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Volunteer Management Quick Tips-
The Value of Good Instructions

by Susan J. Ellis, President, Envergize, Inc.

Try something that is very basic, simple, and effective – and that is worth sharing with everyone once in a while: make use of instruction sheets -- a simple list of steps to follow for a task, along with pertinent information that might be needed as the task is done.

An instruction sheet does not replace oral directions or physically walking someone through an activity. But it’s vital as a follow-up to such training, reminding everyone of the details.

It’s also really useful for anyone who has done the task before but might need a refresher about the details. Besides, some things may have changed since the last time the task was done and it’s easy to forget to update everyone.

  • The more tiny steps a task involves, the more an instruction sheet is needed. This also removes pressure from the leader of the activity who no longer has to remember to include every single detail in an oral presentation.

  • Writing an instruction sheet requires organizers to think through all the steps of an activity and anticipate the possible questions that might arise. So, in and of itself, the sheet has value. It becomes the template from which to give oral instructions and it is a security blanket for each volunteer. Most important, it is an effective way to help everyone do the job right.

  • Instruction sheets are most necessary when you have many people doing a job that must be done in a consistent way. You can give each volunteer a copy, but it usually helps to tape several along the worktables or on the walls, or to laminate a few to have around.

Think about where an instruction sheet might be helpful even for everyday activities. For example, would a short list of instructions by the telephone help everyone remember how to use the system for internal and external calls? How about a checklist (which is really another type of instruction sheet) for each person who runs a volunteer orientation session, to make sure everything is covered?


About the Author: Susan J. Ellis is president of Energize, Inc.(, an international training, consulting, and publishing firm specializing in volunteerism. Susan writes the “Tip of the Month” for the free Volunteer Management Online Update, e-mailed monthly upon request. These tips are not published elsewhere and this “Quick Tip” selection has been excerpted from Updates distributed between 2000 and 2005.

You can receive the free Update directly into your e-mail box every month and keep up with all of Susan’s tips. Go to and submit your e-mail address using the form in the right hand column of every page or simply send an e-mail to with "subscribe" in the subject line.

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