Category Archives: Human Resource Development

Motivating Volunteers: What the Management Model Reminds Us…

Management activities taking place within a typical volunteer resource management program when arranged in the logical sequence derived from the PDCA continuous improvement cycle concept provide program leaders with the ability to establish and sustain a volunteer program that learns from its successes and constantly improves as performance.

The link between our national quality of life and volunteer motivation

All of us want the best quality of life possible for ourselves, our families, and her fellow citizens. A strong case can be made for the vital role our charitable-philanthropic organizations play in determining our nation’s overall quality of life.

Charitable, nonprofit organizations, by definition, exist for a variety of public purposes, the majority of which, in the form of providing a wide variety of human services, make significant contributions to the nation’s overall quality of life.

Just over1,000,000 charitable, philanthropic organizations provide an astonishing number and variety of human services that, collectively, help shape America’s overall quality of life.
Sustaining and enriching the overall quality of life in our communities through improvements in human services is a worthy, broadly supported social and moral goal.

Since the great majority of these hundreds of thousands of charitable organizations depend upon the services of volunteers in order to fulfill their missions and purposes, we can see how important volunteer resource management is when it comes to sustaining or improving our nation’s quality of life. There is a direct link between the overall effectiveness of volunteer resource management by our charitable and philanthropic organizations and our nation’s quality of life.

We tend to refer to the collective group of dedicated, grassroots philanthropists who offer their services of their own free will to charitable-philanthropic organizations as a demographic segment called “volunteers.” In the broadest sense of the word that is true, but only as a construct that has the meaning we give it. These volunteers can be of almost any age, come from any segment of our society, have a wide range of educational backgrounds, have – or not – have a myriad of skills and abilities, and perform a vast range of services for these organizations, whose collective human services comprise so much of what we term quality of life.

Why Volunteers Volunteer…

The term volunteer means “of their own free will.” It typically means without expectation of monetary rewards or remuneration. People serve charitable-philanthropic organizations of their own free will and without expecting compensation for a number of reasons. Depending on the reason an individual decides to volunteer, the most effective motivation or combination of motivations might be quite different. Volunteer opportunities are not always labeled as such. They could be internships, community service positions, or self-learning opportunities. Volunteer resource managers will need to keep these various categories of volunteer in mind as they best determine the most effective combination of motivational strategies to use.

A quick Google search for the term “motivating volunteers,” returned 8,120,000 results results in .31 seconds. Clearly, a great deal has been published on this important topic.

When we talk about “volunteer motivation,” we mean those influences that are at work in determining how a person behaves toward our organization. Motivation can be either positive or negative, and, measuring motivation is very difficult. However its strength can be inferred based on how a person’s behavior toward our organization changes or how its intensity varies. People serve philanthropic organizations for many different reasons and in many different ways. No “one size fits all” is certainly true for our charitable organizations, how they are managed, and the reasons why people volunteer for particular organization.

Good, generic advice is at your fingertips…

Our Google search provided some good information on motivating volunteers that we should keep in mind. We should ensure our research begins with articles and information that address the fundamental motivators responsible for why people work for an organization “of their own free will.” To be effective as a volunteer resource manager, you need to have a fundamental understanding that motivation to volunteer is not a quality that you and, but rather a response and behavior that you identify and nurture. Motivations come from within.

The better we understand why people behave as they do, and apply that knowledge to fulfilling our organization’s purpose and mission, is the extent to which our efforts to recruit and retain volunteers will be successful.

For example, some typical recommendations from the “secrets of volunteer motivation” type articles, include:
• providing positive feedback
• rewards and recognition
• providing on-the-job vocational training
• providing perks such as refreshments and comaraderie at your facility when they volunteer
• hiring staff that are trained and committed to volunteers

All of these recommendations are fine…as far as they go.

Using the volunteer resource management model…

The first nonprofit organization handbook was published in 1980. Subsequently, that area of management practice grew rapidly and is now understood to be a separate field of management science. The first volunteer resource management handbook was published in 1996. The most recent was published in 2011 (Connors).

