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Volunteer Management Update
August 2015
August Hot Topic

We are responsible for the effective engagement of volunteers but most often do not have control over what happens once volunteers are placed into roles supervised by others. So leaders of volunteers are accountable, but with limited power. Susan asks: When do you have the authority to act if you feel something needs to be done differently? What are your options? 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!).



Twenty years ago, volunteerism in general, and the profession of volunteer management in particular, were not often the focus of academic studies. Happily, we are emerging as a topic of interest these days from different quarters and in various countries. Even so, too often the quality of research done leaves much to be desired. We need to be more proactive in getting universities and research institutions to gather better data for us - and to engage us in interpreting what they learn.
Please Help with a Colleague's Online Survey Before August 16th
Energize is pleased to support long-time colleague Melissa Heinlein with her doctoral dissertation research, especially as she is specifically studying the role of volunteer resource manager. Here is her call for survey respondents:

You are often asked to answer questions about your volunteer department, your programs, and your volunteers. This time, you have an opportunity to participate in a research study about your role, experiences, and support you receive as a volunteer resource manager.  If you are interested, the survey will take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JobRelatedVRM
Open until August 16, 2015

You must read the Participant Letter in its entirety before beginning the survey.

Any questions about the research can be addressed to Melissa Heinlein (phone: 610- 955-7205; e-mail: m_heinlein@hotmail.com). This study has been approved by the Marywood University Exempt Review Committee.
Are You Conducting a Survey?
If you know of any research being done that is seeking survey respondents, interviewees, or other contributions - and is directly about volunteers, volunteer resources managers, or related issues - please let us know at info@energizeinc.com. We would be happy to post your request for input via our social media - and possibly in publishing the results in our journal, e-Volunteerism.

We also provide links to dozens of published studies in the "Research on Volunteering" section of our A-Z Volunteer Management Library.
Coming in September

Rob Jackson has partnered with Susan to Anglicize the best-selling American book, From the Top Down: The Executive Role in Successful Volunteer Involvement. Not only has the vocabulary and spelling been converted to British usage, but the chapters on financial reporting and legal issues pertaining to volunteers have been completely rewritten by English authorities.


When the book is released in September, it will be sold on Amazon.co.uk but will also be available in the Energize Online Bookstore for purchase by colleagues in Australia, Singapore, India, and other countries using British rather than American English.


Come to a Book Launch Event!

Susan is crossing the pond next month to join Rob for a multi-city tour to  celebrate From the Top Down - UK. Events are planned in London, Manchester, Sterling, and Belfast. See the schedule and registration information at the Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd Web Site.

What's New in e-Volunteerism?


Volume XV, Issue 4 of e-Volunteerism, our international, subscription-based journal for informing and challenging leaders of volunteers. opened on July 15th.

Free Access this Month:  

From the Current Issue

Points of View 

Volunteer Hounded to Death by Fundraisers? Lessons To Learn - Was Olive Cooke, a 92-year-old volunteer for the Royal British Legion, hounded to death by fundraisers this past May? Intrepid sleuths Susan J. Ellis and Rob Jackson turn the case inside out and use it to debate: What is or should be the connection between donating money and donating time?

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


New Postings Since the Last Updates:


Behavior-Based Interviewing: An Effective Screening Tool for Highly-Skilled Volunteers 
Elisa Kosarin and two colleagues outline their successful approach to an interview method that found the best volunteers and turned around their drop-off rate.

Volunteer Management Training: The Missing Pieces
New Zealand volunteering advocate Sue Hine makes the case for understanding reflection as an important part of a cycle for continuous improvement. 
Still to Come

The table of contents for this issue promises a range of interesting and useful articles that will go live throughout the quarter, including: how a leader of volunteers can practice the techniques of coaching to sustain volunteer engagement; an Along the Web exploration of volunteer initiatives helping those with mental illness; the rise, fall and evolution of the "telethon"; and a review of research questioning whether volunteer satisfaction increases motivation to do more more. We are also introducing our new Training Designs editor, Canadian colleague, Erin Spink, who will assume this role with ways to teach about the power of volunteers through the lens of transformational leadership . As always, the contents of the previous 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

Accessibility and diversity are about accommodating everyone, not just people with disabilities or people who are from minority groups. You want to make volunteering as welcoming to the widest number of people possible


Much of what is recommended to create accessibility for people with disabilities turns out to be helpful to everyone. Adding subtitles to your online videos not only makes it possible for people with hearing impairments to understand the material, but also increases their usefulness for people learning English and for people who do not have headphones handy and want to watch the video with the sound turned down so as not to disturb people around them.


What is a disability, anyway? Large numbers of people wear reading glasses - assistive technology devices - yet many Web sites use tiny font sizes inaccessible to them without their glasses. Some people with physical limitations have far more expertise in various professional and technical areas than able-bodied people. The point is this: Do not divide volunteers into those-with-disabilities and those-without-disabilities.


A volunteer resources manager does not have to become an expert in disabilities to involve people with disabilities as volunteers. Educating yourself about various disabilities in general, however, can help you learn to better accommodate a variety of volunteers in your program.


Identifying Disabilities


Note that many people may never mention that they have a disability and your volunteer application should not ask about disabilities. Not only could this be a violation of laws in your country, but it gives the impression that you match volunteers to assignments based on what they cannot do, rather than on what they can.  

Give all volunteers opportunities to tell you what accommodations might need to be made for them to be successful in an assignment. If you discover a volunteer has a disability, you do not have to avoid the subject, but neither do you have to mention it. If you are uncertain about the wants or needs of a volunteer, with or without a disability, ask!  

If a candidate says, "I can do everything but such-and-such part of this assignment," consider working with the candidate to accommodate this preference. Perhaps the assignment can be broken up, with different volunteers taking on different pieces, depending on their interests and skills. Such a request does not necessarily mean the volunteer has a disability, however; he or she may lack the skills to do a particular part of an assignment, or not have the time for that piece. If the assignment cannot be broken up to accommodate a candidate, explain why, but also encourage him or her to apply again for other assignments with your organization. Prospective volunteers should know that no to one request does not mean all assignments will be closed to them.


Non-apparent Disabilities


In acknowledging and accommodating different ways people learn and communicate off- and online, you not only create assignments that appeal to a greater variety of people with a range of working styles, you also can accommodate hidden or non-apparent disabilities, such as learning disabilities (the most common form of disability) and emotional and anxiety disorders.


The more you break assignments down by task, the more accommodating you will be for volunteers who have non-apparent disabilities, particularly learning disabilities, as well as for online volunteers who have only a very limited time available to provide service to your organization. Options such as micro-volunteering that take just a few hours over a few days to complete, may be particularly appealing to people who suffer anxiety disorders as well as people who are available only for a short period.


Generous deadlines, which may work well for people with learning disorders or emotional disabilities may also be appealing to volunteers with work schedules that change frequently. Not every assignment can have a flexible deadline. If a task must be done by a specific date, state this clearly in the recruitment message so that those volunteers who cannot meet the set deadline can screen themselves out.




These and many other ways to welcome people with disabilities as volunteers can be found in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, which Jayne Cravens and I wrote last year and from which this tip was adapted.



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.


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