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Volunteer Management Update
January 2014
January Hot Topic


The Web enabled a new way to volunteer online and 20 years later virtual volunteering has become a critical part of our field. Take a poll to compare your experience to others. And learn about a brand new guidebook about online service.       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. 

Treat Yourself to Quality Training


You asked. We listened! New options for individual members of


Individuals who subscribe for a full year will now get complete access to ALL 39 topics in the Everyone Ready® archive!

  • You will see a Featured Topic each month along with a live discussion board with the expert trainer answering your questions
  • New for 2014: you also will have immediate and continuing access to ALL the program topics in a searchable library, allowing you to spend as much learning time as you wish at your speed and schedule, on the subjects of your choice.
  • You also have a full year of access to the e-Volunteerism online journal (itself a value of $45)
  • And you have a discount in the Energize Online Bookstore as long as you are a member.

All of this is an amazing bargain at US$495 for the year - that's only $41/month or $12 per topic plus the extras! (And there are discounts for enrolling more than one learner at the same time.)


Sign up by January 19th and you'll be able to see Steve McCurley's extremely popular online seminar, "Handling Challenging Behavior by Volunteers"!



For those who prefer paying for one month at a time, we are continuing the option of enrolling with automatic deduction from a credit card for just US$49/month (two consecutive months minimum). You can stop your membership any time after the first two months. Monthly members:

  • Participate in whatever Featured Topic is "live" each month, including the discussion board with the trainer. A new Featured Topic opens on the 3rd Monday of each month, replacing the seminar or guide of the previous month.
  • Get 3 BONUS modules on introductory volunteer management topics
  • Can access e-Volunteerism online journal for the month
  • Have a discount in the Energize Online Bookstore as long as you are a member

Learn more about individual memberships and also about options for large and small organization memberships (at even lower per-person cost). Sign up today.

Your Help Needed!


We may approve of online training, but Energize also promotes face-to-face learning and networking opportunities. While there are only a few national conference choices (and their quality is uneven), our field does run some excellent state/provincial conferences and city or regional workshops worth considering. Every one of these welcomes registrants from out of their geographic area, and it may be less expensive to attend, too.


But how can you find out about what's available? Energize provides a listing of volunteer management conferences and courses - free to colleagues searching for networking opportunities and free to the conference organizers seeking ways to reach potential registrants. The calendar only works if you contribute to it, and we provide an easy form to do so.


The 2013 events are all done and the listings for 2014 are just starting to trickle in. Don't let the cupboard be bare! We are looking for postings in these categories:

  • Conferences/Workshops (global/international events, and those in North America, Europe, Asia, Australasia, Africa - anywhere!)
  • Academic Classes, Certificate Programs and Institutes (again, located anywhere)
  • Online Learning (webinars, talks, courses)
We ask you to follow only two criteria:
  1. The program you post must be either directly about volunteer management or for leaders of volunteers, or have a substantial set of sessions about volunteering within the larger agenda.
  2. Registration must be open to the public.

And remember to keep checking the conferences and courses area of our Web site all year long for new postings. You may find something wonderful a lot closer than you think!

What's New in e-Volunteerism?


Volume XIV, Issue 1 of e-Volunteerism, our international, subscription-based journal for informing and challenging leaders of volunteers, will launch on January 15th. In the meantime, check out the newest articles in the current issue (XIV, 1).


Free Access this Month:


From the Archives


Boomers and Beyond: 12 Best Practices Vital to Volunteer Resources in the Future (Volume X, Issue 4, July 2010)

There are clear best practices in gaining success with Boomers and other volunteers today. However, for continued success, organizations need to create strategies that will allow them to become learning organizations, able to understand and respond to the changes in volunteer expectations. Discussion of research conducted by the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration.


From the Current Issue 


Points of View 

The Uncertain Future of Local Volunteer Centers
Entities that most colleagues recognize as volunteer centers exist in many countries around the world. Although some are effective and creative, too many volunteer centers have never been visible in their communities or received adequate funding - but they still have loads of potential. Rob Jackson and Susan Ellis open a dialogue to be expanded in the April 2014 issue of the journal.


New Postings Since the Last Update:


Subscriber Access Only:

(Subscribe for a full year or 48-hour access)


How to Welcome and Orient Volunteers Online: Experiences from George House Trust - British colleague Laura Hamilton offers this Training Design to show how she has used the Web to transform the way she engages and trains volunteers.


Too Much? Too Little? Or Just Right? A Study of Accountability for Volunteer Contributions - Laurie Mook reports on this new research study from Australia.




