Originally created 05/31/97

Sessions aid volunteerism



Presidential calls for volunteers and political correctness haven't overcome time constraints for potential do-gooders, Georgia nonprofit professionals said.

And nonprofit professionals need to learn how to handle the new kind of volunteers who have donated their time and skills, Augusta professionals said.

Volunteer management was topic during sessions for the Georgia Society of Association Executives meeting this week in Augusta and at a seminar at the Telfair Inn on Thursday and Friday sponsored by J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and the United Way.

The 200-member association represents Georgia-based charitable organizations. Its members manage local, state, national and international associations that have 3.5 million members.

Association officials and seminar organizers agreed that finding volunteers has gotten tougher in recent years.

The growing number of working women and downsized corporations that expect longer hours of employees have reduced the amount of time men and women devote to good works, association members said.

"We are finding it's more and more of a problem at all levels," said Ann Cox, executive director of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses. "It's not unusual for a national election to only have one person run for an office (within the association)."

In the Telfair Inn seminar, participants described how they would work to attract certain categories of volunteers.

Professionals sparked a few comments.

"These people are intimidating sometimes to the rest of the staff," said Sarah Monroe, an 18year veteran of recruiting volunteers who works with Support Centers of America.

Ms. Monroe, who works at Jacksonville (Fla.) University's Institute of Government, presented the seminar.

"They may be coming from a supervisor role and not used to taking orders from people," said Michael Newton Jr. of Fireside Ministries.

He later said many top officers "want to be treated like everybody else."

The emphasis of the seminar was to teach nonprofit professionals how to handle volunteers, said Laverne Gold, a vice president at the United Way in Augusta who coordinates volunteer programs. The majority used to be middle-income homemakers and company managers on boards.

"You not only want to get them, you want to retain them," she said.

Besides time constraints, lack of commitment keeps people from volunteering, Ms. Sullivan said. Leaders within the charity must find ways to spark that enthusiasm.

"If you find someone young, you'll have a volunteer for life," said Wayne McMillan, associate executive director of Families First, an Atlanta-based charity that uses 600 volunteers annually.

It employs a volunteer coordinator to recruit on college campuses.

President Clinton's summit on volunteerism didn't swell the ranks of volunteers but it did generate awareness, said Karen Sullivan, executive director of Camp Fire Boys and Girls.

"The phones haven't been ringing. I think what the summit did was create a general awareness, and it's up to us to go out and convince people to volunteer," said Ms. Sullivan, whose organization works with 400 volunteers yearly.

"It's too early to see (what effect the summit has had on volunteerism)," Ms. Monroe said. "But it's nice to know that they're recognizing it."

At the seminar Friday, a panel of corporate executives said the future of volunteerism looks bright because of the need in the community.

"Money probably won't grow as fast as the need, but volunteerism will grow," said Ed Asbridge, manager of the J.C. Penney department store at Augusta Mall. "I see volunteerism growing and growing."

Pat Blanchard, president of Georgia Bank & Trust Co. in Augusta, said: "All of us in the business world need to make sure that the spirit of volunteerism remains strong."

Jerry Straughters, human resources director for Amoco Polymers, agreed.

"That's what makes a corporation," he said.