VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism

~ May 2001 ~
  • How do they Communicate?
  • Leading an Effective Discussion
  • Educating UP
  • Canadian Training in Nonprofit and Volunteer Management

How do they Communicate?

Volunteers from one generation can sometimes clash with those from a different generation. Review this chart to see why that might be.

Communication Statements of Volunteers Born 1935 - 1959:

Communication Statements of Volunteers Born 1960 ­ 1984
  • I like participation and consensus in the decision making process
  • I'm not thrilled going to meetings or listening to others.
  • I like people in the group to know I am doing well.It means a great deal when someone says thank you and acknowledges my work.
  • I know when I am doing well, skip the recognition stuff.
  • Together we will have the best volunteer services
  • I really work best alone.
  • I like to talk about our plans, issues, and ideas before we start.
  • Tell me my volunteer job and get out of my way.
  • Sometimes I like to give lots of background before getting to the point.
  • I am sometimes abrupt in my speaking style
  • I care what other volunteers and clients think.
  • I usually don't care what others think, because I know I am doing my job well.


While this chart certainly does not speak for all people born into different generations, it points to the need for the person managing volunteers to serve as a bridge between two styles of getting volunteer work done. It also indicates that having different types of volunteer positions is critical. There should be jobs that require group efforts and those that can be done alone.

Training sessions can contain information on communication styles and how that impacts the work the volunteer does in the organization. Training needs to help people with vastly different ways of viewing the world be encouraged to work together. That is what "civil" society is all about.

Leading an Effective Discussion

Those who work with volunteers, from the executive director or administrator of a program or organization to the person, who leads a committee to the manager of volunteers, often lead discussions. The goal of any discussion should be to involve as many people as possible.

The heart of sustaining a good discussion involves listening, questioning, and responding. Not only are the opening questions important, but so are the ones in the middle of the meeting or training session. Here is a short primer on types of questions to enhance the next discussion you lead.

Example: "Why is it important for use to keep information about clients confidential?"

Example: "Juan had a point earlier that seems to relate to what you said. How does your comment connect with his." (You can, also, ask Juan to repeat his point.)

Example: "Suppose we said it was o.k. for volunteers to discuss the work they do and the people they see receiving our service. How might that change our organization and the volunteer program?

Example: "Mary has said the Children's Advocacy Group where she volunteers has no policy on confidentiality. I was wondering, Mary, how you know that to be true?"

Example: "Can you try that again, I am not sure I understood it." "What do you mean by that?"

Example: "When we tell clients that volunteers and staff will respect their privacy and not discuss it with others, and then that promise is violated, what might be the impact on the client?"

Example: "What are the two most important things you have learned about confidentiality in this discussion?"

Educating UP

Not all training is done for volunteers or clients, customers, or patrons. Educating administration is, also, the responsibility of the person in charge of managing the volunteer workforce. Here are some techniques to keep those important people in the organization well informed.

   Canadian Training in Nonprofit and Volunteer Management  

From Atlantic to Pacific, Canada has training program, credit and non-credit for those who work with volunteers.

Here is a current listing.

  • Canadian Centre for Social Entrepreneurship
    Faculty of Business
    University of Alberta, Edmonton
  • Community and Not-For-Profit Leadership Program
    The Banff Centre for Management
  • Interdisciplinary Studies in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Management
    The Centre for Voluntary Sector Studies
    Faculty of Business, Ryerson Polytechnic University
    Toronto, Ontario
  • Nonprofit Management and Leadership Program
    Simon Fraser University
    Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Nonprofit Sector Leadership Program
    Henson College, Dalhousie Univeristy
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Non-Profit Sector Management Certificate Program
    Vancouver Community College Continuing Education
  • Nonprofit and Management and Leadership Program
    Schulich School of Business
    York University
    Toronto, Ontario
  • The McGill-McConnell Program for National Voluntary Sector Leaders
    Faculty of Management, McGill University
    Montreal, Quebec


Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

Copyright 2001 by Nancy Macduff.
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