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Volunteer Management Update
May 2016
May Hot Topic
We in the U. S. are deep into one of the strangest presidential election process in memory. Susan offers a collection of recent volunteer-centered political news stories. Some are bizarre, some are moving, and all are revealing of the kaleidoscope of citizen action focused on social change. 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!).
Online Bookstore

For more than 20 years, Canadian colleague Linda Graff worked internationally as the ranking expert on risk management in volunteer involvement, delivering provocative, informative seminars and producing books now considered volunteer management staples. Linda retired a few years ago and therefore has not been visible "on the circuit" of conferences. We at Energize want to make sure her advice remains available to all. We are one of the few places you can obtain her published works - both in printed and electronic formats. In fact, we recently acquired what remains of her inventory of paper back books. This is your chance to add these essentials to your professional development library!

Beyond Police Checks: The Definitive Volunteer & Employee Screening Guidebook
Thorough, practical examination of what screening is all about. Linda offers tips and tools to lead any volunteer resources management through the sometimes scary subject of selecting the right volunteers. Check out the Table of Contents.

Read Linda's section on the role of "gut feelings and intuition" as this month's Tip in the column to the right!

Better Safe...Risk Management in Volunteer Programs & Community Service
"Life is full of risks." This is how Linda opens Better Safe, in which she urges us to become conscious about risk management in our organizational lives. She gives a broad overview of all the components of risk and provides the tools required to systematically examine and plan improvement of current practices. Check out the Table of Contents.

Best of All: The Quick Reference Guide to Effective Volunteer Management
Linda collects into a single volume all the latest techniques that produce effective volunteer involvement. She prepared it specifically for volunteer coordinators in organizations such as sports associations and churches, and for local chapter/branch organizers - those who typically do not call what they do "volunteer management" but who manage volunteer efforts nonetheless. Check out the Table of Contents.

By Definition: Policies for Volunteer Programs
This was Linda's first book in 1997 - and the first publication to address the need for and how to write volunteer engagement policies. Although its age is evident, the sample policies Linda offers remain extremely relevant as templates and guides. Check out the Table of Contents.

What's New in e-Volunteerism?


Volume XVI, Issue 3 of e-Volunteerism, our international, subscription-based journal, opened on April 15th. As always, all previous journal issues are available to subscribers online in the Archives.
Free Access this Month:   

From the Current Issue
Points of View 
Missing the Point: Asking the Wrong Questions in Volunteering Research - Rob Jackson and Susan J. Ellis take issue with recent research on volunteering and argue that asking the wrong questions will ensure the wrong answers. They review troublesome assumptions in a published UK research report and, before long, are in full rant mode: Do we need more volunteers? Stop studying volunteer motivation, please!

Subscriber Access Only:  
(Subscribe for a full year or 48-hour access)
New Postings Since the Last Update
Standing Up for the Potential of Others - Kayla Young shares her successful experience helping a valued community member with special needs connect with a volunteer role that would suit her, providing encouragement to all leaders of volunteers who work with people who may need a bit of extra initial training and support. "A tiny investment in standing up for the potential of others can often yield big results for your organization."

Belfast's Creative Extremists - Volunteer NOW and the Voluntary Service Bureau in Belfast conducted a two-year oral and social history project to capture the volunteer stories of over 110 people in all walks of life in Northern Ireland. The work led to the publication of a book called Volunteer Voices: Belfast's Creative Extremists and an exhibit open to the public.

Herding Cats (Or How to Facilitate a Great Learning Experience for People With Very Different Backgrounds) - What do cats have to do with training? In this Training Designs, author Reva Cooper shares what she has learned about training groups when participants are at very different starting points. 

Still to Come in this issue 
Look for a variety of new articles during this quarter, including ones on: mediating conflict involving volunteers; an Australian "Healthy Living Ambassadors" program in which a national public awareness campaign helped volunteers expand their own health awareness to others; Web resources for victim services; a review of a study on multi-generational volunteer programs; and more.

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 15 previous volume years.

Did you know we have created copyright-free graphics to use as you wish in motivating volunteers? Visit our Pinterest page to see this board and more images we collect for you.
Susan's Tip
of the Month
The following tip is excerpted from Beyond Police Checks: The Definitive Volunteer & Employee Screening Guidebook by Linda L. Graff (Linda Graff and Associates, 1999), pp. 126-27

They are impossible to define and yet most of us experience them. Triggers called "gut feelings" arise with some regularity among screeners. Variously called "intuition," or "instinct," screeners sense that something is "off," or "not quite right" with particular candidates. It might be the feeling of the hair standing up on the back of your neck, or the troubling sense of uncertainty that nags at you when the interviewee leaves your office.

What should you do when you experience misgivings of this nature?

The first thing to do is to push yourself to identify precisely what triggered the sense of apprehension. Was it something in the candidate's manner, choice of words, presentation style, body language, or attitude? If you can pinpoint the source of discomfort, then explore it. Is it a legitimate cause for concern, or is it merely a reflection of discomfort with "difference"? Be careful that discrimination against someone not similar to yourself is not in play.

Uncomfortable facts have to be uncovered. But better now than later. -- Robert W. Wendover

The gut feeling can arise from other sources. Perhaps the source is a slight inconsistency among the data collected about a candidate. Perhaps the source is the too careful choice of non-committal language from a referee. Maybe a sense of unease surfaces from a slightly less than convincing explanation of gaps in an employment record or frequent moves from community to community.

The recommendation is that gut feelings not be ignored (Lorraine Street, 1996; Robert W. Wendover, 1996; Steve McCurley and Rick Lynch, 1996). There is often some basis in reality for an intuitive sense of apprehension. Like other red flags, a gut feeling should not be grounds for disqualification but, instead, a cause to investigate further.

Do not be unsettled when this happens, even if you cannot absolutely define why you are getting a negative feeling about the potential volunteer; go with your instincts which, after all, you have been developing for most of your life. -- Steve McCurley and Rick Lynch

Tip: Get a second opinion.

Ask a colleague or a supervisor to join you in a second interview with the candidate, or to re-check a reference. Think about how much you want to share with your assistant in advance. It might be better to say less about your misgivings and see if he or she picks up on what you sensed. She or he might be able to confirm or dispel your concerns.

When misgivings cannot be easily allayed, it may be necessary to ask the individual to undergo further screening. For example, an additional interview, extra reference checks, a performance assessment, or a probation period might provide enough additional information for the decision to become clear. Caution is advised, however. As Lorraine Street (1996: 3.37) says, "the organization must be careful not to discriminate against someone by asking more than it normally would, without a good reason." Here is the basis for pushing hard to identify the source of unease. You may be called upon to defend it in the face of an allegation of discrimination.

As Lorraine Street (1996) elaborates, the situation may not be easily resolved. You may be faced with a difficult choice. You place a candidate you are still uncomfortable with, which may increase risks, and which will certainly increase the importance of all post-screening risk management mechanisms. You decline the application of a candidate on less than clear or defensible grounds which leaves the organization vulnerable to discrimination claims.

Sometimes the choice comes down to what your gut tells you might be the best course of action in the best interests of clients and the organization's mission, versus the most prudent legal option of non-discrimination.

Clearly a win-win outcome is unlikely in such a dilemma. The ethically right choice is probably to give priority to the well-being of clients, but either way, the screener will want to ensure that the organization supports the option she or he pursues.

Get your copy of Beyond Police Checks: The Definitive Volunteer & Employee Screening Guidebook today.


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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