Monthly Archives: May 2011

Our Forgotten Veterans–Why They Still Matter…


Let me tell you what I know about Vietnam Veterans…

1) They are still among us…they’re our colleagues at work, our fellow parishioners at church, those faces in the crowd you see at your local shopping mall, and those drivers on the freeway next to you in gridlock traffic…

2) They are usually known for their membership in that much written about, much more positively associated group–Baby Boomers.With the exception of their service in the Vietnam War, as is characteristic of their cultural group, you usually can’t shut them up when they feel strongly about something, and you certainly can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do. They make their own rules.

3) Each one of them, almost without exception, has been socially conditioned in some manner over the past 40 years to A) Forget that they served, B) Deny that they are veterans, or at least never proactively speak up about their veteran status and C) Try to forget what happened to them when they returned home…

4) They served as soldiers just like the veterans of all of our “popular” wars, i.e., WWI & WWII, etc. They are brave heroes, just the same…the only differences are that instead of ticker tape parades and the thanks of a grateful nation, upon their return home, IF they returned home, they were greeted with hatred and anger, and American citizens who waited for them at the airport only to spit in their faces and call them “baby killers”.

5) They are still waiting for our thanks for their service, and those two simple words….”Welcome Home”. If you think that it’s too late, or they don’t care anymore, or they are now irrelevant, think again. We, as a nation, committed a great wrong against these young men and women. They served and risked their lives–for us. And for that, and that alone, they deserve our deepest and most sincere thanks–STILL.

A few years ago I looked around me and I saw all of these things in the Vietnam Veterans I had contact with. I saw a need that not too many groups or individuals were interested in addressing. The need to go back and at least give it our best shot to give them that ticker tape parade that they never got…to let them know, before it was really too late and they were all gone, that we appreciated the fact that they answered the call of the leaders of their country, did their duty, and that we are sincerely sorry about the way they were treated when they came home. In order to accomplish my goal, I started this Cause, via the Facebook Causes Application: Thank a Vietnam Veteran.

This was an easy thing for me to do…really minimal effort. And really all I have to do now is monitor the page to make sure nothing inappropriate is said, post some bulletins with news and such now and then, and watch it grow on its own. As of the time of this writing, my Cause has a total of 6,813 members–members who feel as I do about the need for us all to do something for our Vietnam Veterans. And guess who else has joined? Vietnam Veterans themselves! And every now and then I get a personal note from one of them, or a post on the page thanking me for caring enough to start the cause. Just a few weeks ago one of them said, “It was 40 years before anyone thanked me, and it was on Facebook.”

Click this photo to visit the official National Vietnam Veterans Memorial site

So please, this Memorial Day, won’t you join me in bringing a tear to the eye of even one Vietnam Veteran who thought he’d never hear those simple words: Thank you for your service…Welcome Home, Soldier!

To visit the Thank a Vietnam Veteran Cause Page, and/or join us click here:

To read more about the Vietnam War:

To read more about Vietnam Veterans today and find out how you can help, go here :Vietnam Veterans Association

Please remember that this has nothing to do with any sort of endorsement of the Vietnam War, or any war for that matter. How anyone feels about about any war should be completely separate and apart from their gratitude for soldiers who answered the call of duty when their leaders asked them to–because they felt a patriotic loyalty to their country, because it was the law, because it was the right thing to do. It makes no difference, and we owe them that…

Billy Joel’s Moving Musical Tribute to the Veterans of the Vietnam War

An Hour of Everyday Beauty


I woke up today feeling overwhelmed…you know, one of those mornings when there’s just too much of it and not enough of you? Then I just said to myself….stop. Breathe. Look around you, not at the house that needs cleaning, or the paper that needs writing, or the errands that need running. Just look around at all the beautiful things, and take in the beauty of your life…things you look at every day but never really see.

So, I grabbed my camera and from 7:30 to 8:30 this morning I purposely looked for beauty in the things I take for granted every day of my overwhelmed existence.

