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In this issue...

January Hot Topic: What Would the Perfect Volunteer-Involving Organization Look Like? 


Online Archives - A Treasure Trove of Information

New in Our Online Journal, e-Volunteerism

Susan's Tip of the Month: Question Authority
Upcoming Volunteer-Related Events

January 2012


National Mentoring Month (U.S.) 


January 16 - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (U.S.) 


January 16 - February 18 - Everyone Ready Online Seminar: Building and Sustaining Strong Volunteer Leadership 


January 25-27 - SCAVA 2012 Annual Conference and Meeting (SC, U.S.) 


February 2012


February 2- Online Webinar from Stevenson Inc. - Risk Management and Your Volunteer Program


February 13-19 - Random Acts of Kindness Week 


February 20 - March 17- Everyone Ready Self-Instruction Guide: Reports with Clout: Showing the Impact of Volunteers 


February 27-- Global Corporate Philanthropy Day 


Submit an Event 

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e-Volunteerism: A journal to inform and challenge leaders of volunteers

Everyone Ready Online Volunteer Management Training
Energize Volunteer Management Update
January 2012
a1January Hot Topic: What Would the Perfect Volunteer-Involving Organization Look Like?


What would your organization look like if it practiced everything we preach about creative, welcoming, and effective volunteer management? If we cannot picture the results of our efforts - and like/want the future we envision - we won't be motivated to do the work necessary. Start the new year by looking ahead with aspirations and resolutions.


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. 

a2 Online Archives - A Treasure Trove of Information


One of the joys of online research is that so much remains accessible to us even if originally posted months or years ago. If you go to any site on the Web that publishes a newsletter, blog, or any sort of frequently-changing article or news announcement, chances are excellent that you will be able to search through previous postings for more information.The good news is that writings on the principles of volunteer management rarely have an expiration date.

Energize offers several searchable archives with meaty articles and advice:

Always look for past material when you find a Web site that you value. Often you'll get free articles that were on sale when first produced. Most Web sites include a search function to facilitate your research by entering a keyword. The search field on the Energize Web site lives in the upper, right-hand corner and will search for related content on our entire site. Here are just a few other worthwhile treasure troves:

Remember to look for links on any of your favorite sites to past postings. Everyone wants to keep relevant writing available and it costs so little to do so electronically.


a3New in Our Online Journal, e-Volunteerism


e-Volunteerism is our international, subscription-based journal for informing and challenging leaders of volunteers. The current issue (XII, 1) is focused entirely on the theme of credentialing volunteer management practitioners. Three articles were posted since the December Update:

  • Current Models of Certification: A World Tour - Knowledgeable colleagues from Australia, England, Germany, New Zealand, North America, Scotland and the United States describe how certification has evolved in their respective countries.
  • Keyboard Roundtable: What Does the Field Think? - An opinion exchange by colleagues in several countries on the value of earning a credential - pro, con, and undecided.
  • Perspectives from Other Credentialing Stakeholders - A compilation of short, personal views from stakeholders in various fields - a diverse set of voices speaking out on everything from credentialing's "dark side" to the validation offered by certification and debating whether credentialing is even necessary.

This issue continues through January 14th and then, as always, will remain accessible to subscribers in the journal's archives. On January 15th, Volume XII, Issue 2 will be launched, offering a range of articles including a look at a unique volunteer activity in India, a Facebook-enabled student response to the earthquakes in New Zealand, what types of research studies the field really needs, a training design enabling a look at people's "personal volunteer history," and more. The new issue will run through April 14th.


You can subscribe to e-Volunteerism for a full year or for 48-hour access. Note that subscribers have full access to the archives of all twelve volume years.

a4Susan's Tip of the Month: Question Authority


The job of legal, financial, insurance, and IT staff and advisors is to listen to what we need and want to do and then help us to find the best and appropriate ways in which to do it.


Unfortunately, in the real world, these experts too often instead are the "no" people. They tell us what we can't do rather than support our objectives. Further, they do not expect their prohibitions to be questioned, let alone challenged. But respect your own expertise in volunteer engagement do not simply accept a "you can't do that" response.


In assessing prohibitions, it's important to identify the fundamental issue: Does the organization want to engage volunteers in the most meaningful ways to serve clients and achieve its mission? And, therefore, what are the consequences of not permitting some volunteer activity? Often a knowledgeable discussion - focused on finding a way to support volunteering rather than avoiding assumed high risk - might affect the final determination.


Legal Restrictions
Many pronouncements by legal or human resources (HR) staff about what volunteers can or can't do misinterpret the law (such as the Fair Labor Standards Act in the United States) - they act on what they think is the law without any further research.


It's probably true that every single activity that someone does somewhere for pay, someone else does somewhere as a volunteer. So how can there be a fixed rule clearly delineating paid from volunteer work? It's situational, and therefore a legal or HR staffer ought to consider each proposed volunteer role on its own merits.


Your strategy should be to question someone who quotes the FLSA or any other law as an obstacle to volunteer involvement. Ask for the documentation on which the legal or HR person based their reply (a great way to see if they actually did any research at all). You can also talk to a Department of Labor representative directly or find examples of common practice in other organizations similar to yours.


Risk, Liability and Insurance as Smokescreens
The low probability of a worst-case scenario occurring should not overshadow the majority of times an activity will bring positive results without danger. Everything we do in life carries some risk - we all make daily decisions about which risks we are willing to accept. For organizations, the question is not "might we be sued?" It's "if we were sued, can we defend our actions?" Or, again, "are the consequences of not providing this service worse than doing it and accepting the risk?"


Unfortunately, this reasonable approach is not often used in planning for volunteers. Maybe the real question here is: "Do we value the impact of volunteer services enough to plan safe and sound ways to do what we really feel ought to be done for our clients - even if it means paying for insurance, too?"


Those who propose volunteer initiatives ought to hold their ground, asking: "So if you think what I've just proposed is wrong, help me find another way to accomplish these goals."


Recalcitrant Webmasters
Webmasters are knowledgeable about software and technology, but they should not make final decisions about site content or determine communication priorities. If a Webmaster resists keeping the pages about volunteering current, won't post an application form, or won't do something requested to support volunteers, discover the true reason for resistance. Is the request technically difficult or is it a lack of time amid other demands? If the volunteer program simply ranks low in the sequence of the Webmaster's priorities, top management can insist that time be allocated to volunteer office requests.


Note that it is possible to recruit a skilled volunteer who can create or maintain the requested volunteer-related Web pages (following official templates) and give them to the Webmaster for simple posting to the site. This gives the Webmaster legitimate control of the Web site but removes all the common barriers of "this sort of updating is just too time consuming."


The Common Denominators
In all these cases, some key strategies apply:

  • Assume lack of education about volunteer-related issues/precedence, despite the appearance of great specialized knowledge. Too few lawyers and other advisors even recognize how complex the subject of volunteering is. It seems very simple. It rarely is.
  • Don't be afraid to challenge a turn-down or turn-away. Ask pointed questions, both to teach the other person about the complexity of volunteering and also to learn more about how decisions are reached.
  • Use outside resources. Not everyone wants to be the first to do something, but few people want to be the last, either. If the expert consultant thinks this is your own pie-in-the-sky idea, it's easy to dismiss it. But if you show how this same practice has been proven elsewhere, it's harder to say no without some clear reason.
  • Involve volunteers as co-advocates. Sometimes legal and risk management experts can't envision that volunteers would be willing to do something. Prove them wrong.

Many knee-jerk negative responses can be turned into solid support for effective volunteer service.

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 USA
Phone: 215-438-8342
Fax: 215-438-0434
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