Coming Up in January


The new edition opening in 2 weeks includes articles on: how St. Jude Children's Research Hospital piloted a successful volunteer respite care service; an innovative volunteer management consulting service offered to nonprofits by a university; a Points of View about "isolation" in a time of Internet access; an article on humor and the need for laughter in volunteering; and much more. Don't miss out!


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 thirteen previous volume years.

Susan's Tip
of the Month


Mention the concept of families volunteering together as an intergenerational group and the response is often, "Gee, that sounds great." But there are still far too few organizations actively recruiting families as volunteers.


Families who volunteer together share the bond of a common interest or cause. It's a form of valued "quality time" between parents and their children. Family volunteering is a great solution for the time-pressured, multi-tasking adult, offering a way to do something meaningful as a parent, something of civic and educational value, and a form of recreation more rewarding - and less expensive - than movies, theme parks, and other purely entertaining past-times. If the right project is chosen, family volunteering is fun and can even provide healthy exercise!


There are tangible benefits to the organization, too. The most important is that when a family accepts a volunteer assignment together, the agency gets many hands at once to do a job. This is especially helpful if a project needs intensive staffing. Bringing in a family of 4 or 5 to do the work substitutes for having to recruit 4 to 5 individual volunteers. There are also many times in which having volunteers of varying ages provides better service to clients or consumers of varying ages. Here are some real examples of family volunteering assignments that demonstrate the benefits:

  • Visiting a homebound client - a family can commit to a weekly visit and, even if only one member of the family can come in a particular week, it assures that a visit will indeed be made. Depending on the client, the presence of children may bring great joy.
  • Working at clean-up and other beautification projects - ideal because there are tasks suitable for every age and skill group.
  • Staffing a booth or activity at a fundraising event - which allows for sufficient coverage of that booth yet everyone can get a break, plus the younger volunteers can interact with other young people who come to the booth.

In truth, the right family team can tackle just about any assignment. It will depend on their interests, skills, and hobbies.


What's a "Family"?


We live in a world in which "families" come in all shapes and sizes. There are families of blood ties as well as intentional or chosen families. There are nuclear families and far extended ones. It doesn't matter how people self-define their own family. What matters is that there are two or more people who have a strong relationship with each other and who come from at least two generations.


One special type of family unit is a divorced, non-custodial parent with his or her children. Too often this parent is a playmate, looking for fun things to do on visiting days. Volunteering together may be a very satisfying activity that allows this parent and children to share something special with each other, while doing good in the community.


A whole family can volunteer together, or just one parent with one or more children, or a grandparent and grandchild together, or a group of siblings - there are so many possible permutations. Similarly, even if a family commits to the same organization, they do not necessarily have to work together at the same assignment.  


Possible Pitfalls


So, if family volunteering is such a hot idea, why isn't there more of it going on?


Agencies may be wary of the possible risks of involving children in volunteer work, either for the safety of the children themselves or for fear of harm done by the children to clients. In family volunteering, however, the parents are right there to supervise as well as to permit the activity to go on. So there is a built-in safety factor.


If your agency really feels that it cannot accept young children as volunteers, you can still have a family volunteer program for parents (or other adult relatives) and pre-teens or teenagers. Older children can be more independent and really carry their weight on the family team.


There may also be some suspicion that it's the adults who decided to volunteer and dragged their children along. It's very important for every member of the family to be committed to the project. Volunteer program managers need to interview all the family members before accepting the family as a team, not negotiate the project with only one or both parents. If most of the family members seem eager but one less so, be prepared to offer an alternative assignment that might be of greater interest.


Training needs to be adapted to different age groups. All members of the family should be trained (or at least get instructions), but the methods that will reach the adults may be different from what the children need.


Finally, families will almost always need to volunteer on a Saturday or Sunday, unless it is during a school break. For some organizations this provides a great source of weekend help; for others it may limit the possible assignments.


Consider making a conscious effort to recruit family volunteers. It may be possible to collaborate with another community organization seeking family activities. A nearby faith community, for example, might welcome the idea of encouraging a number of families to volunteer together as a group. A parent-teacher organization might like to sponsor a volunteering project as a way to reach more parents for its own needs. You might even contact a group such as Parents without Partners and propose a day of family service for their year-round calendar of activities. See what connections you can make.

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 bookstore.


If you missed our last newsletter, you will find our newsletter archive here 

Material may be re-posted or printed without additional permission, provided credit is given to Energize, Inc., and our Web site address is included: 


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