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Volunteerpower News November 2003

Volunteer Power News  November 2003
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter
2003 Advantage Point Systems, Inc. Publishing

A warm welcome to all volunteer managers those of you who recruit, motivate and mobilize volunteer workers. 

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Next Month  the December Issue:
        Volunteers Aren’t Free
        What to Do for the Holiday Season When Your Volunteers Are Stressed Out

November Newsletter Content

Interesting facts and resources for volunteer managers:

       Is volunteering on the rise?  Are more people actually volunteering?

       Average hourly wage of the volunteer

       Volunteer clip art

       If volunteering is really on the rise, why doesn’t it feel like it?

       The four words that volunteers hate:  “Oh, by the way”

       If you missed last month:  Ice Breakers, Meeting Openers and Team Building Activities

A lot of people often ask me about current data on how many people are actually volunteering.   In answer to your questions, here is some information and resources:

The Value of Volunteer Time

INDEPENDENT SECTOR Releases New Value of Volunteer Time
(Washington, D.C., February 19, 2003)  INDEPENDENT SECTOR announced today that the 2002 value of volunteer time has increased by nearly 50 cents to $16.54 per hour. The hourly value, updated yearly, is based on the average hourly earnings of all nonagricultural workers as determined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. INDEPENDENT SECTOR takes this figure and increases it by 12 percent to estimate for fringe benefits.

“INDEPENDENT SECTOR has long known the value of volunteering is immeasurable, both for the person who volunteers and for the organization and people served. The monetary value of volunteer time serves as an estimate to help nonprofit organizations quantify this valuable resource,” said Peter Shiras, interim president and CEO, INDEPENDENT SECTOR.

INDEPENDENT SECTOR produces a biennial survey on the giving and volunteering patterns of Americans. According to the most recent survey, Giving and Volunteering in the United States, 2001, 44 percent of adults volunteered. When asked why they gave of their time, respondents cited compassion as the most commonly cited motivating factor. Survey participants also attributed their volunteering to the belief that those who have more should help those with less. Volunteers also gave of their time because they knew of someone who would benefit from their volunteering, and others said volunteering was a good way to meet people.

“While we recognize that volunteers offer a wide variety of services, this estimate provides a uniform way for volunteer managers, nonprofit executives, government agencies, and others to account for the value of volunteer time,” said Gordon Green, Ph.D., vice president of research, INDEPENDENT SECTOR.

You can find out more information about giving and volunteering in the United States at :   http://www.independentsector.org.

So What?  How Can I Use This Information?

I once had 18 people who each volunteered about four hours a week doing office work for our organization.  Each had a very specific responsibility and every year I would do a big splash in our newsletter with pictures and quotes, and I always closed with how much money this fantastic group was saving our organization.  Those 18 people would have cost our organization $1190.88 per week that is over $50,000 a year.

Next Month:  Volunteering Isn’t Free

Just because we are saving over $50,000 a year by using volunteers (in just one area of our work force), don’t think that volunteers are free.  Next week I want to talk about the cost of volunteer labor.

Volunteer Clip Art

If you haven’t found the AVA (Association for Volunteer Administrators) organization or web site yet, I suggest you check it out.  I always love spending a day working with this organization, which has over 50 chapters in U.S. cities.  I’ll never forget a day I spent in Wichita, Kansas.  The room was filled with over 50 volunteers who represented the girl scouts, soup kitchens, hospitals, several local churches, environmental groups and the United Way.  We spent the day working on the question, “How do I awaken the Passion and Power of the 21st Century Volunteer?"

The national web site of AVA has a page with clip art you can download.  You can get this at:


How Many People Are Actually Volunteering?

The Philantropic Research, Inc  in 2002 reported that volunteerism is on the rise.  VolunteerMatch (www.volunteermatch.org) has had a 72% increase in volunteers since the same time in 2001.  The Peace Corps has had a 40% increase in applications in the last year.  Similar reports are being reported from nonprofit and federal government volunteer databases, including America's Promise, GuideStar, the National Mentoring Partnership, Points of Light Foundation, SERVEnet, the United Way, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and Citizen Corps.

One of the most thorough reports I have ever read came from the United Postal Service in their 1999 report.  You can read it at:


If the News is So Great  Why Am I Having So Much Trouble?

Don’t you love it when some guy is telling you that people are volunteering and they want to change the world and all the time you are struggling with finding volunteers.  Great news doesn’t help when you can’t find the qualified, committed and talented volunteers you need.

There may be many reasons why you are having a difficult time.  Please e-mail me with your specifics and I’d love to try and help you FREE. 

I got a call from a volunteer last week (one who was asked to be a volunteer that is a switch to get a call from a volunteer).  She was really struggling because she did want to be a dependable volunteer, but she was ready to quit.  As I listened to Lauren, I was reminded of the four words that volunteers hate.

