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In this issue...
May Hot Topic: The Role of Volunteer Resources Managers in the Serve America Act

New Archives to Help You

And. . . New Ways to Stay Current

Susan's Tip of the Month:
It's All About Communication

Recognition Idea
Thank You Notes to Volunteers' Workplaces

Many of our volunteers have busy careers. We began sending letters of recognition to their places of work. These letters often find their way directly into the personnel files and reflect well on the employee.

Our organization has actually received donations from companies whose employees have been our volunteers. A letter from our organization has often prompted an inquiry from a company about who we are and what we do.

This method of recognition has become greatly appreciated by our volunteers.

- Submitted by Christine Cooper

Share Your Recognition Idea

Volunteerism Quote
You cannot help someone get up a hill without getting closer to the top yourself.

-General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Share Your Quote

e-volunteerism logo

Everyone Ready logo
Energize Volunteer Management Update
May 2009
a1May Hot Topic: The Role of Volunteer Resources Managers in the Serve America Act: Stay Up-to-Date and Lead

The lengthy and complex Serve America Act has been signed into law. As a profession, we have a unique and strategic chance to influence effective implementation of the Act, draw attention to the skills of volunteer resources management, and assure that the volunteer community is truly strengthened by the new initiatives. Learn how you can get involved with tips from Guest Writer Paula Beugen (and some editorializing from Susan).

Read this Month's Hot Topic
You can subscribe to the Hot Topic as a podcast or RSS text feed -- or listen to the audio online.

a2New Archives to Help You

We've been sending these monthly Volunteer Management Updates for many years, but there has been no way to access past issues. So, by popular demand, we have created the Update Archive.  While some of the news items we tell you about in these e-newsletters is time-limited, other sections provide information that remains useful, especially Susan's Tip of the Month. We've opened the Archive with editions from the past year, with direct links to each issue's Tip. From this point on, we will add each new issue to the series.
Similarly, we've also created a new Book Buzz Archive, opening with the last year of these monthly e-mails highlighting and excerpting books we offer in the online bookstore.
We hope both of these prove useful, especially to new subscribers who may want to look at some of the material they missed earlier.
In case you haven't found them yet, we already have full archives of all of the Hot Topics (since 1997!) and all nine years of e-Volunteerism.

a3And. . . New Ways for You to Stay Current

The Energize Web site is sometimes overwhelming because of its size, and we add new things all the time, in all areas of the site. That is one of the reasons why we started this monthly Volunteer Management Update. 
We have a just created a range of additional ways to keep you current on the latest articles, resources, news and information posted to all our online sites and programs (including e-Volunteerism, Everyone Ready and our bookstore). Read about all your options.
For the press and media, including editors of organizational newsletters or Web sites, we also issue periodic press releases.  See our press/media page for more information.

a5Susan's Tip of the Month: It's All about Communication

Perhaps no activity is more important to volunteer management than communication, which is critical to making volunteers feel included, informed, and appreciated. We communicate all the time, even when we are not aware of the messages we send.   
The way we bring new volunteers on board, for example, is all about conveying both information and a friendly tone. From our screening interview to orientation and training, and in written manuals and instruction sheets, we are saying more things than simple content. Do we jump right into rules and regulations or do we take a moment (or a page) for a warm welcome? Do we show that we take volunteer contributions seriously by anticipating good questions and providing useful responses?

Throughout the year we hold meetings (one-on-one and with groups; formal and informal), run events, send e-mails (individually or blasted to everyone), and ask for responses to surveys and questionnaires. And each communicates on different levels. Pay attention to all your opening and closing statements and consistently thank volunteers for their time and efforts. Explain the context of any information, since it's easy for volunteers to feel "out of the loop," especially those who do their service away from your central office or online.

Set up a routine feedback cycle by asking specific questions ("do you have an idea where I might find...?") rather than vague "what do you think?" questions -- and always make sure you report back the results of what  you were told! If you want volunteers (and paid staff) to take your missives seriously, you have to prove that you read their responses.  Begin the next meeting or e-mail with something like "thanks to the 27 of you who gave me such excellent leads, including _______________."  Do this every time and people will be much more likely to keep responding. 

Things to Consider
While it's true that even something like the way your office looks (cosy, cluttered, dark, whatever) sends a message, most of the time you will be intentional about wanting to communicate something. Is the message bad or great news? Is it something open for discussion or out of your hands?  How quickly do people need to know it? Here are a few more questions to consider as you decide how to communicate:
  • What do you want or need to say?
  • Is it routine or special?
  • Is the recipient an individual, a limited group, or the public?
  • What's the tone you want to convey?
  • Is it one-way or two-way communication? (Announcements vs. information needing a response.)
  • Will you make a record of the discussion and/or any decisions?
  • What response or feedback do you most want and have you clearly asked for that?
  • How long should it be?
  • How will you highlight the most important parts to help the reader or listener pay most attention to those?
  • What's the follow-up plan?
  • What would a volunteer feel as well as know after getting this communication?
The more personal the communication seems to be, the better. A handwritten note is the most appreciated of all. And remember to always include an e-mail address or phone number where someone can contact you to ask questions or make comments.

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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