card.

Gold chocolate coins: "Volunteers are worth their weight in gold."

Andes mints/ peppermint patties:
"Your service is worth a mint to us!"

Ruler/Tape measure:
"It's easy to measure the difference you've made -- you're amazing!"

Light bulbs:
"You light the way -- thanks for your glowing enthusiasm."

- Submitted by Danielle Hamilton

Share Your Recognition Idea

Volunteerism Quote
A candle loses nothing of its light when lighting another.

-Khalil Gibran

Share Your Quote

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Energize Volunteer Management Update
April 2009
a1April Hot Topic:  Confidentiality and Other Objections to Volunteers

It's easy for staff to stop any creative idea involving volunteers by raising concern over confidentiality, risk, or other issue solemnly pronounced as protecting clients.  And too often it works.   We must be prepared for these sorts of reactions and stand our ground.  Are these valid concerns or really smokescreens hiding a general resistance to volunteer involvement?

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

a2Great New Online Resource for Local Volunteer Coordinating

VolunteerSpot (www.volunteerspot.com) is a free online sign-up tool that simplifies grassroots volunteering. The site makes it easy for anyone to quickly mobilize and coordinate volunteers in their community, congregation or social network. This is a wonderful tool for all-volunteer group officers, committee chairs, special event planners, and others who need to schedule and organize many other volunteers.  

 VolunteerSpot - Doing Good Just Got Easier

The leader creates a schedule of volunteer needs on the online calendar and invites people to sign up with an e-mail. Volunteers click a link to see what spots are available and choose when and how they want to help. VolunteerSpot sends automated confirmation and reminder messages, helping everyone keep their commitments. Since it happens in real-time, the schedule is always current, significantly reduces coordination time, and makes the process easier for everyone. And it sure beats the old clipboard and telephone tree system!
Note that this resource is for anyone, anywhere.  International users may find that the automatic reminder messages are slightly out of sync with their time zones, but the scheduling calendar is always done on local time.
VolunteerSpot is a free service for local-level volunteers. Corporations and larger groups wanting to brand the Web site or obtain planned premium features, such as hours tracking, will be charged a fee.  But you can test the system immediately at no cost.

a3Advanced Volunteer Management Institute:
June 21-22, San Francisco

After a successful first run last year, the Advanced Volunteer Management Institute (AVMI) is back as a 2-day pre-conference option just before the National Conference on Volunteering and Service.  Facilitators Martin J. Cowling, Susan Ellis, Linda Graff, Rick Lynch, Steve McCurley, and Betty Stallings will lead this high-level, engaging exploration of advanced topics in volunteer program management for nonprofit, government and community organizations.
  • Explore cutting-edge approaches for effective volunteer engagement
  • Focus on the challenges facing volunteer programs in our rapidly changing world
  • Engage in individualized conversations with other advanced volunteer program managers
For more details and to register, click here.

a5Susan's Tip of the Month:  "Beyond the Norm"

As a field, we've become much more savvy in developing meaningful and appealing work for a wide range of volunteers way past the old model of regularly-scheduled helper. We've learned to run single days of service and deal with spontaneous volunteers.  We can assign projects to corporate employee teams, intergenerational families, and those who want to volunteer virtually. Yet we are still missing some opportunities.
What kind of volunteer work might you design for the following less traditional prospects (and this is only a partial list)?
  • Seniors over the age of 90 (the fastest growing age category today)
  • Children under the age of 14
  • Newly-unemployed people wanting a bridge between their old job and finding a new one
  • Voluntourists (people spending vacation or conference time in your area - from one day to a season - and who want to be of use to the community)
  • Current clients who want to get involved to help others
  • The CEOs of the major companies in your area
  • University professors (not just their students!)
  • Blue collar tradespeople

I'm not suggesting that every organization needs the sort of help these people might offer.  But how did you react -- in your gut -- to each group on this list? If you can get past some preconceived notions about who is a potential volunteer, you can vastly expand the pool of community resources available to you.
Sometimes we simply avoid potential resources because we can't picture how we would work with them.  Maybe that's why so many senior volunteering programs are focusing on people in their 50s (who don't identify at all with the concept of "senior") and not on healthy nonagenarians.  It's just easier -- and there are fewer transportation and health concerns.  It's the same with engaging young children in service. Yet both ends of the age spectrum offer unique perspectives and skill bases. 
Sometimes we can't imagine that a group might even be interested in volunteering with us. We approach students, but not their teachers or professors -- and who is more skilled?  We recruit secretaries and salespeople, but not their managers and certainly not their CEOs. And why not?  Do we offer any volunteer work executives would find appealing?  What do we think that is?
In a similar vein, it's fascinating how rarely we reach out to labor unions, trade councils, or blue collar businesses. We won't think twice about asking a white collar professional to volunteer as a consultant or donate training services, but do we invite plumbers or roofers to give their labor (also professionally skilled) pro bono? Why not?
Bet you're wondering how you'll ever be able to coordinate and support these populations, who will need extra time and attention. Don't forget the strategy of recruiting interested volunteers knowledgeable about each group to run a pilot project with the target population, or to be team or shift leaders for the group.
If you find yourself with a very homogenous volunteer corps, it may be because you are gravitating towards the "usual suspects" in your recruitment. Whether you intended to or not, the volunteer assignments you offer appeal to a narrow slice of the community. Try welcoming people who fall outside the norm you've established of age, status, schedule, and other factors. They may be delighted at the invitation to get involved and you'll expand the value of the volunteer effort for your organization.

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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