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Volunteers

Below you will find all of our past articles to help you with your nonprofit, charity, and fundraising volunteers. It is a long list of articles so don't hesitate to bookmark this page and come back often. If you would like more great fundraising information in the future then please sign up for an email notification whenever we publish a new article.



Religious Fundraising: Investing in Your Volunteers Pays Off by Money for Ministry

Doug Seebeck, Director of Partners for Christian Development, learned a very important lesson early on about volunteers: you need to listen to them.

One of Partners' volunteers was giving countless hours to the ministry. Doug asked the volunteer, "What can we do to help you do your job better?"

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Perk Up Group Work by Energize, Inc.

Many organizations have work that is best done by groups of volunteers all at once. Often this is some form of manual labor, whether sorting donated items, constructing a playground, filling food baskets, preparing a mass mailing, or painting a room. Even if the volunteers regularly help you and/or know one another before they arrive at your site, don't assume they'll spontaneously work well together or that everyone is feeling the same about the work. You have multiple challenges

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A Harvest of Volunteers from Energize

This is the season in which many people stop to give thanks for all the things they have, and many feel the urge to give something of themselves in return. This is your chance to "harvest" new volunteers-and to watch current volunteers grow. According to Susan J. Ellis, co-author of the best-selling book, The (Help!) I-Don't-Have-Enough-Time Guide to Volunteer Management: "Recruitment is a process of sowing seeds, nurturing relationships, and sensing when the time is right to gather together!"

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Achieving an 'A' in Communication for Your Volunteer Program by Dale Rees-Bevan

"I would rather die than stand up and speak in public," is the faltering battle cry with which we represent our organisations. Most of us go through life with the view that you either can or you can't. Speak in public, that is. It's high time we changed that perception and realized that, as with so many things in life, it's a skill that can be learned, worked on, acquired.

The value we bring to an organisation depends on our communication, and more specifically, our public speaking skills. This is particularly true for volunteer program managers, who are often responsible for making presentations in the hope of attracting new volunteers to their program. If we can represent our organisation competently and enthusiastically, we can contribute more powerfully. Achievement depends on getting an A in Communication Skills !

Here are some "A's" in Public Speaking to mull over:

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Are You Scaring Away Volunteers by Energize, Inc

Your organization is great, right? You serve a worthwhile cause and do many exciting things. So why don't more people want to volunteer with you? Halloween is a great time to ask: Are we scaring away potential volunteers?

Susan J. Ellis, president of Energize, Inc., the internationally-renowned volunteerism training and publishing firm, notes that there are many things organizations do or say that can "haunt" prospective recruits! According to Ellis, author of the best-selling The Volunteer Recruitment Book: "It's hardly surprising that people shy away from desperate pleas for unlimited help in unknown situations."

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Thanking Your Fundraising Volunteers by Deane Brengle

Despite the fact that thanking your fundraising volunteers should be a real no-brainer, many nonprofit groups let this important gesture fall through the cracks.

It's not rocket science folks. If you don't make the time to say thank you each and every time a fundraising volunteer deserves it, you have lost a golden opportunity. And also probably in perceivably damaged your relationship with them too.

Volunteers really don't want much. Just to be recognized for their good deeds. There is a multitude of ways to say thank you. And most of them are really pretty inexpensive compared to the time and effort donated by your fundraising volunteers.

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Be Sure to Count All Volunteers by Susan J. Ellis

Are you keeping track of all the volunteer support your organization receives? Are you sure? In the course of a year, it is common for agencies to benefit from the donated services of a wide range of people, yet only those formally designated as "volunteers" are reflected in the reports of the volunteer program. This is a missed opportunity in a number of ways.

There may be people who come to your organization in a roundabout way, bypassing the procedures of the volunteer services office. There are many examples, including ...

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Volunteering & The Power of Experiential Learning by Andy Fryar

I love nothing more than exploring the alternate ways that others run their volunteer programs (...yeah OK so I need to get a life!). Seriously though, I'll always pick up a brochure about the volunteer program of the museum or art gallery I am visiting. I'll compulsively look for the 'volunteer' section of any organisation's website I am visiting and you'll always find me up to my neck in the exhibits section of any conference I attend.

