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Volunteer Management Update
July 2015
July Hot Topic

We say that our goal is teamwork among volunteers and paid staff, but just as the game is about to start, we withhold some of the things volunteers need to help the team to victory. Do you give volunteers access to the same resources employees take for granted? 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. Also, you can browse the archive of Susan's Hot Topics (since 1997!).

International Exchange


Volunteering is part of the social fabric everywhere on the globe, and resources to educate and support leaders of volunteers are being produced in many countries. Although Energize, Inc. is based in the United States, we have always attempted to connect English speakers in our field, wherever they may be located. For example:
  • Every category in our Directory for the Volunteer Management Profession  includes information from countries on every continent, including conferences, professional associations, and more. Traveling this summer? Maybe you can visit a colleague overseas.
  • We routinely add resources into our A-Z Volunteer Management Library from international sources (as long as they are available in the English language), noting the country of origin. So be sure to let us know what should be added from your corner of the world.
  • We welcome your posts of job and internship openings in that section of the site - it's a free service and you never know who might be eager to relocate!
  • We are particularly proud of the many sources of books we sell in the Online Bookstore. We offer 8 titles from Canada, 7 from the United Kingdom, 3 from Australia, 1 each from Denmark and Hungary, and more than 50 from the United States. Here are just a few samples:
From Canada    
The Abundant Not-for-Profit
This book offers leaders a new road map for transforming their organizations with talent, not money, by meaningfully engaging and integrating volunteers as knowledge philanthropists.

Best of All
A compendium of the best techniques for leading volunteer engagement, proven to work in a myriad of settings.
From the United Kingdom    
The A-Z of Volunteering and Asylum
Refugees and asylum-seekers are potential new volunteers in England and other countries. Learn how to reach out successfully to involve this growing population for mutual benefits

A Toolkit for Volunteer Speed Matching
Think speed dating meets volunteer recruiting! One clever volunteer center outside of London produced this Toolkit for the perfect, fun and upbeat recruiting event.
From Australia    
Volunteer Program Management
Truly an essential guide, the book is filled with solid information for both starting and strengthening a volunteer program in any setting.

Top Tips for Recruiting Volunteers (DVD)
Australian trainer Martin J. Cowling cuts straight to the chase in this video presentation of what organizations do correctly and incorrectly in connecting volunteers.
From Denmark    
 Volunteer Management - How and Why?
A holistic, organizational approach to strategically engaging volunteers in organizations.

From Hungary    
Volunteer Management in Cultural Institutions
Experience-based and thoughtful roadmap to creating and managing volunteers in arts settings, combining western best practice with the perspective of eastern Europe.

What's New in e-Volunteerism?


Volume XV, Issue 3 of e-Volunteerism, our international, subscription-based journal for informing and challenging leaders of volunteers will run through mid-July. Look for the next new issue on July 15th.


Free Access this Month:

From the Archives

Mandated Volunteering: Oxymoron or Opportunity?

 (II, 4, July 2002) - A still relevant Points of View by Susan J. Ellis and Steve McCurley, delineating the issues involved in requiring unpaid service.

From the Current Issue 

Points of View 

Is Finding a Comparison a Sign of Achievement? Should you compare and contrast your volunteer engagement to that of other organizations? Is finding a comparison a sign of achievement, or is it compromised by the limits of benchmarking? And given the diversity of settings in which volunteers serve, is comparison even possible? Rob Jackson and Susan J. Ellis consider these issues and more.

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


New Postings Since the Last Updates:


Volunteer Management: Art or Science?  - Laurie Mook reviews a study by Mark A. Hager and Jeffrey L. Brudney examining whether adhering to "best practices" of volunteer management produces expected outcomes.

Advocating for Volunteers by Educating Staff - A Training Design by Erin L. Barnhart stressing that training staff about volunteers is key to a welcoming organizational culture for volunteers. 

Self-Help in Social Welfare - Excerpts from the Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference of Social Work, Toronto, 1954, focusing on the importance of volunteering and self-help as a basis for professional social work.


New Issue Coming on July 15th
We've got some wonderful articles prepared for the next issue of the journal, including: a Points of View musing about British volunteer, Olive Cooke, whom some think was "hounded to death" by fundraising requests; New Zealand colleague, Sue Hine, looks at the "missing pieces" of volunteer management education; Along the Web will explore volunteer initiatives helping those with mental illness; and more. We'll also introduce our new Training Designs editor, Canadian colleague, Erin Spink, who will assume this role by building on the current article by Erin Barnhart. As always, the contents of Vol. XV, Issue 3 will remain available to all subscribers in the journal archives


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 14 previous volume years.

Susan's Tip
of the Month

In most ways volunteers who come from the business world are just like any other new volunteer. They will need the same orientation, training, and supervision any newcomer requires to be effective as a member of your team.  


As always, the rule is don't assume.  


Don't assume that any applicant necessarily wants to do the same thing as a volunteer as she or he does all day on a paying job. It's fine to offer an assignment based on the person's work credentials, you may get greater enthusiasm by offering employee volunteers a complete change of pace than by typecasting them into the roles they hold at the company.


Interview all candidates. Just because they are employed by a corporation doesn't mean they are automatically qualified to help your organization or fit in with your culture. Don't assume that the person actually wants to volunteer! Sometimes an employer "strongly implies" that community service is expected, which is not a great motivator. Most business volunteers fully welcome and enjoy the opportunity, but it's always good to check.


It's also advisable to assess the actual skill level a business volunteer brings to your work, and how open the person is to transferring and adapting the way a job is done at the company to your situation. This is a theme that starts during the interview process and continues in orientation and training. Don't assume in either direction:

  • That every businessperson has or doesn't have skills that are applicable to your setting.
  • That the volunteer can or can't automatically apply business skills to a nonprofit or government setting.
  • That business people can relate to your mission or lack understanding of social issues.
  • That the volunteer has access to the company's money or goods.

Be prepared to explain the things that a businessperson might not know:  

  • What makes a nonprofit or public agency different from a for-profit business
  • Your client base and their problems and assets
  • The history of the concern or need the volunteer will be addressing
  • Current resources available from the agency
  • A profile of the paid and volunteer staff (including their education) and something about their workload
  • How decisions are made In your organization, who makes them, and how long it takes

The more you introduce employee volunteers to the realities of life in a nonprofit, the more capable they will be in adjusting their expectations to meet yours.


Define the Work for Success  


It is not necessary for a nonprofit to be "like a business," but to behave in a "businesslike" manner, particularly when it comes to respecting volunteers' time. In the for-profit world, time really is money, and most employee volunteers will have little tolerance for inefficiency. A good working relationship starts with a written volunteer role description that sets out a mutual agreement as to what will be done, with what support, and by when.


Pay special attention to timetables and reporting plans. Articulate clear goals and objectives and estimate how long each required activity will take. Agree on intermediate deadlines and on how you will both know when the work is completed. This includes discussing the form and frequency of communications and reports. Do you want written progress reports? How often? Similarly, when will it be necessary to meet in person and who calls such meetings and how? In fairness, be sure to commit to two-way communication: how will you keep the volunteer informed about your side of the work project?


Creative Opportunities  


Businesses, large and small, have a wide range of assets. Be creative in tapping these. Make sure employees from all levels of the company hierarchy are recruited as volunteers. This means the top brass and the secretaries. Also reach out to all units or departments about your volunteer needs: sales, accounting, the lab, maintenance, whatever. Just think of how many different skills are potentially available.


If the company works six or seven days a week, or has an evening or night shift, you can also develop special assignments for those employees who, in fact, are most available during some part of the normal work week. Remember that night shift workers are wide awake at 8 a.m. and might be perfect for that before-school program or breakfast assistance service you need to staff with volunteers.  


The volunteers themselves are the greatest resource, but don't be reluctant to ask if the business is willing to help in some tangible ways. How about meeting space or a training room equipped with audiovisual bells and whistles? Can the employee volunteers use the company's high-speed color copier for your flyers or borrow the company van to haul supplies? Sometimes it is simply a matter of making employee volunteers open their eyes to what they usually take for granted on the job, without realizing how much help it might be to you and your clients.




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 

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