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Volunteer Management Update
April 2014
April Hot Topic


We all need to thank volunteers, so why are we doing it in isolation from each other? One colleague's proposal to her network sparks new recognition and collaboration ideas. 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. 

Special Issue of


The next issue of our international online journal, e-Volunteerism, is devoted entirely to the theme of volunteer centers. This is the first time that any publication has been completely focused on this local component of volunteering infrastructure. Dozens of countries have networks of volunteer centers and, despite clear cultural differences, all face quite similar challenges. Three main questions provide the framework for this issue of the journal:

  • Is there still a need for local volunteer centers - and how has their purpose evolved over time?
  • What is and should be the relationship between volunteer centers and their main constituents: volunteer-involving organizations, volunteer resources managers, and volunteers themselves?
  • What is our collective vision for the future of volunteer centers or any other form of local infrastructure to promote and support volunteering?

The contents include:

  • An article by Cees van den Bos, who directs the volunteer center in Arnhem, the Netherlands, based on his new dissertation comparing the volunteering infrastructure in various European countries
  • An article by Annette Maher, in Melbourne, Australia, who writes about the challenge volunteer centers face in a volunteer world rapidly changing around them
  • A feature we call the "Keyboard Roundtable," in which participants from various countries discuss the possible future of volunteer centers
  • A Points of View essay examining "competition" between volunteer centers and their constituencies
  • An Along the Web feature sharing annotated links to Web resources related to volunteer centers
  • A Research-to-Practice feature reviewing an academic study of HandsOn Network
  • A Training Designs feature highlighting a collaboration among volunteer centers in Ontario, Canada to create a learning cooperative for volunteer management
  • And, finally, the quarterly feature we call Voices will be an open call for all sorts of responses from readers, in written, audio, or video form.

This should be an exciting issue, and we hope it will spark discussion in many places about this important topic.


Please note the invitation to contribute your comments to the debate via text, audio or video! Again, this special issues goes live on April 15.


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

Online Bookstore


Things We Love About Volunteers: A Cartoon Collection
By Graham Harrop
Just in time for the season of National Volunteer Weeks in countries around the world! 25 full-color cartoons that celebrate the commitment and compassion of your volunteers. A wonderful way to say "Thank you!" for all they do.


Volunteer Management - How and Why? A Book on Developing Sustainable Volunteer Environments
By Frederik C. Boll, Nana G. Alsted and Jakob M. Hald
A holistic, organizational approach to strategically engaging volunteers in associations or agencies. Use this book to reflect how volunteers are incorporated into the overall work of your organization and learn to create what the Danish authors call a "sustainable volunteer environment."



The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
The service is done virtually but the volunteers are REAL! Online or remote volunteers need the same quality leadership that onsite volunteers receive. Learn how to manage online service successfully.

What's New in e-Volunteerism?


Volume XIV, Issue 2 of e-Volunteerism, our international, subscription-based journal for informing and challenging leaders of volunteers, launched in mid-January and will run through mid-April.


Free Access this Month:


From the Archives 


Award-Winning Nominations: How to Bring Recognition and Awards to Volunteers (Volume VIII, Issue 3, April 2008)
This Training Design by Elizabeth Ellis presented a unique topic: the rationale for nominating volunteers for external awards and how to do it well. [While we are featuring this in April for North American National Volunteer Week, Elizabeth makes the point that the good thing about awards is that they happen all the time and so can be year-round recognition.]


From the Current Issue 


Points of View 

Isolation Is Not an Option
Susan Ellis and Rob Jackson explore the question: are we as a field effectively networking and collaborating with the tools available to us today? Despite enormous technological progress in global communication, many volunteer resources managers express continuing feelings of isolation in their work.


Subscriber Access Only:

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


New Postings Since the Last Update:


We Need to Laugh More - Canadian John Suart acknowledges that we have a lot to be serious about, but at the end of the day, can we have a laugh?



Considerations for Volunteer Resource Managers In Engaging Service-Learners - Research to Practice editor Laurie Mook looks at one of the few studies that analyzes the impact of service-learning on the community partner.



Next Issue: All about Volunteer Centers! Opens 15 April


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


Volunteer resources managers commonly struggle with getting volunteers to submit written reports about their work, even if such reports are "required." If an organization routinely receives only a small percentage of monthly information asked of volunteers, something is wrong. But the problem is not the volunteers; it's with the agency that has not cared enough to enforce its own requirements.


An organization MUST be informed of what is being done in its name anywhere -- not only for quality control, but also to protect both clients and volunteers. This is especially vital for volunteers who work remotely, whether in the field or online. Therefore, a volunteer who does not report is unacceptable in that role. Does this sound harsh? No, it reflects that the work the volunteer is doing is important to everyone and cannot be unreported.


First, state clearly and specifically in all volunteer position descriptions what the reporting requirements are and reinforce these expectations in all early contacts and training.


Then, design a reporting procedure that is simple in content and easy to submit.

  • Give volunteers a form to complete! Don't expect essays...but leave room for them to add whatever they want.
  • Ask questions that make sense and have meaning! Such as: some statistics/data to monitor "activity"; some indicators of impact or results - which will vary with each assignment; benchmarks or milestones that might be observed
  • Offer options to report on paper by mail or drop-off, by fax, by voice on a dedicated answering machine line, by e-mail, or online via a tool such as SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo.

Equally important, determine who will look at and respond to the reports...and follow up when reports are not submitted.


If you do not follow up the very first time a volunteer does not submit a report, you send the message that it doesn't matter! Stress that you expect and will look at all reports every time. If you start out right, volunteers will soon comply.


A few more hints:

  • If you cannot respond to reports as soon as they come in, at least thank each volunteer (automatic e-mail is fine) and promise to get back soon.
  • Share non-confidential information in the reports cumulatively with all the other remote volunteers, so that they see how together they are making a difference.
  • If you have many remote volunteers, create one or more team leader positions, assigning a volunteer to specifically follow up with off-site volunteers and then work closely with you.
  • Remember to report to the volunteers on what you are doing, too. It's two-way communication that will help them feel in-the-loop about what is going on.

Here's a thought: If you do not look at and use the reports volunteers give you, stop asking for them!


Showing that you read and act on what volunteers tell you in their reports reinforces that reporting is useful to everyone. And many volunteers like to submit reports as a way of sharing what they feel they are contributing. So an effective reporting process is a form of volunteer recognition.


Think about that as you celebrate National Volunteer Week.

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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