Volunteer Resource Management Process and Quality Management
Volunteer Resource Management Process and Quality Management

The field of management practice for volunteer resource programs has developed substantially since publication of the first volunteer management handbook. One of the most useful management tools for VMR’s is the representation of a typical volunteer resource management program.

As volunteer resource management science has evolved, we have learned more about the various management actions and activities that are used within a typical program. Further, if we arrange these activities in a logical sequence – from planning through evaluation – we can suggest a program design management model – sequencing the activities to give us more ability to establish and sustain a volunteer program that learns from its successes and constantly improves its performance.

In other words, the model reminds us that a successful volunteer resource management program has important components, many of which do not receive the attention they deserve in terms of their importance to overall program results. Further, the model gives us the ability to look at important program objectives, e.g. motivating volunteers, from a new perspective.

Volunteer Resource Management Model

When we look at the range of volunteer resource program management actions and activities, we can see that they can be aggregated and modeled as a process that includes four basic steps or phases: assessment/analysis; planning; program deployment/implementation; and, results/evaluation. Each of these phases contains opportunities for successful volunteer resource managers to reinforce those reasons the volunteer considered when they were making their decision to affiliate, train, serve, and extend their commitment to your organization. Each organization that uses volunteers is able to deduce because it offers these volunteers enough reasons for them to participate in serve of their own free will. Often, we think we understand what these reasons are. But, do we?

Each volunteer is an individual devoting his or her service and loyalties to a specific organization at a specific time. Therefore, not all typical “best practices” apply to all volunteers, organizations, or situations. Rather than simply adopt such best practices, we must instead thoughtfully adapt them to our programs and our organizations. The volunteer resource management model can serve as an important tool in that process. Using the model, we can focus on what the model suggests to better understand what we should know and/or keep in mind as we adapt well intended best practices to our organization.

Volunteer motivation is both a process and a culture

Volunteer resource managers are always alert to management practices that help them improve their abilities to motivate potential and actual volunteers.

There are opportunities – and pitfalls – to motivate – or de-motivate – volunteers at every stage along the continuum of the volunteer resource management model.  Attention should be given to practices and policies that affect volunteer recruitment, performance, and retention throughout the volunteer’s lifecycle.

For example, even before recruiting begins the organization should know exactly what potential future volunteers will do to help the organization fulfill its mission and purpose. That means position descriptions that not only clearly describe the duties, responsibilities, authorities, and obligations of a particular position, but relate the results of that position to the organizations mission and strategic planning.

Once the potential volunteer has been motivated enough to affiliate with the organization, that commitment must be sustained through orientation and whatever training may be required for the incumbent of the volunteer position. These requirements very, of course, depending on the position, its responsibilities, and the nature of the organization or human service being provided. As with a professional staff member, any direct contact with clients receiving a human service must be carefully thought through beforehand, and appropriate orientation, training, and supervision plan policy must be established.

Once the volunteers properly recruited, oriented, trained, and in place assisting the organization as outlined in their position description, motivation then turns to practices that will help sustain their commitments not only to the organization but to excellence in the services they provide on behalf of the organization.

Motivation operates at every stage of the volunteer life cycle

VRM’s need to first understand their organization, its mission and purpose, and the organizational culture that currently exists for its volunteers. Then, using that as a baseline, they should analyze their organization to better understand the various types of volunteer opportunities that exist and what the respective motivations might be for these opportunities.

Volunteer resource program managers should know and/or determine the specific reasons why their organization attracts and retains volunteers – or not. The following discussion is organized around the four stages suggested by the volunteer resource management model. Overall, it underscores the importance of program planning by the volunteer manager, and the careful alignment of the volunteer program with the organization’s overall strategic plan and its deployment.

