Volunteer Tips from Dr. Suzanna Windon October 2021

By Dr. Suzanna Windon
September, 2022
volunteer management


Volunteer Management &

Leadership Tip Email

October 2022

Dear Readers,

October is a month of falling colored leaves, chilling weather conditions, hunting and anticipation for the holiday season, corn maze adventures, and October fests! I hope you are all enjoying the harvest season with your family and friends! This month, we want to share some strategies and tips with you on navigating conflict effectively and holding volunteers accountable. Also, you will learn how to lead your friends and family members.

Thank you to all who shared their insights and feedback in the survey that we have distributed earlier. It helps us to define the topics for upcoming publications. I am glad that many of you found the information helpful. The purpose of this Tip Email is to provide information about specific issues in volunteer management and leadership.

In the October Tip Email issue, we share:

Volunteer Management:

  • Tips on how to effectively manage and navigate conflicts

  • Tips on how to hold volunteers accountable


  • Tips for how to supervise or lead family members and friends

Expert Spotlight

  • Warren Blank - How to melt conflict?

Upcoming Professional Development Webinar:

We are offering the following leadership workshop for adult audiences. Please follow the link below to register for the online webinars and share with audiences you think might be interested:

Farm Leadership Training in Spanish Language: Mentoring in Ag, Managing for Trust, & Managing for Stress. - Registration Link: - https://extension.psu.edu/farm-leadership-training-in-spanish-language

  • Option 1: October 21, 2021 from 1-3:30 PM

  • Option 2 - November 9, 2021 from 1 - 3:30 PM

Please feel free to use materials and resources by copying and pasting them into your Extension teaching materials as needed.

NEWS- We are publishing the Extension articles related to leadership and volunteer management; some of them have been translated into Spanish. You can find all previous publications here and share links with audiences you think might be interested.

Please review our latest Extension articles by following the links below:

See our peer-review publications below:

Please see all previous Volunteer Management & Leadership Tip Email and Research in Brief issues - HERE

Please let us know if you have any questions about the content or want to see more in-depth information, or share some valuable resources. I welcome your insights and feedback. Happy reading!

Best Regards,

Suzanna Windon, Ph.D.


Volunteer Management

Source: Windon, S.

Conflict Management in Volunteer Organizations

Conflict is inevitable; therefore, revisiting the issue of conflict management and utilizing evidence-informed strategies for managing conflict among volunteers is an essential part of the job. MacDonald (2016) provides several key tips on how to effectively manage and navigate conflicts when they arise in your organization.

1. Practice good interpersonal communication skills (e.g., active listening, patience, teamwork, responsibility, dependability), especially between supervisors and volunteers.

2. Clearly define the roles of the individuals within the organization to ensure that there is not confusion over responsibilities.

3. Establish clear codes of conduct and behavior for everyone within the organization.

4. Promote individual evaluations and feedback as well as clear channels for volunteers to provide feedback. Having a specific procedure to handle conflicts and a designated decision-making individual or group to address any in-house conflicts.


MacDonald, E. G. (2016). Managing conflict: A guide for volunteer boards. Governinggood. https://www.boardleadershiplethbridge.ca/uploads/8/2/8/3/82835484/managing-conflict-a-guide-for-volunteer-boards-1.pdf

Source: Windon, S.

Holding Volunteers Accountable

Part of effective volunteer management is making sure that every volunteer is working on their designated task or assignment in a professional manner and that, ultimately, the work is getting done in a timely fashion. When working with volunteers, program managers can sometimes be reluctant to practice firm accountability as they often cannot afford to lose volunteers. However, a lack of accountability can ultimately end up hurting the organization more long-term. Here are a few tips adapted from Utley (2017).

1. Be clear about the expectations from the beginning by have explicit role descriptions.

2. When assigning a project clearly outline the overall goals and objectives as well as milestones that the volunteer will be expected to reach.

3. Establish ongoing regular check-ins with your volunteers throughout the projects to address any issues or confusion.

4. Practice positive communication skills with your volunteers and other employees.


Utley, T. (2017). Working with volunteers? Here are 5 steps to better engagement next year. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/toriutley/2017/12/30/working-with-volunteers-here-are-5-steps-to-better-engagement-next-year/?sh=35fb195c260e


Source: Windon, S.

Leading your friends: What to do.

In many nonprofits and other volunteer-utilizing organizations, individuals often work alongside their family members or friends. This is particularly common in smaller communities where often there are fewer individuals in the volunteer pool and many organizations heavily rely on word-of-mouth recruitment. Working with family and friends can be a rewarding and positive experience, but this experience can quickly sour when one individual is promoted or becomes the supervisor of another. Laker et al. (2020) recognizes this challenge and provides several strategies for us to navigate the potentially complex relationship when we are required to supervise or lead our friends and family.

1. Make sure you recognize and address the power shift. Don’t try to ignore the change in the dynamic of your workplace relationship and be honest with each other to prevent potential misunderstanding and conflict later.

2. Accept the new position and responsibilities associated with your new role.

3. Be fair and do not show favoritism while making sure that you are not letting personal emotions or feelings get in the way of doing your job to the best of your ability.

4. Be conscious of what you share with family and friends you work with on social media.


Laker, B., Patel, C., Malik, A., Budhwar, P. (2020, September 24). What to do when you become your friend’s boss. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/09/what-to-do-when- you-become-your-friends-boss


Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/microphone-music-studio-1003561/ is in
the Public Domain on Pixabay.com downloaded - 02.15.20

Warren Blank -

How to melt conflict?

Exceptional leaders recognize that everyone has a capacity to lead. However, conflict often means people have differences. No conflict can signal that people do not care or do not believe that someone's ideas matter. Warren Blank, the author of the 108 Skills of Natural Born Leaders, provided an outstanding tool to develop action plans and success. One of the skills that the author discussed and I want to share with my audience is that conflict could be a creative, motivating force when it is resolved effectively. The author mentioned that resolving the conflict requires addressing the interests behind both parties’ issues. He suggested the following:

  1. Ask conflicting parties to state their issue.

  2. Ask a series of “why” questions, for example “Why it is important?”, “Why do you say that?”, “Why does that matter?”

  3. Ask to present facts or /and measurable information.

  4. Take enough time to learn about both parties’ interests and discuss them fully.

  5. Take time to seek a resolution.

  6. Ask “Where do you both share a common interest?” Do not respond to unhelpful comments as “They should just give up!”

  7. Seek consensus to resolve important differences. Consensus signals, “Well, it wasn’t my first choice, but I can see some values in it.”

  8. Use a third-party facilitator when the conflict is beyond your skill level.


Blank, W. (2001). The 108 skills of natural born leaders. Amacom.

This Month’s Words to Ponder

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.

Peter Drucker

Source: https://www.maxpixels.net/Thank-You-Pot-Thank-You-Card-Plant-Modern-Table-3690116 is in the Public Domain on MaxPixsel

Thanks for reading! Be on the look out for next month’s volunteer management & leadership tips!

volunteer management