And this is what I saw…

A butterfly, lounging on the side of the house next door…

Morning, on the lake…

Beautiful flowers…

My best friend, waiting patiently for me at the front door…

Unique Southern tree decorations…AKA Spanish Moss

And peaceful neighbors…

“For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it”. ~ Ivan Panin

Multiplication Rock–Still Rockin’ After All These Years!


Math has never been one of my strong suits. Okay, let’s not mince words–I suck at math. So, when I was a kid, 3rd grade I think, I learned my multiplication tables by singing along to SchoolHouse Rock’s Multiplication Rock series. And it stuck because sometimes I still remember what times what equals what musically. Of course, the other customers in line at the bank do look at me funny when they hear me singing, “A man and a woman had a little baby…they had three-E-E in the family…yes they did…”

So, when my kids had trouble with their times tables memorization, I looked them all up on You Tube and have now made that a part of the daily routine–watch one Multiplication Rock video per day, three times. And it’s working! I don’t know what your experience was like, but back in the 70’s, my classmates and I were not allowed past 3rd grade until we knew those times tables. And it came in handy too, later on when we worked on finding multiples, factors, and beyond, with simplifying fractions and such.

Nowadays, it seems educators don’t put quite as much emphasis on that rote memorization, although they should in my opinion. In the modern era, memorizing the times tables is more of a suggested course of action, instead of “Boy (or Girl)  do not even think of darkening the doorstep of that 4th grade classroom until you know these tables off the top of your head!” Yes ma’am!

So, if your little person is having some trouble with the times tables, give Multiplication Rock a try. It’ll work, I promise! Plus, I am getting tired of rockin’ out in the bank line all by myself…

Here they are in all their glory, minus the Ones and the Tens, of course, because those are easy. Any number times one is itself, and any number times ten means add a zero. Even I can remember that, so how hard can it be?

The Twos

The Threes

The Fours

The Fives

The Sixes

The Sevens

The Eights

The Nines

The Elevens

The Twelves

Good Wife Syndrome; Family Values, or Setback for Women?


Well, by now you’ve probably heard—it’s happened again. And this time, it’s a doozie! A secret transgression, a loyal wife humiliated, and a secret “love” child kept in the shadows for 14 years. Wow…didn’t see that one coming.

Pivotal Scene Depicting the Tenfold Hurt and Fallout of Good Wife Syndrome, on “The Good Wife”

In truth, we all should have seen it coming because evidently it happens a lot. I believe the Schwarzenegger Scandal has probably topped the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter Debacle, and that’s saying a lot. But really, let’s all grow up a little here. This is nothing new…before them it was, of course, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, and before that, JFK was a notorious serial womanizer. I’m sure his dirty laundry would have been out in the open at the time too, had TMZ and the Enquirer been hiding in his and his mistresses’ shrubbery in the 60’s…I bet politicians long for simpler times now, huh? Clearly, this is not a Republican or Democrat thing either—it’s a Man and Woman thing. It’s a marriage thing. It’s a human thing….

In fact, the practice of a politician or political hopeful cheating on his or her spouse and all of us having to hear about it when it finally blows up is an unfortunate trend that is here to stay. So much so, that CBS has turned it into a successful, critically acclaimed drama series, The Good Wife. This show is definitely one of my guilty pleasures on Tuesday nights. Maybe guilty is the wrong word…I don’t really feel guilty about watching it because, although the main character was a scorned political wife who initially stood by her man, that was definitely just the opening scene.

I watch and love The Good Wife because it isn’t just about cheating, or standing by your man, or the ever popular family values. It’s about the complexities of women—our hurts, our marital disasters, our strength, and our choices. And ultimately it’s about what lies beneath when our worlds come crashing down around our ears, and when we lose what is most important to us—what’s left of us? Who are we apart from wife and mother? Should we stay and work to rebuild our marriages, or should we leave and rebuild our lives and ourselves differently this time?

Ahhh, if only real life were like a great television show…sigh. I have no doubt that Maria Shriver will be okay. She’ll be like Alicia in The Good Wife, only better, because she’s real. That’s not what this is about, really. It’s more about a disturbing practice of political wives giving up on themselves, really, and staying in a marriage that perhaps would end if the parties were part of a Hollywood duo, who can milk the scandal for their own doses of publicity, or would probably end even if the married couple were just average, anonymous people.

Cheating happens. Sadly, it just does. And it hurts adults and children, families and societies. But, we can’t pretend it doesn’t happen. So why does it seem to happen so often in political marriages? Frankly, I doubt that politicians cheat any more often than average people. I do think that a couple that has political ambitions will tend to stay in a bad, or even a sham marriage way more often than a couple who is completely out of politics. The same thing may happen when maritial status is at much at issue, such as when the couple is involved in church work, etc.

I think  we need to stop demanding the perfect picture from our political officials—that perfect picture which includes the loving, committed, “perfect” marriage, 2.5 kids, 2 car garage, squeaky clean everything. That’s not always reality, but it seems to always be the electable political official’s reality. Hmmm…what doesn’t add up there? We all need to accept that sometimes an individual who would do an amazing job representing our interests in D.C. was a cheating cad at one point, and had a wife walk out on him. Or, maybe he cheats, and the two of them decided to stay in the marriage to actually work it out and do better next time. The point is, that when we demand that all of our backable politicians be perfect, and have the perfect marriage, we encourage and put our full support behind Good Wife Syndrome. And that hurts women, children, and families.

So, when we have another one of these scandals break, and we will—it’s only a matter of time, maybe then we should ask ourselves if that poor, scorned, humiliated, cheated on “Good Wife” would have suffered so, for so long, if not for us and our unrealistic view of the world, marriage, and family values, and our rigid application of those rigid standards to those we are willing to elect to represent us…

Good Wife Hall of Fame

Mrs. Bill Clinton

Mrs. John F. Kennedy, A Classic, Even on This Unfortunate List…

Mrs. John Edwards

Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger

And Mrs. Bare Chest on CraigsList….

Stupid Network Tricks; Gone Too Soon vs. Stayed Too Long


Well folks, it’s that time of year again! That magical season when we learn whether or not our favorite shows will live to see another season, or leave us forever wanting more. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that a lot of network execs seem to be a tad out of touch with what we the people want to see piped into our living rooms each evening, versus what we could do without.There were a few surprises on the cancellation list this year…shows I thought would carry on because they were either very well done, or had won awards, or seemed to have a pretty large, loyal audience. Go figure…But, then again, it’s not the first time there has been a significant mismatch between the shows that end up on the chopping block, and those which should have been on it years ago…

Here are my picks in each category for the worst cancellation and continuance mistakes of all time….


“Wonderfalls” FOX, 2004

Synopsis: “Launched in March 2004 as a mid-season replacement, this supernatural comedy drama suffered a death as quick as its premise was quirky. Thanks in part to a punishing Friday-night time slot, Wonderfalls managed only four episodes before Fox pulled the plug. Less than a year later, however, the offbeat series found new life on DVD, where all 13 completed installments were released to brisk sales and critical acclaim (see Wonderfalls — The Complete Series). The brainchild of veteran director Todd Holland (Twin Peaks, My So-Called Life) and Dead Like Me creator Bryan Fuller, Wonderfalls chronicles the misadventures of Jaye Tyler (Caroline Dhavernas), a Niagara Falls, NY gift-shop employee whose snarky world view gets shaken up when inanimate objects — a wax lion, a stuffed chameleon — begin ordering her around. Convinced she’s cracking up, Jaye nevertheless follows the animals’ instructions and unwittingly helps a broad range of unusual characters: an elementary-school Romeo, a stuttering stalker, a faithless nun, a mysterious housekeeper, etc. Her partners in crime on these assignments include sardonic pal Mahandra (Tracie Thoms), buttoned-up lesbian sister Sharon (Kate Finneran), and overeducated, underachieving brother Aaron (Lee Pace). Though unaware of their daughter’s peculiar conversations with stuffed animals, Jaye’s stuffy parents Karen (Diana Scarwid) and Darrin (William Sadler) also figure prominently in her adventures. So does Eric (Tyron Leitso), a hot, heartbroken bartender whose honeymoon was recently cut short when he caught his bride servicing the hotel bellhop. As Jaye flirts with Eric, fights with her family, and struggles to maintain her ironic detachment, she comes reluctantly closer to understanding the nature of her unorthodox destiny”. Source:

My Take: Loved this one! It was smart, funny, and different–oh boy was it different. Of course, it gave up the ghost way too soon, thanks to unimaginative network execs and viewers, with zero tolerance for quirky genius. Sorry folks, I calls ’em as I see ’em!

“Once and Again” ABC 1999-2002

Synopsis: “Lily Manning (Sela Ward) is a 40ish suburban soccer mom living in Deerfield, Illinois. Recently separated from her philandering husband Jake (Jeffrey Nordling), Lily is raising her two daughters, insecure, anxiety-ridden 14-year-old Grace (Julia Whelan), and wide-eyed, innocent 9-year-old Zoe (Meredith Deane). For support, she turns to her more free-spirited younger sister, Judy (Marin Hinkle), with whom she works at their bookstore called My Sister’s Bookstore (renamed Booklovers later in the series)”. Lily’s life changes when, during the pilot episode, she meets Rick Sammler (Billy Campbell) in the principal’s office of Grace’s school, Upton Sinclair High School. Rick is a single father and co-head of an architectural firm, Sammler/Cassili Associates, which is located in downtown Chicago. Rick has been divorced from his uptight ex-wife Karen (Susanna Thompson) for three years and has two children, Eli (Shane West), a 16-year-old basketball player at Sinclair High who suffers from a learning disability, and sensitive 12-year-old Jessie (Evan Rachel Wood), who longs for the days before her family’s disintegration. Lily and Rick share an immediate mutual attraction and begin dating. Their budding relationship causes problems in both of their respective families. Grace strongly objects to Lily and Rick’s relationship as she still hopes to see her parents get back together. Karen, a public interest attorney at the downtown law firm of Harris, Riegert, and Sammler, is worried about the toll Rick’s new relationship would take on their children, particularly Jessie, who is shy and emotionally fragile. She is also working through her own feelings of jealousy that Rick is moving on to a new relationship. In addition to Lily and Rick’s relationship, the show also focused to a lesser degree on their exes, Jake and Karen, and their own struggles to move on in a post-divorce environment”. Source:

My Take: One of THE best shows ever aired on television. The amazing intro alone was worth keeping it for. ‘Nuff said…:-(

Swingtown ABC 2008

Synopsis: “As America celebrates its 200th birthday, two generations of friends and neighbors in a Chicago suburb explore new freedoms and seek connections with each other in the midst of the socio/sexual revolution”. Source:

My Take: Okay, this one is still a little difficult for me to talk about because I’m still mad about the fact that it was cancelled before it had a chance to play out. The long and short of it is that network execs clearly caved to pressure from morality groups that had probably never even watched one stellar, Emmy worthy episode of this amazing show. Everyone was shortsighted here, and had a kneejerk reaction simply because the plotline centered upon the 70’s and the practice of “swinging”. But, you have to trust me here, that was a very, very minor part of the show. It was well written, featured rich storylines, with deep, complex, interesting characters. And it was ultimately murdered by the morality police way before I was ready to see it go. The irony? The show actually would have deterred the practice of swinging, had it been allowed to breathe in and out for a couple more seasons…