Phase 1: Assessment/analysis
  • What combination of management, leadership, and program activities are required for our organization to fulfill its purpose and mission?
  • What do we have to do in order to be successful?
  • How do our activities logically aggregate themselves into areas of responsibility, e.g., positions filled by people – paid staff and/or volunteers?
  • How do these respective positions contribute to our ability to fulfill our mission?
  • To what extent have we thoughtfully analyzed and articulated these areas of responsibility and activity into position descriptions that explain and outline in detail the nature of these positions, including: duties, responsibilities, authorities, training, evaluation, and risk factors?

In the assessment and analysis phase of volunteer resource planning, we should know with some exactitude what positions:
• are truly required by our organizations if they are to fulfill their purpose and mission;
• will be paid staff; and,
• which will be volunteers without financial remuneration.
• We should also know how long it is been since a “zero-based” assessment was done of the organization’s human resource needs.

Phase 2: Planning

The planning phase includes the creation of position descriptions that insofar as possible fully explain the duties, functions, contributions, and risks that are foreseen for each position.

An assessment of the full range of position descriptions enables the volunteer resource director to better understand what recruiting themes and media will be most successful. Different positions may require specific messages in recruiting communications, and various media mixes, as well.

This personnel analysis can also suggest the management and leadership structure that will need to be in place in order to:
• effectively coordinate staff and volunteer services;
• put into place the policies that will be needed in order to ensure both effective and efficient management of human resources within the organization; and,
• establish policies and processes for evaluation of all programs within the organization an annual basis, including personal evaluations needed for salary adjustments (in the case of paid staff), and/or recognition and awards.

Phase 3: Program deployment and implementation

The program deployment and implementation phase of a volunteer management program includes such important components as: overall program supervision, training, legal and risk management, volunteer-staff relations, communications, volunteer evaluation, and rewards and recognition. Each of these management functions should be individually reviewed and assessed for their potential to deepen bonds between the volunteer and the organization, or to become a de-motivator.

Careful thought should be given to the overall structure of the volunteer resource program. Typically, the more programs and volunteers included within the program, the more structure is required for effective management. In turn, the structure will influence the number and type of staff positions (not necessarily paid staff) that will be required for effective program implementation. Of course, each of these positions will need to be defined as to roles and responsibilities, and identified as to its place within the overall management structure.

The volunteer program handbook should be user-friendly and should contain information about the organization, including its mission, purpose, history and workplace policies and procedures. The volunteer orientation placement phase should ensure that all volunteers have a good working knowledge of this important document.

Phase 4: Results and Evaluation

While personnel evaluations for volunteers typically do not receive the attention and priority they deserve, they are very important to both the volunteer and the organization. The organization needs to have a defined and workable system by and through which it evaluates all of its human resources, including volunteers. This evaluation helps ensure that performance is mission-enhancing, and that it was conducted with the highest standards. Evaluations can help identify areas of improvement by both the organization and the volunteer. Evaluations are also needed to provide a supportable basis for personnel actions ranging from retention to dismissal – and as a basis for awards and recognition.


Barisco, M. (2013, June). [Review of the book the volunteer management handbook: Leadership strategies for success (second edition), by t. d. Connors (ed.)]. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 42(3), 624-626. doi:10.1177/0899764012457865
Browning, J. W. (2013). Leading at the strategic level. Washington, DC: National Defense University.
Connors, T. D. (1980). The nonprofit organization handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Connors, T. D. (1992, August 1). Avoiding ‘quality shock.’ Nonprofit World, 10(4), 25-29. Retrieved from
Connors, T. D. (1993). The nonprofit management handbook. New York, NY: John Wiley.
Connors, T. D. (1995). The volunteer management handbook. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from
Connors, T. D. (1997). The nonprofit handbook: Management (2nd ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Connors, T. D. (2001). The nonprofit handbook: Management (3rd ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley.
Connors, T. D. (2001). The self-renewing organization. In T. D. Connors (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Management (3rd edition) (pp. 3-45). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Connors, T. D. (2010, April). Strategic professional development ahead for volunteer managers. The International Journal of Volunteer Administration, 25(1). Retrieved from


Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2019). Motivating volunteers: What the management model reminds us. In Transformational organizations. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC:

Myths of Aging

Granny and the Geezer:

How myths, stereotypes and prejudice fuel ageism–the Golden Years through a glass darkly.

