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Volunteerpower News January 2003

Thank you for subscribing to Volunteerpower.com's monthly newsletter. Each newsletter we provide you with the latest information on recruiting, training and motivating volunteers.

Also, don't forget to look up our website at http://www.volunteerpower.com for more articles and resources to help you work with your volunteers.


Table of Contents:

1) Training Volunteers Who Think They Know It All

2) Ice Breaker - Ice Breaker Questions

3) Ask Tom - When you recruit volunteers to serve on a board or committee, do you recruit a slate of people and then assign them a position, or do you recruit people to fulfill a specific role?


1) Management Tip - Training Volunteers Who Think They Know It All

Training volunteer leaders raises two specific problems aimed at two specific groups: volunteer leaders and paid staff.

Problem One - Volunteer Leaders: Simply recruiting volunteers doesn't ensure that you'll end up with true volunteer leaders. While most volunteers are perfectly talented and capable at their professional jobs, volunteer leadership is very different. Although volunteer leadership requires the same skills and knowledge used in business management (i.e. communication, motivation, coaching, time management, team building), the context is completely different. Many volunteer leaders who are effective in the work place cannot make that contextual leap. The people that they lead in the volunteer organization often feel, "Hey, I'm doing this for free. I don't need to be treated like your employees at work."

Problem Two-Paid staff: The paid staff of an organization often don't have a clue about managing volunteers. They get frustrated and begin to say, "We need more paid staff to get the work done."

How do we handle these two problems?

First, to face these problems directly, many volunteer organizations and non-profit associations are sending their board members and volunteer managers to workshops, such as those offered by the Society of Association Executives (and their state chapters) or the Association of Volunteer Administration (and their city chapters). At these workshops, incoming board presidents get to meet other incoming board presidents from other associations and learn how to do their job most effectively. These are educational, they are usually at a nice resort and they are paid for by the association, so they enjoy it. Even the professional managers who think that they have all the answers begin to see the difference in volunteer management when they are interacting with other volunteer leaders.

Another idea is to give your volunteer training a sexy name such as "Why Everything That Made You a Successful Manager Doesn't Work with Volunteers." Of course if you are going to give your volunteer leaders a training session with a title like that, you've got to deliver and answer the question.

Training the paid staff is another issue. It is absolutely essential that you offer a very specific training program for your volunteer staff on how to manage the volunteer team. It is the paid staff that often don't know how to manage the volunteer staff. When they were hired for a staff position with an organization such as Girl Scouts, Ducks Unlimited, or a local church, they did not realize that 80% of the work they were going to do was going to be managing volunteers and 20% was going to be what they learned in college. I remember working very closely with the California National Audubon society training their staff how to do strategic planning with their volunteer teams. It was an exciting year of coaching and training them to think and plan strategically. Today their paid staff know how to develop a strategic planning retreat in which the volunteers all leave with very specific roles and responsibilities to accomplish their strategic plan. In essence, I put myself out of a job, because they don't need me any more to do their strategic planning. That is exciting. And let's face it, that is what training volunteers is all about - putting yourself out of work.

For more information about our training sessions, see: http://www.volunteerpower.com/services/

2) Ice Breaker - Getting to Know You

Objective: To help participants get acquainted, and to help them discover common unknown facts and interesting stories about each other.

Procedure: Have everyone get in groups of about six (if your entire board or volunteer committee is ten or under, you can all stay in one group). Have each one answer one or all of the following questions.

1. In high school you would most likely find me _________________. Have each person fill in the blank. Many of the answers I have heard are the following:

In the bathroom smoking

In the dean's office

On the stage

In the gym

In the quad talking

2. What is the longest you have ever worn your hair? When?

3. What is the strangest food you have ever eaten?

The answers open the door for follow up questions. Another variation of this ice breaker is to have people write down their answers on a 3x5 card. Collect the cards, shuffle them and then hand them out. Have each person try to guess whose card they have.

3) Ask Tom - Real Questions from Volunteer Managers or Leaders


Don From Sacramento

When you recruit volunteers to serve on a board or committee, do you recruit a slate of people and then assign them a position, or do you recruit people to fulfill a specific role?


Don, your question is one of the top ten questions I am asked at our workshops. It is such a significant question because the answer sets the foundation for your whole volunteer program. And yet it is a question that so many volunteer managers do not understand. Let me be real blunt: Recruit for the position. Or let me say it another way-in the negative: Don't recruit a slate of people and then assign them a position. If you do, you will have higher turn-over and burn out.

Joan was recruited by an after-school teen center in the inner city. She loved to do behind-the-scenes work and pictured herself scrubbing floors, painting walls and stuffing envelopes. But she was placed on the finance committee at the first meeting and was asked to go out and raise money. Although she had a passion for the cause, she was overwhelmed, disappointed and she eventually quit.

Don, when you look at your volunteer team think-"position". Ask, "What positions do I need to accomplish our mission?" "What do you want the team members to do?" And then look for people who can fill those positions. I don't know where I heard this or who I am quoting, but I remember hearing once that all committees or boards need four types of people-the four W's. You need workers (behind the scene workers like Joan), weight (people who have influence and power in the community) wealth (people who not only have deep pockets, but know people who have deep pockets) and wisdom (people who can think strategically). Not bad advice. But I like to take it a step further and also look for very specific roles I need. I recommend that you a develop position charter (job description) for each board or volunteer position and then look for the people to fill those positions. For more information on how to write a position charter, check out the section on writing position charters at: http://www.volunteerpower.com/resources/