Learning from others is such an easy way to improve your knowledge base and improve the programs that you lead.

However, my favourite professional development activity, by a mile, is to physically visit other volunteer programs of all shapes and sizes. This is a pursuit that has led me to agencies of all shapes and sizes the world over - and has led to me implementing for myself, some of the more innovative ideas I have witnessed.

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Volunteer Management Quick Tips- The Value of Good Instructions by Susan J. Ellis

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.

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Eight Ways To Get New Volunteers by the AFRDS

You might need eight days in a week to get that next fundraiser off the ground. And you definitely need eight to eighty warm bodies for your fundraiser to set sail (get sales)! Research suggests there is a strong correlation between the number of volunteers a fundraising organization taps and the amount of money they can expect to raise. Where and how do you get good volunteers committed to your fundraising goal?

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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.

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Volunteers by Doug Nash

The two most critical requirements for a successful non-profit organisation are money and people. There is no point in having one without the other. Both require skill in attracting, keeping and fully utilizing. Here we will have a brief look at the people side of the things.

The only thing in abundance in fundraising is work and ideas. The work can only be done by people. Ideas are only as good as the people who try to make them a reality. The common factor and the critical factor is people. People who are properly recruited, motivated and engaged.

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Volunteers from the Business World by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.

There are two different types of volunteers "from the business world." The first group have been around forever: people who volunteer for you and happen to be employed in business somewhere. In fact, that might describe the majority of current volunteers. Their outside employment status is ancillary to their identity with your organization.

The second group comes through a "corporate employee volunteer program." How is a "corporate employee volunteer" different from any other volunteer? The answer ought to be that here the company itself adds something substantive to the situation. This can be anything from providing a contact person for you within the company to notify when you need volunteers, allowing employees to hold planning meetings during the work day, giving flex or release time to do the community service, or giving tangible support such as supplying transportation, work clothes, or other needed items.

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Volunteers - Tips to Motivating Them - Part I by Heidi Richards

Recruiting volunteers is only half the challenge. You must properly train them so they will work out to be true assets.

As we help volunteers recognize the rewards of their service, we must also acknowledge that there may be a downside. Volunteering takes time away from the family or personal pursuits. Good leaders" tell it like it is," being careful not to understate what is expected. Let your volunteers know up front exactly what is involved in their tasks and what is expected of them, and they will appreciate you for it.

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Volunteers - Tips to Motivating Them - Part 2 by Heidi Richards

Last issue we talked about the importance of recruiting the "right" volunteers and recognizing their efforts. Service to others and a sense of achievement are other key components to motivating volunteers. There is a special satisfaction that goes along with making life a little less difficult for someone else. It makes us feel better about ourselves.

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Making the Holiday Spirit Last by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.

Every year, as I read and watch countless media reports about holiday projects for the needy, I grow increasingly frustrated. No, I'm not Scrooge and don't want to say “humbug” to the many heartfelt gifts of toys, coats, turkeys, and other nice things. But this sort of charity ultimately is simply a seasonal nod to year-long problems. I wrote about this in a 1997 Hot Topic that is still pertinent today:

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Acknowledging Input by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.

Ever notice how often you are asked to complete "a brief survey" or give feedback to some company, whether online, on the phone, or in a shopping mall? Whether or not you take time to respond might depend on the whim of the moment and on how rushed you feel. But sometimes you want to tell the company something and actually welcome the chance to give input, positive or negative.

Volunteer program leaders also want input from others. We need a continuous feedback loop to assure that we know what is going on and can correct problems before they fester or can applaud special effort as soon as it occurs.

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Finding the Cash to Reimburse Volunteer Expenses by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.

Everyone agrees that, in an ideal world, volunteers should be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses incurred while contributing their time (parking, meals, child care, whatever). Yet often organizations cannot seem to find money in the budget to pay for such costs. In the long run, we ought to insist on proper planning to create a line item for what is actually a small expense category, but in the short run it's possible to raise the funds without a lot of effort.

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Virtual Tours by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.