The Golden years are here at last.
I cannot see, I cannot pee.
I cannot chew, I cannot screw.
My memory shrinks, my hearing stinks.
No sense of smell, I look like hell.
The Golden years have come at last.
The Golden years can kiss my ass.
(Principato, 2009)

A “mythos” to the ancient Greeks, was “speech” or “discourse,” but over time the word evolved into meaning “fable” or “legend.”  As a story of vague or forgotten origin, often religious or supernatural in nature, a myth is often used to “explain or rationalize one or more aspects of the world or a society” (Doyle, 1997).  Typically, myths are actually believed to be true or basically so by those people or societies that used or originated them.

By attempting to explain or rationalize some aspect of human existence or institutions, myths served purposes similar to science, religion and history.  To understand a people, a culture, one must attempt to know and understand the myths of that culture.  By acquiring that understanding, we not only better understand the present, but we can use that understanding to move in the direction of a better future.

When a myth is repeated and “passed along” throughout the various communication channels used by a society, e.g. news media, internet, blogs, periodicals, it is well on its way to becoming a stereotype–a commonly held, often standardized and simplified concept that has been invested–or charged–with special meaning (Merriam-Webster, 2009).  A stereotype is often used in a prejudicial way, particularly when it involves beliefs directed at a person or category of people involving such characteristics as gender, disability, sexual orientation or age.

While a prejudice can be positive or negative, most age-related prejudices are negative and reflect a number of emotions and attitudes, including: fear, antipathy, envy, jealousy and transferred anger by younger members of society. Although a stereotype could be true and objective, when social scientists use the term, they are generally referring to connotations that are both negative and inaccurate. (Haslam, 2004).   So, as Tornstam points out “when we find that almost 90 percent of Swedes falsely believe that one in two retirement pensioners suffer from loneliness, we can safely call this belief or image a stereotype.” (Tornstam, 2007, p. 37)

Aging and the aged have long been the subjects of–and many might say, targets of–myth-makers or myth-conveyers in many societies.  A recent Google search on the topic “myth” + “aging,” almost instantly generated About 23,000,000 results (0.49 seconds) or “hits.”  If a myth serves to explain or rationalize attitudes and aspects of a society, then a review of common myths about aging offers a sad commentary on our contemporary society.  Of greater concern is the extent to which misleading myths help perpetuate fallacious stereotypes that are used to make, shape, or alter, public policies and benefits affecting “senior citizens”–fostering ageism.

More than half the people who ever lived to be 65 are alive today, according to Jeanne Sather, who writes on Healthline that myths on aging should themselves be retired.  “That alone suggests that myths about aging based on past generations may not hold true for this one.” (Sather, 2008)  Wishing a myth away is not supported by research.

“Ageism can be seen…in making scapegoats of older men and women and in stereotyping them. It is seen in the deferral or denial of the realities of aging. Our language is replete with negative references, such as “dirty old man” and “greedy geezer,” that would never be acceptable if applied to any other group…Graphic pictorial images that denigrate old age often appear in our media.” (Bernstein et al., 2006)

When we contrast common myths held by our society about aging with scientific fact, we can understand how Drs. John Rowe and Robert Kahn can reach the conclusion “that our society is in persistent denial of some important truths about aging. Our perceptions about the elderly fail to keep pace with the dramatic changes in their actual status. We view the aged as sick, demented, frail, weak, disabled, powerless, sexless, passive, alone, unhappy, and unable to learn—in short, a rapidly growing mass of irreversibly ill, irretrievable older Americans. To sum up, the elderly are depicted as a figurative ball and chain holding back an otherwise spry collective society.”  (Rowe & Kahn, 2009).  This summary, by the authors, reflected over ten years of research by the MacArthur Foundation Study of Aging in America.

