Book Review: Working With Volunteers

Published on: February 18, 2015

Views: 768

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPrint this pageEmail this to someone

The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer (second edition) by Jonathan McKee and Thomas W. McKee

The Volunteer Management Toolkit (Church Edition): Resources to Help You Recruit & Train Volunteers by Deborah Wipf

Engaged, committed volunteers are the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization, and our Unity centers are no exception. For all of these organizations, the questions are the same: How can we attract high-quality, reliable volunteers and how can we keep them?

TheNewBreedThe New Breed shines a light on the 21st century volunteer, who isn’t interested in just filling a slot; he needs to feel that that he is making a real difference. He wants to play by his own rules, give his time in a way that works with his schedule, and have input into how the program for which he is volunteering is run.

Authors Jonathan and Thomas McKee say that the old metaphor for volunteerism was the battleship: everyone on board the same ship going the same direction under one leader. Today “we talk about leading a school of empowered minnows…. Each wants to swim in its own direction.”

The New Breed is divided into three main sections, each generously sprinkled with real-life examples from the authors’ own experience:

  • The Volunteer Recruiter, which includes the suggestion of “courting” volunteers to discover their interests, as well as the “Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers” (Hint: Don’t expect announcements to attract volunteers.);
  • The Volunteer Manager, which describes how to motivate and empower volunteers of different age groups, as well as how to work with “virtual volunteers” and how to release volunteers who are not effective in their positions;
  • The Volunteer Leader, which delves into igniting and focusing the passions of your volunteers, and provides a detailed case study of a successful volunteer program.

The book is written in a conversational tone and is designed for ease of use. Anyone who wants to become more skilled at leading today’s volunteers should have VolunteerManagementToolkitthis book on her shelf. That said, if you just need something quick to jumpstart your volunteer program, you may find The Volunteer Management Toolkit of immediate practical assistance.

Author Deborah Wipf’s small book (58 pages) has a simple formula for success: Recruit, Assign, Train, Appreciate. For both weekly and special event volunteers, she takes the reader step-by-step through each phase. For example, her first step in recruiting volunteers is “Define and Document the Vision,” with a list of 12 questions to help the reader hone the vision so that it can be conveyed to volunteers. Each step is clear, concrete and practical. Although much of Wipf’s advice seems to be common sense (of course notes of appreciation should be sent to volunteers after a big event!), the reality is that these practical tasks are often left undone, with the effect of eroding volunteer participation.

Like The New Breed, the final section provides templates for job descriptions and volunteer applications, as well as a sample orientation handout and a sample survey. It also provides a list of resources that can be downloaded from the author’s website.

Lisa Colburn
Lisa Colburn is a writer, writing workshop leader, and former editor of the Alban Institute’s Congregations magazine. She is an active member of Unity of Fairfax in Oakton, Va.

Has This Post Helped You Grow?

"Advancing the movement of spiritual awakening and transformation through Unity, a positive path for spiritual living."

Comments are closed.