Is it easy to picture what your setting looks like? Even traditional places like a school or hospital can look very different than what a stranger might imagine. We all know that prospective volunteers are more likely to express interest in joining us if they feel comfortable that they will fit into our organization. So help them with a "virtual tour."

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Industrial Espionage by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.

Normally, industrial spying is a criminal activity, though there will always be business people trying to learn the secrets of their competitors. On the positive side, it's important to know how other companies are serving their customers or developing updated products. That's a legitimate part of "market research."

How does this relate to volunteer management?

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Dealing with Resistance to Change by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.

We all know that "the only constant is change," yet inevitably some (if not many) people resist anything new or different. Here are some tips to introduce and guide change in a volunteer program - with applicability to almost any situation:

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Volunteer Spotlight by the AFRDS

Meet Irene. She's the driving force behind your school's most successful fall fundraiser. She's the parent who always steps forward when the class needs a "room mom." She's the first one to arrive on the morning of the fall festival and, she's probably the last one to leave. She's always willing to lend a helping hand. She always has an extra hour in her schedule to spend reading in classrooms. Irene is a workhorse.

There's no way to repay her for all of her efforts. But you can let her and others know how you feel in a way that'll make her - and your organization - feel warm and fuzzy all over.

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Keep Volunteers Motivated by J. Alden Briggs, Jr. and Jana Duffy

Once you have recruited your volunteers, whether drones or die-hards, you need to keep them motivated. Here are some tips gathered from booster club members from all over the country:

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Fundraising Idea of the Month: Are Your Troops Trained by Doug Nash

A little training can go a long way and have a noticeable impact on your bottom line. Volunteers need help and assistance if they are to remain happy, enthusiastic and focused. A great way to do this is to train them or at least offer it to them.

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Fundraising Idea of the Month: Fun is the Word by Doug Nash

People will quickly find reasons for not doing what they don't like doing, so if your fundraising doesn't have a healthy element of fun involved then you will be very lonely and your fundraisers short lived, not very satisfying and not very profitable.

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Volunteer Management Quick Tips- First Contact by Susan J. Ellis

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:

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Internet Revolutionizes The Way Of Volunteering: Fund Developers Should Look to the Internet for Highly-Skilled Resources by Randy Tyler

When it became ever more difficult to recruit face-to-face volunteers, our youth treatment agency, Macdonald Youth Services (MYS), turned to the global Internet for help. Whether looking for a graphic designer, video editor, software developer, database creator, writer, web designer or voice narrator, for example, our organization has been at the leading-edge and forefront recruiting volunteers from around the globe.

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Focus on Fundraising: National Volunteer Week 2001 by Deane Brengle

National Volunteer Week began in 1974, when President Richard Nixon signed an executive order establishing the Week as an annual celebration of volunteerism. Every President since has signed a Proclamation promoting the Week. Additionally, governors, mayors and other elected officials make public statements and sign proclamations in support of National Volunteer Week. Sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation and the national network of Volunteer Centers, National Volunteer Week is a time to recognize and celebrate the efforts of volunteers at the local, state and national levels.

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Is Corporate Volunteering a Benefit or Self Serving? by Andy Fryar

Probably the greatest growth area in the world of volunteerism over recent years has been the explosion of corporate or employee volunteer programs the world. This growth has been explosive and in many ways has taken volunteering in directions many of us could barely forecast merely a decade ago.

With this surge in corporate volunteering has come money - make no mistake about it! There are benefits to any company’s triple bottom line in having a happy workforce and it is proven that employee volunteer programs provide a terrific conduit for both satisfied employees and supported not for profit agencies in the community. It stands to reason therefore that those companies who invest in their volunteering programs will gain greater benefits in the long run.

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Volunteer Management Quick Tips: Have Fun by Susan J. Ellis

Make people laugh. Fun is an important reason why people like to volunteer in groups, so make sure the time on site is enjoyable. Get a clown or a mime (even if it’s you, in costume!) to stop by for a little while at some point during the work and interact with individual volunteers while others watch.

