General materials discussing the topic of leadership (rather than "management"). Useful for both paid staff and volunteers in leadership roles.

Consultation/Listening, Debra Allcock Tyler, It's Tough at the Top: The no-fibbing guide to leadership, Directory of Social Change
Decision Making in Small Groups, Nathan W. Turner, Leading Small Groups, pp. 49 - 50, Judson Press
Get Off the Throne: How To Handle Power-Hungry Leaders, Butch Oxendine, Editor-in-Chief, Student Leader
Putting Ideas into Action, Search Institute, p.37, Search Institute
Reacting to the Critics, Susan J. Ellis
What Do We Mean by Leadership?, Marlene Wilson, Visionary Leadership in Volunteer Programs
WHO IS THE NEW BREED OF VOLUNTEER? A Profile of the 21st Century Volunteer, Jonathan McKee and Thomas McKee, ch. 1, pp.3-24, Group Publishing, Inc.
Youth Can Change the World, Mosaic Youth Center with Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner, pp. 7-10, Search Institute

Developed by CNIB, this manual highlights best practices for partnering with leadership volunteers, particular board and committee members, senior advisors, and project leaders.  Accompanied by a Toolkit.

, 2017
ASAE Center for Leadership

Materials from the American Society of Association Executives on many leadership topics. Click through to areas such as the Knowledge Center, Case Studies, and other resource collections.

Associations Now (blog)

About all things related to association management, from ASAE (American Society for Association Executives). Was previously called "Acronym" and that archive is still accessible at http://blogs.asaecenter.org/Acronym/.

Leader Values

One of the widest collections of free resources available on the Web on the subject of leadership _ searchable themes, links, articles, quotations, and a glossary.

Leadership Development Planning

Section of Carter MacNamara's extensive site for nonprofits, with many valuable articles, references, and links.

Leadership Now

Site focused on encouraging everyone to see their leadership potential.

Lori Gotlieb Consulting Blog

Blog postings by Lori Gotlieb, who teaches volunteer management at Humber  College, Toronto, ON. 

Mission-Based Management

Web site of Peter Brinckerhoff, best-selling author on mission-based management, which includes a section called Free Stuff offering articles, self-assessment tools, and other useful resources. Peter's newest book, Nonprofit Stewardship: A Better Way To Lead Your Mission-Based Organization, is clearly on-topic, too.

National School Boards Foundation Toolkit _ Section on Professional and Leadership Development

Tools for identifying and developing leadership styles.

Print and e-Books in Our Store

Book cover for 12 Key Actions

Free report on what real-life "Volunteer Program Champion" CEOs think, feel, and do to successfullly support volunteer involvement in their organizations.

From the Top Down UK edition book cover

UK Edition of the best-selling book that identifies the critical link between the actions of an organisation’s senior management and the overall success of volunteer engagement.

Book cover for From the Top Down

Outlines the key executive decisions necessary to lay the foundation for successful volunteer involvement: policies, budgeting, staffing, employee-volunteer relationships, legal issues, cost and value of volunteers, and more.

Actions Speak Louder than Words
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Frederick Hertzberg's famous 1959 study of employee motivation proved that what workers want most is attention, particularly from bosses. In a test putting two groups of people into identical work situations, productivity rose measurably in the group where the plant manager simply walked through the room a few times a day.

This has useful implications for the connection between the executives of an organization and the volunteers who contribute their time and skills. As simple as it sounds, ask your executive to make it a point to be visible. Volunteers (and paid staff) feel valued by the presence of decision makers, all the more if they express interest in what's going on.

Never underestimate the effect of a warm greeting. Genuine friendliness throughout the year has more lasting impact than any speech at a recognition dinner. If it's feasible, help your exec to learn the names of regularly-scheduled volunteers and use them. If you have groups of volunteers who come on site together, suggest the exec drop by once in a while to say hello or, even better, occasionally join in with the work for a while (which may mean turning up in jeans and getting dirty hands!). It's amazing how much this sort of gesture is appreciated.

One executive director of a food bank we know tries to welcome every organized group to the facility at the start of their shift, especially if this is a one-time project. She asks the volunteer coordinator to give her a few details about the group so that she can personalize the greeting, too. Her rationale is that a few minutes of her time sets the tone for the project, demonstrates appreciation, and wins friends for the food bank over the long term.

More Motivating Executive Actions

There are other ways top managers can demonstrate their support of volunteers as valued team members. With the help of the leader of volunteers, executives can:

  • Build on the elementary concept of greeting volunteers casually by finding ways to ask their opinions or give input about something. Circulate brief surveys along with a note that says how much the organization values volunteers' perspective on such matters, since they represent the community.
  • Host bi-annual feedback sessions (think of how the paid staff might like this, too).
  • Monthly, invite a random group of perhaps six volunteers to meet with the exec for morning coffee for 30 minutes, during which s/he gets to pick their brains on what they are observing in the facility. Word will spread that you care what volunteers think - and the exec will find their perspective eye-opening.
  • Volunteers will also be proud to be agency ambassadors, if requested. Send a memo from the executive explaining a new service or project, attaching information about it or instructing how to learn more. Ask volunteers to tell the news to others in the community. Be sure to give volunteers tours of new units or branches, answering their questions while encouraging them to "talk it up" with their friends, family, and work colleagues.
  • Create one or more assignments directly helping the executive director and other top managers, possibly as consultants or coaches with special expertise. This models that the expectation of staff/volunteer teamwork is for everyone and immediately counteracts the notion that volunteers work only at the lower levels of the organization.
  • Ask that each department to include information on the contributions of volunteers in its regular progress report to management, apart from the general information that would be in the volunteer services report. Volunteer services can give cumulative data about volunteer involvement throughout the agency, but only the unit doing the actual work can explain what volunteers accomplished. This reporting expectation sends the message that volunteers are indeed integrated throughout the organization.
  • Prevent "silo" thinking by periodically convening planning sessions for community outreach at which the volunteer services staff and the staff of the public relations/marketing, human resources, and development departments meet together to exchange ideas, mesh projects when possible, and maximize itineraries. It's up to the executive to facilitate such cross-department interaction and to encourage these folks to see one another as resources.
  • Spend some money on volunteers. Volunteers are happy to give their time without remuneration and don't want expensive gifts. But they are quite aware of where they sit in the pecking order of budgeting. They resent watching the volunteer coordinator position cut back or eliminated. Less drastically, volunteers notice if the volunteer program office has cast-off furniture or insufficient equipment, while other offices seem to be favored.

