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Susan J Ellis's blog

February Hot Topic: Volunteering Is Inherently Political

on Tue, 01/31/2012 - 22:03

The United States is at the start of a contentious presidential election year in which candidates with widely differing views each attract thousands of volunteers. We see election volunteering as a political act but any type of volunteering is inherently “political.” What does this mean for your organization?

Volunteering by Migrants: One Step toward Social Inclusion

on Thu, 01/19/2012 - 21:55

Increased migration – by choice or by force – throughout Europe has created economic and social concerns in many countries.  Last year, through the impetus of the European Year of Volunteering, Portuguese academic Henrique Pinto invited a range of scholars and practitioners to write articles about the connection of volunteering and migration for a special theme issue of Migrações Journal, “Migrantes e Voluntariado.”  It was published in December 2011 with half the chapters in Portuguese and half in English.

Are You Putting Volunteers in Harm’s Way?

on Fri, 01/06/2012 - 21:58

The U.S. Peace Corps announced in late December that they would be suspending volunteer efforts in Honduras and other countries because of increased security concerns.  It’s not uncommon to hear reports from organizations such as the Peace Corps that they must place the safety of their volunteers above program service goals.  

January Hot Topic: What Would the Perfect Volunteer-Involving Organization Look Like?

on Sun, 01/01/2012 - 00:00

What would your organization look like if it practiced everything we preach about creative, welcoming, and effective volunteer management? If we cannot picture the results of our efforts – and like/want the future we envision – we won’t be motivated to do the work necessary. Start the new year by looking ahead with aspirations and resolutions.  This hot topic is available at:

The “Spark Plug Theory” of Volunteer Recruitment

on Thu, 12/29/2011 - 16:08

It’s always fun to apply theories from one field to a completely different one.  In an online Bloomberg Businessweek article, "The Spark Plug Theory of Marketing,"  author Steve McKee notes that many business ads fail because “companies cram too much into them trying to make their case, or expect that they can open and close the sale in one fell swoop. The best advertising is like a spark plug that leaves a small gap for the audience to fill in for themselves . . .

Volunteer Journalists Capture Recent European Volunteer Centre Conference

on Fri, 12/09/2011 - 21:15

On October 19-21, the European Volunteer Centre (CEV) sponsored a symposium in Berlin on "Volunteering and Active Citizenship: Two Sides of the Same Coin?"  I had the opportunity to participate in this event which was being videotaped by a team of volunteer journalists. The director and editor, Brian Christopher Griffin, just let me know that two videos have been posted to YouTube.

December Hot Topic: My Personal “State of the World's Volunteering” Report

on Fri, 12/02/2011 - 00:09

To close IYV+10, United Nations Volunteers is set to issue its State of the World's Volunteering Report. In this spirit of celebration and reflection, Susan looks back at all that has happened professionally in our field – things we have done or were done to us – and asks for your retrospectives, too.   This hot topic is available at:

“Making a Noise” – Free Online Seminar closing the European Year of Volunteering 2011

on Tue, 11/29/2011 - 15:36

Volunteer Centre Warrington is an active resource for leaders of volunteers in the UK.  As part of the European Year of Volunteering 2011 (EYV), they have been delivering a series of free online training sessions which will wrap up on December 8th  with “Making a Noise: What volunteer managers need from leaders and decision makers.” 

November 20, 2011: International News From the Field

on Sun, 11/20/2011 - 00:00

Emergen ( is an online community for "emerging young leaders" in Australia, made up of over 1000 professionals aged 20-35. Along with online and in-person learning opportunities, it provides participants "the opportunity to develop their professional brand and reputation. Members can do this through blogging, being interviewed for Emergen TV or participating in our Awards program." They even provide Bloggers Training online.

One of Emergen’s projects is "Blogging for a Cause Ebooks," the latest of which is a Tribute to the International Year of the Volunteer. This 60-page, graphically elegant document (using the issuu publishing platform) offers first-person accounts of different volunteer experiences, as expressed by volunteer bloggers. The contributors are diverse in all sorts of ways: culturally, ethnically, degree of involvement in volunteer work, and the types of causes they support.

The essays even tackle negative perceptions and controversies about

November 13, 2011: International News From the Field

on Sun, 11/13/2011 - 00:00

As the European Year of Volunteering draws to a close, a flurry of conferences and special events have been taking place, including some for special audiences. On November 10-11, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charity, brought together about 160 bishops and representatives of charitable organizations from 25 countries to discuss volunteering in conjunction with the European Year of Volunteering. Speaking at the event’s closing session, Pope Benedict XVI said:

Through volunteer work, Christians become signs of God's love in the world . . . Especially at a time of serious economic crisis, moral uncertainty and social tension, Christian volunteers show "that goodness exists and that it is growing in our midst" . . . The pope thanked the European volunteers and "the millions of Catholic volunteers who contribute, regularly and generously, to the church's charitable mission throughout the world."

As he wrote in his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas