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How Would Your CEO Answer These Questions?

by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.

I often ask workshop participants if they feel their top executives are “supportive” of volunteers or not. One of the ways to test the degree of that support is to see how informed administrators are about basic data (who volunteers and for what), the work of the volunteer resources office (how you contribute to the organization), and the attitudes of paid staff (do they actually like volunteers?).

Think about whether or not your executives would be able to answer the following questions correctly. If you don’t know…ask them and see.

As CEO, do you know:

  • The “profile” of who volunteers in our organization?
    • the age range of volunteers?
    • the percentage of men and women?
    • their race and ethnicity?
    • their educational level and occupations?
    • the neighborhoods from which they come?
    • [Think of all the uses to which you could put such data.]

  • Exactly what volunteers do?

    • Can you list all the assignments volunteers presently fill? How about half?

  • Which units do not utilize volunteers? Why not?
  • How the paid staff feels about volunteers?
  • How volunteers feel about your organization? And whom they are telling?
  • Which employees have had prior training or experience in working with volunteers? Which employees could use training in this subject now? [Will they get it?]
  • What (and how many) outreach contacts are made monthly by the Volunteer Office?

    • with whom?
    • with what results?
    • with any connection to public relations and fundraising activities conducted by other staff members (including you)?
    • [Wouldn’t a coordinated outreach plan make sense?]

  • If our Web site attracts new volunteers well?
  • Whether we have adequate insurance coverage for volunteers?
  • What opinions the clients/consumers have about the services they receive from volunteers?
  • How to utilize volunteers to test new programs and methods?
  • What insights volunteers might have about our services and procedures? [When was the last time you asked them anything to gain their perspective as insider/outsiders?]
  • That board members/trustees are volunteers, too?
  • How a volunteer might help you with your job?
  • What your vision is for volunteer involvement here in the future?

If you think that the answers you’d get would be inaccurate, or that you’d be greeted with blank stares, maybe it’s time to start reporting this sort of information on a regular basis. Educate up!


About the Author: Susan J. Ellis is President of Energize, Inc., a training, consulting, and publishing firm that specializes in volunteerism. She founded the Philadelphia-based company in 1977 and since that time has assisted clients throughout North America (48 states and 5 provinces), Europe (8 countries), Asia (3 countries), Latin America and Australia to create or strengthen their volunteer corps. The year 2002 marked Energize's 25th anniversary.

Susan is the author or co-author of eleven books, including From the Top Down: The Executive Role in Volunteer Program Success and The Volunteer Recruitment Book - several of which have been translated into Japanese, Taiwanese, French and Italian. All her books can be found in the online bookstore. From 1981 to 1987 she was Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Volunteer Administration. She has written more than 90 articles on volunteer management for dozens of publications and writes the national bi-monthly column, "On Volunteers," for The NonProfit Times.

Please visit Energize web site, a cornucopia of over 1000 pages of information especially for leaders of volunteers. Call for a FREE catalog of Energize materials: (800)395-9800 [in Philadelphia (215) 438-8342], or fax (215) 428-0434. Or write to Energize at: 5450 Wissahickon Ave, Box C-13, Philadelphia, PA 19144.

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