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Volunteer Management Quick Tips-
First Contact

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

Is your receptionist friendly to people who call for information about volunteering?

OK. This is a trick question, since the “receptionist” of the past is rapidly becoming extinct. Few live people answer the organization’s main telephone number any more and you are more likely to encounter a security guard at the front desk than a pleasant greeter. But the goal is to assess whether someone who is expressing interest in volunteering – or just trying to learn more – gets welcomed or rejected at the very first contact point:

  1. Does the ubiquitous automated phone service provide the option of selecting “Volunteer Office” or only a specific staff name?

  2. If a caller gets directed to the single live voice, does that person know the variety of ways a prospective volunteer might ask for you (a student might say “community service office” or someone who heard about a specific project might ask for it by name)? How about whoever is at the front desk?

  3. What’s the tone of voice of this first responder? Bored? Harried? Welcoming?

You are establishing an image and expectations at every step of the recruitment process. Your success in conveying the image and expectations you want from the start will determine who will be attracted to join in your cause.

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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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