Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the
October 31, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
Management Challenge: Working with Volunteers
A paycheck is one thing most workers have in common.
Reporting to work — and doing a good job — is tied to that
basic fact. It is a motivator in the most basic way. Choose to spend
too many work days reading on the deck instead of reporting in, and
it may soon become difficult to make the mortgage, or feed the babies.
Do mediocre work, and the bonus that funds the yearly vacation might
cover only Great Adventure, not a great adventure.
While the economic carrot is no guarantee of award-winning work, most
managers count on it to at least get the troops in the door and the
work out. There is one sector, however, that must achieve results
without offering a paycheck to the some, or even all, of its workers.
It is the non-profit sector, and working within it differs
from working for a for-profit organization. "Managing lots of
unpaid people is a challenge," says Marge Smith
members may have to supervise 30 to 50 people, all of them
Smith teaches a six-part course on Human Resources Development for
Non-profits on Mondays beginning on November 5 at 7 p.m. at Mercer
County Community College. Cost: $119. Call 609-586-9446.
Smith was executive director of the Princeton YWCA from 1990 to 1998.
She teaches a number of courses at MCCC and works as a non-profit
consultant, holding four or five half-day retreats a month for
in that field. Describing herself as a lifelong volunteer, Smith is
also chair of the Princeton Human Services Commission and co-chair
of the Princeton Drug and Alcohol Alliance. A graduate of Smith
she is a Princeton resident and the mother of three grown daughters,
all of whom volunteer.
Managing in a non-profit is not only different because many workers
are not paid. Smith points out that people on nearly every level of
a non-profit often are volunteers. That goes for the board of
at whose pleasure the executive director serves, as well as the folks
who staff the booths at fundraisers. It can also be the marketers,
event planners, and computer networkers.
Typically volunteers do important parts of the work of a non-profit.
"You would never have a volunteer walk into a corporation and
do a better job than the staff," Smith says. "But in a
a volunteer may know more than the staff."
These volunteers, both the indispensable superstars and the occasional
helpers, are more ubiquitous, and more essential, than is obvious
to the casual observer. Universities count on volunteer alumni to
solicit contributions from classmates, Smith points out, and our
system runs largely on volunteer labor. Whether a soup kitchen or
a modern medical complex, the non-profits that keep our society
depend on unpaid workers.
Managing these workers effectively is not something that comes
Smith offers some suggestions for making the most of the human capital
that is the very life and breath of non-profits.
everyone, without exception, can contribute something to a non-profit,
says Smith with great emphasis. It is up to the manager to figure
out what this is for each person.
says Smith, "but really good at organizing activities for
Asking a high energy, creative person to stuff envelopes will not
work. Asking an introspective, socially awkward person to address
groups of potential donors will not work either.
able to give five hours a year, and others who will gladly give five
hours a week. Some want to chip in only on weekends, while others
insist on reserving weekends for family. Make the most of volunteers’
willingness to help, but do not attempt to push beyond their
limits. And don’t judge, either. The number of hours any person can
give "doesn’t make him better or worse," says Smith.
important job many non-profit managers do, and they need to do it
well. Set out exact descriptions of each volunteer job, and include
the days and hours on which it is to be performed, and how long it
will last. "Be specific," says Smith. "People are more
apt to volunteer if they know the time line."
Princeton Medical Center is run entirely by volunteers. Smith points
to that year-long effort as a model of volunteer organization. Many
volunteers move up, perhaps running a booth one year, and then a
the next. After many years of taking charge of various parts of the
operation, volunteers are ready to assume a leadership role.
sides. Often short on staff, and working with limited budgets, the
demands on their time can be overwhelming. Yet it is crucial that
they manage volunteers efficiently. Smith says it is common to
situations where individuals volunteer, and then are not called or
given assignments for months. Or where volunteers are given vague
instructions, and no feedback.
needs to get the best out of people she never hired, and that includes
members of the board as well as volunteer ticket takers and members
of the clean-up crew. Problems are bound to arise, and Smith says
these managers "need to be skilled in dealing with interpersonal
and motivating volunteers. Never take this resource for granted. Says
Smith, "give recognition to every contribution, no matter how
Which of these aggravations describes your most recent
information technology project? Not easy to use, costs more than
took too much time, doesn’t "talk" to other systems, or way
too hard to maintain.
"Published research and our own experience shows that technology
projects fall short of expectations at an alarming rate — at the
same time technology is a top priority for business success,"
says Anne Pauker
(and husband) is Charlie Kreitzberg
Corporation on Everett Drive. They make a joint presentation at the
Garden State Society for Human Resources conference on Monday,
5, at 1:45 p.m. Entitled "HR Dollars and Sense," the
is scheduled for November 5 and 6 at the Parsippany Hilton. Cost:
$395. Call 973-267-7373 or 201-525-6307.
"IT professionals are frustrated by users who don’t understand
what they’re up against, keep changing their minds, aren’t clear in
their specifications, and are much too optimistic in terms of their
expectations," says Pauker.
"We conclude that as long as business people and technology people
don’t speak the same language, and business people don’t understand
enough technology to have a context or framework for working with
technologists, this problem will continue."
Their session will provide both a conceptual framework and a hands-on
approach for aligning technology with business and people. Three
of technology. Technologists need to have a basic understanding of
need to use a process for working together effectively as a team.
in the user’s needs and incorporate user centered techniques.
you need to be technologically savvy. Pauker’s suggestions for staying
the needs of the user.
like and do — before you start.
clear about what they’re telling you.
expense mid-course changes don’t occur.
and for decision making.
up metrics for success before you start.
to capture "lessons learned" for the future.
Corrections or additions?
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