Lauren was recruited to work as a helper for her daughters’ girl’s club.   As a parent, she felt obligated and really wanted to help.  “What can I do? I would be happy to be a helper,” were her responses.  She was eager and felt that she would be happy to bake cookies, drive, stuff envelopes, attend activities and anything else, as long as it was behind the scenes stuff.  That is Lauren.   The leaders said, “Great.  We are excited to have Sabrina and Savanna in our club, and we would love to have you volunteer to help.” 

Lauren went to the first meeting and said, “What do you want me to do?”   The leader handed her a huge manual and said, “Oh, by the way, we ask all volunteer leaders to read this.”   Lauren took it home and started to read it when the phone rang.  The leader said, “Oh, by the way, we are giving a test on the manual.  We want all our leaders to know the philosophy and what we expect from our volunteers.”  Lauren said, “I’m happy to read the manual”--she was being polite, “but I’m more the behind the scenes type of person.  Can I be a helper?”  The leader then said,  “Well, we really need parents to be leaders.  Oh, by the way, we are having an eight-hour training session next Saturday and want all our leaders to attend.”   Lauren is conscientious and wanted to be a support.  After all, her girls were taking part, and she felt that she should help.  Lauren had a big decision to make, and it was troubling her.  Should she quit, feeling guilty that she had not kept her commitment, or should she continue, hating every minute of it and feeling duped by the continuous “Oh, by the ways!”

Classic Oh, By the Ways:

       Oh, by the way, all volunteers need to be fingerprinted.
       Oh, by the way, all volunteers pay dues to the national organization.  Dues are $150 a year.
       Oh, by the way, each year each board member calls 10 donors to ask for end of the year contributions.
       Oh, by the way, all volunteers attend our annual planning retreat.
       Oh, by the way, all volunteers spend at least 12 hours just before the 4th of July working in the fireworks booth.

The classic come back for the volunteer is, “Oh, by the way, I quit!  You deceived me.”

What is wrong with this picture?  The problem is not Lauren.  The problem is not even with the demands there’s nothing wrong with asking volunteers to be fingerprinted or with asking volunteers to attend our annual planning retreat.  The problem is the volunteer organization that follows the “Oh, by the way” recruiting method.

Read how we can solve this problem and boost the commitment of our volunteers at http://www.volunteerpower.com/articles/OhByTheWay.asp

In Case You Missed Last Month:  Ice Breakers

Irene from the Cayman Islands writes:

Thanks for the latest newsletter.  I held a meeting last night at our church and accessed your site for icebreaker ideas. I was able to use one of them...identifying favorite things.  It is interesting to put these things in "action" in a different environment!  With the cultural differences (I have a mixed group...U.S., Caymanian, Jamaican), you get some interesting responses and situations.  Everyone participated and we had some fun. 

Wow thanks Irene.  Its always encouraging knowing that somebody is using the stuff we send out each month.

In case you missed the icebreakers last month, you can find them on a new section on our website under resources entitled, what else, “Ice Breakers, Meetings Openers, and Team Building Activities."  We have 18 activities organized in three groups:   Ice breakers, Event and Meeting Planning Openers, and Team Building Activities.  

1.      Community Building Ice-breakers -- Getting to Know You
       Eight door opening questions (i.e. "In high school . . .")
       Two truths and a lie
       My favorite ______
       What do we have in common
       Common traits (second version)
       Hot seat

2.      Event and Meeting Planning Openers (Retreats, Strategic Planning, Meetings)
       "Our organization . . ." opener
       The check in
       Cultural analysis before a strategic planning retreat

3.      Team Building Activities
       Developing team focus -- stranded in the desert
       Building interdependence

I have used all of them with great success.  You can copy them and use them: http://www.volunteerpower.com/resources/icebreaker.asp


Is your organization part of a larger professional association, or a statewide, regional or national organization? Does that group have local, regional or national meetings and conferences? Would you like a Volunteer Power Session presented at one of those meetings?

Our fast paced 1.5-hour session is a stand-alone training designed to introduce staff, board and volunteers to a systematic model for building the volunteer team. Participants learn a practical, effective approach for dynamic volunteer teams.  

For more information, or to recommend an organization looking for such a program, please go to our Web Site at:

http://www.volunteerpower.com/ and fill out the form.


For more articles by Thomas McKee, visit the Articles Section on our website at:

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Thomas W. McKee
Volunteer Power

Tom McKee is a leading volunteer management speaker, trainer and consultant. You can reach Tom at (916) 987-0359 or e-mail him at tom@advantagepoint.com. Other articles and free resources are available at http://www.volunteerpower.com.