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I Went to a Garden Party by the AFRDS

A Case Study on How to Say "Thank You"

It's a small school — only 320 students — in the modest community of Grass Valley, California, a few miles East of Sacramento. Yet, last year Pleasant Ridge Elementary successfully recruited 147 volunteers, including 21 grandparents, to participate in a fundraising campaign to build an outdoor learning lab. That's a student-to-volunteer ratio of 2:1.

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Retreat Planning for Nonprofit Volunteers from The Volunteer Management Report newsletter

Asking your key volunteers to take time from their schedules for a retreat means the event should be productive, enjoyable and free of distractions. Those involved should leave the retreat with the sense that goals have been set and stronger relationships have been developed.

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Ten Tips for Motivating Volunteers by Ralfie Blasius

As a young volunteer for a local non-profit organization, I bravely offered to chair their biggest fundraiser of the year. The chair from the previous year assured me she would be with me every step of the way to coach me on my duties. Imagine my dismay when she informed me she would not be able to attend my first meeting because she had been transferred to another city to meet the demands of her job! I considered having a nervous breakdown, but thanks to the help of a few veteran fundraisers, we were able to come up with a means to "rally the troops" and get the project off to a flying start. Much of the information I learned was how to work effectively with people for a common cause. The following are ten tips to help you motivate and maximize your most priceless resource: your volunteers.

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5 Steps For Preventing Volunteer Burnout by James Robbins

Over the years I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of volunteers. They are awesome. Can you imagine a world where volunteers did not exist? That would be a dark place. As much as volunteers are amazing, finding them has never been more challenging. People are busier now then they have ever been in history (thanks technology for making our life simpler!) This shortage has meant that many volunteers are taking on more than they can handle, resulting in volunteer burnout. Burnout at the volunteer level is a very serious problem and in fact, when a volunteer overextends themselves for too long, the consequences can be huge.

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Mail Reference Form for Volunteers

(volunteers name) is applying as a volunteer for our nonprofit, (your organization here), to (short job description here). He/she has given your name as a reference, with approval for you to release information about him/her.

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Seven Steps to a Smooth Volunteer Transition by the AFRDS

Every year non-profit organizations struggle with turnover among volunteers. No position is more volatile than that of fundraising chairperson. We asked several seasoned fundraising professionals what they do to make the transition seamless:

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Volunteers: A Valuable Resource by Becky Montgomery and Nancy Smith

The purpose of this factsheet is to provide information about the screening, assignment, training, utilization, and retention of volunteer staff.

Trained volunteers can play an important role in the staffing of both crisis nursery and respite care programs. They may become an integral part of the staff. Through the use of volunteers, programs can stretch limited resources to provide services to more families and children.

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Telephone Reference Form for Volunteers

A form to standardize checking references by telephone for new nonprofit volunteers.

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Eight Traits of Effective Youth Fundraising Programs: Volunteers by Jim & Connie Walters

Volunteers are given basic training, meaningful work, and sincere thanks.

Why do people do volunteer work for your group? Generally, people volunteer for causes they believe in, where they have people they relate to, and when they believe they can make a meaningful contribution.

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Volunteer Management Quick Tips- Feedback Is Two Way by Susan J. Ellis

It’s important to develop the reputation of caring about and appreciating feedback, especially if you like to use questionnaire surveys. This can only happen over time, by consistently paying attention to what you do after people respond to your questions. Remember that most folks expect little to happen after completing a survey. Their reply seems to drop into a black hole. So you have no where to go but up in showing everyone that the volunteer program is indeed listening. Increase your odds of getting more and better responses:

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National Volunteer Week: A 3 Step Plan to Make it Special by Merle Benny

Could your organization exist without volunteers? Consider the work of those who serve on your board, show up each day or raise money for you. Volunteers deserve our appreciation all year long but National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to acknowledge their essential work.

The week has been designated by the President of the United States each year since 1974, this year it is April 19-25, 2009. It's official and as good as week as any to show your volunteers how much you appreciate their work.

Deciding how to acknowledge volunteers is challenging. You are familiar with some of those challenges including: The desire to make the award special and appropriate. A limited budget. The difficulty of finding or creating something unique and the lack of time to do it. If you're bored with the same old certificates, let's explore some new ideas.

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