V.T. readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.

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~ December 2002~ Topics

Dear Connie:
I was wondering if you could help me find some kind of volunteering project for a group of about 30-40 people. I have youth leaders coming in on December 30 for a Leadership Training Program and would really appreciate it if you could help me find a one-day volunteer opportunity for us on January 1, 2003. I was thinking of something along the line of helping serve food to the homeless, or maybe do some work at a retirement home, or beach clean-up, community rebuilding, or pretty much anything. Thank you for all of your help.

Phill S.

Dear Phill:
First, I suggest you contact your local Volunteer Center and inquire about group projects. They often have organizations looking for volunteers in exactly the manner you describe. If you don't know how to contact your Volunteer Center, visit the Points of Light Foundation site at Just click on your state and you can find your local Volunteer Center.

Next visit the Volunteer Opportunities page at They list a wide variety of organizations worldwide that utilize volunteers.

Finally, visit the site to search for group volunteer projects in your area. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

P.S. to My Readers: For an in-depth look at the subject of "holiday volunteers," visit and click on "Volunteer Management Review" (under "eNewsletters" in the left-hand column). Georgean Johnson-Coffey is the author of an excellent article entitled "Holiday Volunteers: Gifts to be Cherished."

Dear Connie:
Do most organizations require interested applicants to attend general orientation sessions prior to becoming registered volunteers? Thanks for your help!

Dear R.P.:
Most successful volunteer programs do require new volunteers to attend an orientation. In my humble opinion, orientation is one of the most important activities for new volunteers. It's the best opportunity to share with them your organization's mission, introduce volunteer and staff leaders, get a tour of the offices, and meet the other new volunteers. Too often volunteer program managers focus on "training"- providing information on specific tasks to be accomplished. Orientation is the time to introduce new volunteers to the culture of your organization and your volunteer program. It is the best time to share your expectations for how volunteers support your organization's mission and each other. The primary purpose of orientation is to provide volunteers with the context within which they'll work. An effective orientation will provide your volunteers with the following:

  • A description of the history of your organization.
  • A description of the overall programs and clients of your organization.
  • A sketch of the organization charts of your organization.
  • An orientation to the facilities and layout of your organization.
  • Knowledge of general policies and procedures in your organization and your volunteer program.
  • A description of your volunteer management system.

Dear Connie:
I'm new to my job as an activity coordinator at a seniors lodge, and one of my first projects is to revamp the volunteer program. I will be hosting an informal appreciation evening, but besides a personalized scroll to hand out, and a few nibblers to feast on, I am at a loss of what to do/say. Any suggestions?
Karen S.

Dear Karen:
Appreciation events are a perfect time for volunteer recognition AND volunteer participation. Since you're new and planning some "changes" to your volunteer program, why not take this opportunity to celebrate past successes by volunteers? Specifically I'm thinking about asking long-time volunteers to share their fondest memories, funniest moments, or early challenges. In addition to engaging volunteers in the event, you begin to set the stage for moving into the future. You could put together a small task force to help you plan the event, which also ensures that you're meeting THEIR needs during the event. Keeping the event short and simple is always a good thing too!

There are a wide variety of articles about recognition events and items on the site. Just use the search feature at the top of the left-hand column on the home page. Type in "recognition" and the links to all of the articles will appear.

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Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at

Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
2939 Van Ness Street, NW - Suite 1248
Washington, DC 20008
VOICE: 202-966-0859
FAX: 202-966-3301

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