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Susan J Ellis's blog

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

November 6, 2011: International News From the Field

on Sun, 11/06/2011 - 00:00

Volunteer2 (, provider of popular volunteer management software, has created another free online resource for the volunteer field:  the Mission Points ROI Calculator, designed to help measure the “Return on Investment” associated with engaging volunteers at an organization.

Most organizations value the contribution of volunteer time without assessing its true worth.  The concept that a report documenting more and more volunteer hours appears better does not take into consideration what gets accomplished during those hours – and what if that time was actually wasted?  Further, the most popular method of measuring the ROI of volunteer engagement is calculating the wage replacement value of the number of hours contributed by volunteers.  This simply furthers the questionable idea that hours equal cash equal impact.  

The Mission Points ROI model treats the number of volunteer hours consumed by an organization as an expense.  It also allows measurement of desired outputs

November Hot Topic: Part-time Volunteer Management Means Equally Limited Volunteer Involvement

on Tue, 11/01/2011 - 04:00

The majority of people who lead volunteer involvement do so only part-time. There is a serious disconnect between an organization’s desire to engage volunteers and an understanding of how much expertise and time are needed to assure success. Why is the position underestimated? How can we show that spending time on volunteer management is a necessity, not a luxury?  Read the full hot topic

International Volunteer Managers Day is November 5th!

on Mon, 10/31/2011 - 04:00

 2011 has been a busy year for volunteering – it is IYV2011+10 and the European Year of Volunteering 2011, to name just two high profile campaigns.  And now once again we’ve come to International Volunteer Managers Day (IVMD) – 5 November – which has been building its own momentum.  Andy Fryar, chair of the steering committee for IVMD, reports:

 Already I am hearing of plans for events to mark the day and discussions online about how the publicity for the day can be used to help promote the importance of effective leadership and management of volunteers.  It is in this context that we (the steering committee) see 2011 as a year of consolidation for International Volunteer Managers Day. We have no major developments planned for 2011. Rather we want to concentrate on promoting what is already happening to mark the day and sharing that to keep the profile high.

You can participate by doing some concrete things:

  • Follow the day on Twitter and promote your plans by mentioning @IVMday in

October 23, 2011: International News From the Field

on Sun, 10/23/2011 - 00:00

No matter your political persuasion, looking at the Occupy Wall Street movement from a volunteer management perspective is an intriguing exercise. With images in the media of tattoos, piercings, and strange costumes, it’s easy to pooh-pooh protestors as slackers with no direction.  But look again. This uprising has similar features to the volunteer driven origins of many of today’s main stream organizations.

  • Influenced by highly skilled, highly educated volunteer: Every social change action requires someone to get the ball rolling, whether it be the Tea Party, the March of Dimes, or the revolution in Egypt. David Graeber doesn’t claim to be the initial instigator, but he appears  to have laid the “ground rules.” There is also a YouTube video where David Graeber recounts the first night of protest as quite organized and not just “a few college students” getting together and deciding to camp out.
  • Financial structure in place: Funds are managed at a central location by volunteers with