E.R. NBC 1994-2009

Synopsis: “ER follows the medical personnel and patients in the emergency room of Chicago’s fictional County General Hospital. Created by best-selling author Michael Crichton (“Jurassic Park”) and produced by John Wells (“The West Wing”), Christopher Chulack (“Third Watch”), David Zabel (“JAG”), and R. Scott… More Gemmill (“Jonny Zero”), the Emmy Award-winning series has completed fourteen seasons as one of television’s highest-rated dramas.
The doctors and nurses of County’s ER confront the daily challenges of a busy urban hospital, including overcrowded waiting rooms, staffing shortages, and the impact of life-and-death decisions. While they teach the next generation of doctors, each must tackle the demands of their personal lives, at times unsuccessfully”. Source:

My Take: What stinks after 15 years? Well, the usual fish and company, and nighttime dramas beating worn out plots and recycled storylines to death. By the time it was over, was there anyone left who really cared? That’s nothing against the fine actors, writers, etc., believe me. But this one is a good example of network execs and producers milking a menopausal cow that had done her duty and then some, and should have been retired long ago.

Grey’s Anatomy ABC 2005-Present

Synopsis: “Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama about a group of surgeons working at Seattle Grace Hospital. The show centers around Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and her life as a third year resident at the hospital. In addition to her relationship with her neurosurgeon husband, Derek Shepherd (Patrick… More Dempsey), and best friend Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), it also explores her relationships with her peers and the other doctors around her. Each episode dives into different medical cases and personal dramas of the doctors at Seattle Grace, with Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) at the helm of the surgical department.”  Source:

My Take: A musical episode??? SERIOUSLY??? Aside from the fact that we all thought Grey’s was one big music video anyway, come on guys, that’s a shark in a shark suit, jumping the shark. Please put it out of its Mc-misery before this gets really Mc-ugly…seriously…

Melrose Place FOX 1992-1999

Synopsis: “The lives and loves of a group of young adults living in “Melrose Place” in California. Each with their own dreams and drives, the inevitable conflicts, conquests, and consummations ensue”.  Source:

My Take: Okay people, this one was the coolest of the cool–for the first oh, I’d say 3 seasons. Then it just got stupid. Once everybody had slept with everybody else in the building, and Kimberly came back from the dead the first time and took that wig off :::shudder::: it was time to cut it so that it could live forever in the Hip Hall of Fame. But what do the greedy execs do? Yep, they kept it going after it made campy look campy. Then, after it slinked off with its formerly cool tail between it’s legs, what did they do? Of course, they brought it back years later with new, baby faced actors. I actually watched that one and liked it, but I think America has had enough of the gang on Melrose, and it was cancelled toot sweet, hopefully never to return again. Let’s hope not anyway…let me keep my memories of the super engaging Allison/Billy/Amanda triangle from the first couple of seasons, will ya?!

Here’s hoping your current favorites and mine have survived the out of touch network axe during the annual chopping season! You’d think they’d get smarter at this after decades of practice, wouldn’t you…

A Day Trip Worth Taking; Manzanar National Historic Site


One of my favorite souvineers from a life of travels…I picked this up at Manzanar’s Interpretive Center gift shop. This Japanese word translated reads, “It Can’t Be Helped”.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast of the United States. To carry out this order, ten Japanese internment camps were established in the states of California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. Approximately 120,000 men, women, and children, many of whom were actually loyal American citizens, were forced to leave their homes, sell any property they owned at a profound financial loss, and relocate to one of these camps. 

Read More About the History of Japanese-American Relocation

A few years ago, I visited one of the camps which has been preserved as a museum by the National Park Service. Manzanar Internment Camp, now a National Historic Site, housed 11,070 “relocated” Japanese-Americans during World War II. Manzanar is located in the state of California, in the Owens Valley region, at the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The specific location of the camp as listed on their website is: “Manzanar is located on the west side of U.S. Highway 395, 9 miles north of Lone Pine, California and 6 miles south of Independence, CA.”

A typical scene from inside a barrack apartment at Manzanar, Photo from the Dorthea Lange Gallery

I visited Manzanar as an adult, and it had a profound impact on me. I grew up in the South, and I don’t remember hearing much about Japanese internment camps, and had certainly never seen one. This is probably due to the fact that Japanese-Americans lived mostly in the West during WWII, and that was also where all of the internment camps were located, except for the one in Arkansas, which I never heard about at all when I was growing up in Tennessee.

One of the guard towers of Manzanar-Photo by Fred Causey… Each guard carried Thompson submachine guns, shotguns, and 30′ caliber rifles…

As I toured the facility, and browsed the many exhibits at the park’s impressive Interpretive Center, I was struck by the incredible strength, tenacity, and grace that seems to lie at the heart of Japanese culture. I was also a little embarrassed that I hadn’t known more about this regrettable bit of American history before that day. Every American who has the opportunity to visit Manzanar should definitely do so! It is a great historic and cultural educational opportunity for both children and adults, and also a moving experience for anyone who visits, as you fully realize the loss and indignity this group of individuals was forced to endure.

Some of the children of Manzanar, Photo from the Francis Stewart Gallery

If you are taking a vacation to California, or if you live in the Western region of the U.S., there is certainly a lot to see! I lived out West for several years of my life and really enjoyed all of the beauty and the history I was able to take in there. My travels would definitely have been incomplete without a visit to Manzanar, however, and I urge you to take a day to see it yourself sometime—I promise you won’t regret your detour from the tourist traps, nor the extra gas (also known these days as liquid gold) you’ll burn to go a little out of your way!

Manzanar’s Website:


Operating Hours & Seasons:

WittyBizGal Nonprofit Management; 5 Steps to a Great Volunteer Program


On the whole, nonprofit organizations seem to have somewhat of a reputation for management which is carried out less efficiently and effectively than for profit organizations. The truth in that perception and opinion based rumor is that there are plenty of poorly managed organizations out there—both nonprofit and for profit.

One of the most useful resources of the nonprofit organization is its volunteer human resources and, yes, inefficient, ineffective volunteer programs, or the complete lack of a formal volunteer program at all, are a common nonprofit management error. This is especially true for small nonprofit organizations which, notoriously, are always scrambling for adequate funding. Jumbo sized, well funded nonprofits such as the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, etc., tend to be better organized, more efficient, and mostly effective, but even they sometimes could use a tune-up, particularly at the regional level.

If you would like to set up a good, solid volunteer program from scratch, or give your old, clunky one a Hollywood makeover, here are five easy steps for you. Well, okay, maybe not easy, but surprisingly simple and well worth the effort!  

1)     Define, and Continually Examine and Re-Define If Necessary, the Purpose and Scope of Your Volunteer Program

Some  nonprofits just start using volunteers without putting sufficient thought into how to make the most of these precious resources. Every organization is unique, and has its own specific mission, goals, objectives, and appropriate, often untapped, or not yet considered opportunities for volunteers. Spend some time considering that mission, the organization’s goals and objectives, your existing staff, and your workforce plan. Then, based on all of that, develop an actual mission and vision for your volunteer program.  By the way, even if you already have a working volunteer program, it is never too late to go back and complete this first step. And, once you have a good idea of your purpose and scope, definitely have your Board and Staff go back and re-evaluate it periodically. There is nothing worse than an outdated mission and purpose that has not kept up with the times and those inevitable organizational and industry environmental changes.