“WHERE is my SUNDAY  paper?!” The little old lady calling the newspaper office, loudly demanded to know where her Sunday edition was. “Madam”, said the newspaper  employee, “today is Saturday. The Sunday paper is not delivered until tomorrow, on SUNDAY“. There  was quite a long pause on the other end of the phone, followed by a ray of recognition as the little old lady was heard to mutter, “Well, shit… that’s why no one was at church today.” (Principato, 2009)

The MacArthur Foundation study identified many age-related myths in our society, including six that were “frequently heard,” including:

myth #1: To be old is to be sick.
myth #2: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
myth #3: The horse is out of the barn.
myth #4: The secret to successful aging is to choose your parents wisely.
myth #5: The lights may be on, but the voltage is low.
myth #6: The elderly don’t pull their own weight.  (Rowe & Kahn, 2009)

“When people think of growing older, they often have images of deprivation, poverty, poor health, loneliness and loss of mental capacity,” Dr. DeLee Lantz points out in the introduction to a National Institute of Aging of the National Institutes of Health questionnaire (Lantz, 2009).  Are views held by many likely to be accurate?  How true are stereotypes?  Are many views about aging and the aged actually myths that are accepted because of repetition?

An objective comparison of frequently held myths about aging reveals a significant gap between the myth and scientific fact.  While most of these myths cannot be sustained when compared with scientific findings, the myths persist.

A better understanding of myths related to aging and the degree of their truthfulness is gained by organizing them into three overall categories, including those related to: attention, memory and perception.  It should be remembered that these selections represent a very small fraction of age-related myths and stereotypes.







Attention-related “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”


Limited data are available on attentional deficits related to aging.  Some cognitive slowing may occur, perhaps due to neural connection loss or loss of information during processing (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2006) However, people at any age can acquire new skills and information.


“When you age, you lose your memory.” “Think aging is all about losing your memory and becoming hard of hearing? Think again. Many people sail through the aging process without walkers or pacemakers. In fact, researchers now believe it’s those age-related diseases—diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s—that leave us frail or disabled, rather than the normal aging of our bodies.” (Kotz, February 20, 2009)


Older people have more mental problems, e.g. learning, remembering or concentrating. Nearly five percent of the general population have problems with learning, remembering or concentrating.  Of those from 65-74 (10.8%), 75-84 (6.3%), and 85 and older (27.7%) have such problems or issues (Gist & Hetzel, 2004, p. 11).  Only the very elderly have significantly greater issues with learning, remembering or concentrating than the general public.


Older people are more subject to variations in heat or cold.

Extremes of heat or cold are more threatening for older people.

True, generally, the body’s thermostat is less efficient as we get older.






  Most older people are depressed.


Fact, most older people, according to the National Institute on Aging, are not depressed.  When it does occur, it can be treated.
  Most older people are deaf or having trouble with their vision. Over one-third of those over 85 have sensory disabilities, including blindness, deafness or hearing impairment, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  (Gist & Hetzel, 2004, p. 11).  However, only 8.7 percent of those 65-74 and 16.9 percent of those 75 to 84 have such disabilities.  The “myth” has broader factual support for the very elderly.


The negative effects of ageism on the elderly reach much further than depression, they are thought to reduce life span, as well.  For example, in its impressive “Ageism in America” report, the International Longevity Center notes that “older people with positive perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than did those with negative images of growing older.” (Bernstein et al., 2006, p. 61).

More significant overall is the impact on public policy of myth and stereotypes about the elderly.  Too often it is the myths, not the facts, that become the foundation for public policy formulation, a process that may well be currently underway in Washington with the Medicare system being revised in ways that can only result in decreased resources and access for millions of American seniors.