When the top executive is welcoming and authentic to volunteers, it takes far fewer words to produce loyalty and commitment. And those words will never be mere lip service.

Be a Futurist
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Change is the only constant today. And if the whole world is changing, how can volunteering stay the same? It can't.

Nothing is more wasteful than to allow volunteers to continue doing something that is no longer the most important thing to do.

I doubt anyone would argue with the truth of the sentences above. But the challenge is to be ready for - even in front of - change, not to be flattened as it rolls over you.

The first step is to become aware of percolating trends likely to have an impact on volunteer involvement in your organization. Keep informed about:

  • Cultural, economic, and social conditions and current news affecting the community at large - global, national, local. These affect all volunteers, too.
  • Issues in your specific work field or setting.What is changing in what your organization does and how it does it?
  • The trends affecting volunteerism in all types of organizations.

Do this by keeping your eyes and ears open, reading publications known for trend spotting, and convening periodic "think tanks" of volunteers to discuss the world around you. Here are some tips for assessing which trends you want to welcome, adapt or avoid:

  • Consider possible, probable, and preferable future(s). Keep focused on the preferable ones - that's what volunteering is all about.
  • Enlist people who can analyze the issues from different perspectives. Look beyond the "first wave" of anticipated outcomes. (If you tend to be an optimist or a pessimist, force yourself to see the other side.)
  • Remember that volunteers have always been the pioneers on the cutting edge of change. So how can volunteers be instrumental in responding to change on behalf of your organization and consumers?
  • Recruit experts in the identified trends to volunteer as advisors, strategists, and trainers (for you as well as for organization decision makers).

Find ways to incorporate your knowledge of key trends into overall strategic planning for your organization. Not only will this insure that volunteers are tapped for work that is important today, but it will raise your credibility as a member of senior management.

Identify what is already in your power to do differently and act (don't ask permission to do your job). Pilot test and prove the value of new ideas.

Remember: Taking action and taking no action both carry consequences.

Grooming Leadership Volunteers
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Is it is easier to recruit a volunteer for front-line, hands-on work than for a leadership position such as team captain, advisory council, or committee chair (let alone serve on a board of directors)? How can you help volunteers to increase their involvement over time and grow comfortable taking on more responsibilities and even authority?

First, consider what may not be fun for volunteers in leadership roles:

  • Attendance at meetings - maybe lots of long meetings, and not always productive ones.
  • Willingness to stick their necks out and take risks on behalf of the project.
  • Making difficult choices and then facing scrutiny (and maybe criticism) from their colleagues and friends about these decisions.

Maybe volunteers are right if they assume this is a major commitment! So the key is to articulate what the benefits of service at the leadership level are, and then to identify the type of people who would find satisfaction in those. For example:

  • The intellectual challenge of developing strategies to help the community.
  • Opportunity to interact with other organization leaders.
  • Being at the forefront of positive change and action.
  • Doing something with long-term implications.

Recruiting People Who Are Already Leaders

One misconception is that people in business, especially in big corporations, are always "leaders." Of course some corporate executives have strong leadership skills, but many have simply risen to a level of authority and are enforcing the decisions of a small circle of others at the very top. Also, community leadership requires consensus-building, diplomacy, and other characteristics that may not be as highly prized in the business world. So it's fine to look to successful business people as possible leadership volunteers, just be sure to double check your assumptions with each individual.

Developing New Leaders

Accept the challenge of "grooming" front-line volunteers into new leaders. This starts by noticing who has the potential to develop. Think of the process in the following stages:

1. The volunteer does an assignment well and you notice. S/he shows initiative, does something above and beyond what you expected, or seems able to help others do better or to work together as a team.

2. Genuinely praise the extra effort, so that the volunteer understands what you value and feels good about contributing in this way.

3. Invite the volunteer to do something specific requiring additional commitment but giving the opportunity to learn additional skills: acting as a team leader for a project, being a trainer of new volunteers, or writing a report about the project. Offer whatever support the person might need to succeed and then praise that accomplishment, too.

4. Ask the volunteer to participate in a planning or evaluation session - something that requires the person to speak out, share opinions, and interact with others. This might lead to service on a committee or task force - a group that meets for a short time with a specific purpose.

Talk honestly with the volunteer about your hopes for her or his development and longer term commitment to your cause. This isn't a secret process in which you manipulate someone into the trap of long-term service! If the person really is not comfortable - or simply prefers less demanding volunteering - that's OK. But sometimes all it takes is convincing a prospective leader that you really think she or he has the right stuff to do the job well.

By allowing each volunteer to take small steps towards involvement as a leader, and be reinforced with skill-building and success at each level, you will cultivate a pool of committed - and competent - individuals.