2)     Have a Good Understanding of Your Legal and Ethical Responsibilities to All Your Workers—Paid or Unpaid

Employment law is a much stickier wicket than most people realize. That being said, it is way too complicated to memorize—nobody does that, not even a labor attorney. Oh, and even if you did memorize it all, your knowledge would have limited utility because it changes about every five minutes anyway. Also, don’t just assume that employment laws don’t apply at all to volunteers because they are not classified as employees. This mostly true statement can get you into a whole lot of trouble if you don’t know what you are doing. Find out which employment laws, federal, state, and local actually do cover volunteers in a blanket fashion. And tort laws…oh those tort laws—know which ones apply to you and your common related workplace scenarios. Here’s a hint: issues of equal opportunity, privacy (both client and volunteer), and personal safety and injury will likely be your biggest bugaboos.

3)     Perform Job Analysis, and Develop Written Job Descriptions Yes, you have to!

Okay, well, technically you don’t have to. But, trust me, management, whether that is carried out in a for profit or nonprofit environment is best addressed through heeding best practices. Those are good, standard guidelines which may not involve actions that you have to take, rather those which have been deemed best to take. This is based on a collective body of knowledge of a lot of people who probably know a lot more than you do, no matter who you are, because they either know a lot about laws and regulations, problems which have occurred in real life scenarios, or have even royally screwed up themselves, but never will make the same mistake again. You should figure out what your volunteer jobs are going to entail—exactly. This typically involves the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to do the job effectively, and then the areas of responsibility, actual duties, reporting relationships, and physical work environment in which the job will be performed. A lot of people management activities are, or should be at least, based upon a good job analysis, which produces a good written job description.

4)     Manage (Recruit, Motivate, Guide, Counsel, and Train) Them Like Employees

No, in most cases, you don’t have to, because more than likely no state employment regulatory agency is going to knock on your door or send you a nasty letter if you don’t. But, you’ll just have to trust me on this one because it is one of those best practices I mentioned before. And, frankly, it is just easier to simplify your human resource management practices by designing your volunteer program management activities around your paid employee human resource activities. Follow those first for recruitment of volunteers, which can be largely guided by your newly minted job description. Conduct a formalized, professional recruitment process. You won’t be sorry you did, but you might be sorry down the road if you don’t. Remember, you’re looking for fit there—fit between the needs of the organization, and the skills, abilities, and also the needs of the volunteer. In the other aspects of volunteer relations management, you must consider motivation and rewards, as well as performance management. It is best to conduct regular performance reviews for your volunteers—just like employees. And here’s another hint about motivating volunteers: identify and then focus on those intrinsic rewards associated with the work that your volunteers do. Sure, they are not doing this for an hourly wage or yearly salary, but you’d better believe that each and every volunteer was motivated by certain wants and needs to altruistically show up on your doorstep and work for free. Find out what those needs and wants are, collectively and individually, and use them as a guide to manage the nonprofit/volunteer relationship throughout.

5)     Write Stuff Down

Avoid making assumptions when it comes to effective utilization of volunteers in your organization. In fact, documenting and codifying into formalized policy and procedure is always a good managerial practice. You know what they say about assumptions—and it’s true, because I have seen it play out over and over in organizations. BE CLEAR—about everything. People need to know what is expected of them, and the less ambiguity the better when it comes to behavioral expectations, knowledge of the history of the organization, how things work in departments other than the one they work in, ethical expectations, etc. Do not leave things to chance, because if anything is likely to come back and bite you, it will be that, in some fashion or another, when you least expect it. I recommend that each volunteer be educated about and clear on first and foremost, the vision/mission and history of your organization. Next, volunteers should understand all the policies and procedures of the nonprofit—written down, and given to them so that they can refer back as needed. And finally, the volunteer’s employment relationship should be comprehensively documented—first with that all important job description, then down the line, with written performance evaluations, goals which are set, areas for improvement, etc. Never confuse organizational communication with micromanagement—they are not the same thing. When it doubt, write it down.

I hope these tips have been helpful for you…This is, of course, not a comprehensive list of all the things you need to do to have a great nonprofit volunteer management program. If you have additional tips, cautionary tales, and best practices, please do add them in the comment section. It’s really important for all of us working within the nonprofit sector to support one another and share information—we’re in this together!