Stereotypes persist and resist efforts to combat them with facts, as Tornstam reports in a Swedish study conducted over 23 years.  “Little seems to have changed for the better,” he concluded.  (Tornstam, 2007, p. 1)  However, negative characterizations can be “reversed to ‘positive’ stereotypes at the same time as negative stereotypes of psychological conditions remain the same.” (p. 23)  He outlines a new stereotype in Sweden of wealthy, fit and spoiled “pensioners,” who are being characterized as being greedy for staying in their own homes too long; thus, denying the scarce (in Sweden) private housing to younger people.

Sociologists, gerontologists and other enlightened leaders in society are attempting a more pro-active strategy of introducing new metaphors.

Often, field of interest pertaining to the aged and aging can be in conflict.  Even while public policy makers are busy creating legislation that has the effect of rationing care for America’s eldery, the scientific community is generally seen as promoting the well being of our aging populations.  One positive step is to address the demeaning myth and misleading stereotype with new metaphors.  Scientists and other enlightened professionals are taking a leading role in creating and introducing new metaphors intended to “cast a motivating optimistic aura about aging.”  (Birren, 2002).  Terms like “successful aging,” “productive aging,” and “vital aging” “reflect a rising interest on the part of the research community to attract public interest to areas of research thought to be useful in an aging population.” (Birren, 2002)


Associated Press. (2004, September 7). Ageism in America [As boomers age, bias against the elderly becomes hot topic] (Health/Aging). Retrieved from MSNBC:

Bernstein, C., Dennis, E. E., Grossman, L. K., Levy, B. R., McCann, L. A., Rix, S. et al. (Authors). (2006). Ageism in america, Anti-Ageism taskforce (International Longevity Center, p. 121).

Birren, J. (2002). Gerontology. In Encyclopedia of public health (Gerontology, the study of aging). Retrieved from

Cavanaugh, J. C., & Blanchard-Fields, F. (2006). Adult development and aging, fifth edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Thomson Learning.

Doyle, B. (1997, April 17). Mythology. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Mythica™:

Gist, Yvonne J.; Hetzel, Lisa I. (U S. Census Bureau). (2004). We the people: Aging in the united states (P. 11) (This report provides a portrait of the social and economic characteristics of the population aged 65 and over in the united states at the national level.1 it is part of the census 2000  special reports series that presents several demographic, social, and economic  characteristics collected from census 2000.). Retrieved from

Haslam, A. A. (2004). Stereotypes. In A. Kuper & J. Kuper (Eds.), The social science encyclopeadia (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Kotz, D. (February 20, 2009). 5 Common Myths About Aging: If you age well, you shouldn’t have to worry about becoming frail and senile [Best Health: Boomer Health]. Retrieved from

Lantz, D. (2009, December 1). Common myths of aging: What’s your aging iQ? [Questionairre to help you test your knowledge of the facts about aging.]. Retrieved from Integrated Psychology Associates:

Merriam-Webster. (2009). Definition of myth from the merriam-Webster online dictionary [Definition of myth from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary with audio pronunciations, thesaurus, Word of the Day, and word games.]. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

Merriam-Webster. (2009). Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary [Definition of stereotype from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary with audio pronunciations, thesaurus, Word of the Day, and word games.]. Retrieved from Marriam-Webster:

Principato, M. (2009, December 4). Over the hill, getting old, senior citizen humor – old age jokes cartoons and funny photos. Retrieved from

Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L. (2009). Breaking down the myths of aging : Successful aging [The topic of aging is durably encapsulated in a layer of myths in our society. And, like most myths, the ones about aging include a confusing blend of truth and fancy. We have compressed six of the most familiar of the aging myths into single-sentence”]. Retrieved  from eNotalone: You are not alone. Articles and forums about relationships and personal growth:

Sather, J. (2008, January 28). Retire these 10 myths of aging. Retrieved from Healthline (licensed from StayWell):

Tornstam, L. (2007). Stereotypes of old people persist : A Swedish “Facts on aging quiz” in a 23-year comparative perspective. International Journal of Ageing and Later Life (Linköping University Electronic Press), 2(1), 33-59. Retrieved from