Friday, October 17, 2003

Volunteer groups urged on

Red Cross exec exhorts leaders of area groups to raise the bar

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Volunteering is not just a small pastime for retirees or schoolkids needing community projects for class credit.

About 71 percent of those who are asked to volunteer, regardless of age or professional status, say yes, and the monetary value of services all volunteers across the country performed last year comes to $256 billion.

Those figures were provided by Marsha Evans, president and chief executive officer of the American National Red Cross, who spoke at a conference of the International Association of Volunteer Administrators downtown Thursday.

"Are volunteers important? You bet they are,'' Evans said.

As she addressed managers of volunteer programs at a breakfast meeting, Evans emphasized the importance of recruiting, training and retaining volunteers, and making sure they uphold the integrity of the organization where they work.

"I want to emphasize the importance of leadership and bring you a dose of hope," Evans said. "There was never a time in history when leadership was more needed than it is now. We are in a messy world of terrorists, budget cuts and bigotry. But we must see the possibilities out there and not lose hope."

Evans, a retired Navy admiral and former executive director of the Girl Scouts of America, urged the volunteer program managers to connect with people most closely allied with the mission of the organizations where they volunteer, and to hold themselves and their volunteers to the standards of the organizations.

"Some of the issues managers must deal with is to remove volunteers who disrupt the organization or those who perpetrate theft, hold them to the volunteer job description, make sure that they represent the integrity of the organization, and make sure they understand the proper use of resources of the organization," she said.

The conference started Wednesday and will run through Saturday. It will include workshops such as "Party Planning for Practically Pennies," "That Little Voice Inside," "Training Your Busy Staff to Succeed With Volunteers," "It Takes Two to Tango," "Marketing Savvy," "Who Am I Anyway?" and "Sustaining the Volunteer Manager's Spirit."

"This is a great opportunity to get our folks trained in volunteer program management," said Nancy Starner, a volunteer program manager for United Way of Greater Cincinnati.


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