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Volunteers, Inc.
Where a single person can make a difference
Single Volunteers New Chapter FAQ



Written by:
Anne Lusk, SV Founder and Coordinator of National Chapters, AnneLusk@aol.com

Dana Katherine Kressierer, SVDC Founder and Coordinator of National Chapters, dana@singlevolunteers.org

Please note, this document is under revision.  It is meant to provide a history of Single Volunteers, as well as guidelines for those interested in starting a chapter in their community.  More detailed information on exactly how to start a chapter, as well as what support and assistance you can receive from our National Organization, is under developement.

Comments in black text are written by Anne Lusk.
Comments in blue text are written by Dana Katherine Kressierer.

The following are a set of questions sent by a prospective Single Volunteer leader. The answers may clear up some issues not yet addressed by the History portion of this website.

1. MEMBERSHIP...Did you initially advertise?

Yes, lots. The press is very willing. Also go after all the press..not just the little free papers or the syndicated press..go after everything. Press kits were sent not only to TIME but to the Boston Globe and the New York Times.

I personally recommend that you hold off on any publicity until you have formed a strong, time-withstanding, active chapter, although limited advertising is necessary.  The DC chapter advertised only on the internet (through Usenet newsgroups & our website) and via a free "volunteers needed" advertisement in a local-alternative paper.  Through these two sources we grew to 500 members in under a year.  At that time we finally accepted requests from reporters to write stories about our group.  Overnight, after a story in the Washington Post, the DC group grew by 1800 members.  More press stories followed, and now the DC group has 6500 members.  There is a danger in publicity - if you get too much of it the quick influx of new members can quickly overwhelm your staff (which in our case, is a volunteer staff) and the group can face a quick death.  Be sure you have a very strong group in place before you accept a lot of publicity.

2. Are there fees involved?

Only modest fees to help defray postage of phone calls. When some of the local organizations have started, they have managed to share the financial burden so even the modest fees werenít requested.

The DC group charges no fees.  We have found donors who have provided our website and email lists.  We offer no telephone service, newsletters, or anything else requiring fees.

3. What are the fees used for?

Eventually your nonprofit funds will be used to pay for phone, postage, envelopes, copying and perhaps staff.

4. Do you keep a data base on membership information?

Yes, peopleís name, address, phone number and age (Their age is used to try to put together work teams of people of an equal gender, age and sometimes geographic mix so that they donít have to drive too far...you can ask for the information and keep it confidential...of course with web access now, it is pretty easy to learn where a person lives and the phone number unless it is unlisted.)

5. COMMUNICATION - do you mail a newsletter?

For the Vermont Chapter, newsletters werenít mailed because of the burden of postage. Lists of the volunteersí names who worked on specific projects were typed up with their name and phone number, then passed out at the end of the activity. That way people could perhaps call someone afterwards without having to go through the embarrassment of asking for a phone number. One of the joys of Single Volunteers is in forming new friendships with same sex friends. Often females would call up a new female friend to go out to a movie.

6. Do you communicate with the members via e mail?

When the Vermont chapter was started and perhaps because it was an older crowd and Vermont is so rural, not many people had e mail. The phone was used. Now with the prevalence of e mail and the listing of the Lusk, Kressierer and SV name in the national magazines with the phone number and/or e mail, requests arrive by mail, e mail and phone. Some people still donít have e mail though and they are called back. Materials are still sent out because many people appreciate being able to see the variety of newspaper articles. While that too can be printed on the web, itís still sometimes advantageous to have a package arrive at your door.

7. Do you have a Web page?

Yes, thanks to the capable hands of Dana. Itís http://singlevolunteers.org/ She lists the new chapters and works to keep everything interconnected.

8. VOLUNTEER PROJECTS...How did you get them?

Phone calls are made to potential volunteer organizations to see if they might have some work they would like to have done. Members are asked to bring in projects. Also, once you have press, the nonprofit organizations will seek you out.

9. Whom do you contact?

For this cause, itís easy to be bold and make cold calls. When Recycle North in Vermont called in desperation for volunteers to stuff envelopes, the realization was...Single Volunteers is the people version of United Way. The nonprofits will find you for "laborers" the same way they call United Way for "money."

10. Are Habitat for Humanity home-building projects all across the U.S.?

Yes. The number for International Habitat which will give you listings of local chapters is 1-800-HABITAT. They are located in Americus, Georgia.

11. How often are projects?

They are as often as they can be scheduled. Some groups schedule a volunteer activity every day. It depends on the size of your chapter and the stamina of your chapter organizer or delegating abilities.

12. Are some kinds of projects more successful than others?

Projects which are best are ones in which the Single Volunteer crew works only with members of the Single Volunteer crew. In Vermont, Single Volunteers helped at the Shelburne Farms Harvest Day which was spread out over a large area. This meant that the volunteers were also spread out doing hay rides, face painting, and corn cakes. This meant they never had the opportunity to talk to one another. They just worked. Also, in Vermont one trail clearing project wasnít perfect. The work needed to be completed along a very long trail. Everyone was so spread out doing individual shoulder raking, tree trimming or grass seed spreading, that again, you might as well have been there alone. There was no socializing except for the hot dog roast at lunch. Habitat is perfect because volunteers work together. At Habitat in Vermont, the upstairs crew once had a race with the downstairs crew to see who could get their walls up faster. Whichever floor had the jack always won because without the jack, you couldnít put the wall in place. Of course, when asked by the other floor for the jack the response was, "What jack?"

13. Physically difficult vs. less so? soup kitchen vs. trail maintenance?

The work done in the warm months outside can be arduous. A few members complained that the organization in Vermont was only for the physically active. Other projects followed such as stuffing envelopes or answering phones at the ETV Auction. The hardest work outside of Habitat was in a streambed anchoring dead trees with cable for streambank stabilization.

14. How do you let members know about projects?

In Texas, Ohio and D.C. people are contacted by e mail. In Vermont, as mentioned earlier, much of the work was by phone. That is far more labor intensive and costly. Orientations or social gatherings can be held to let everyone know about upcoming events. People then would sign up for activities. In Vermont, we used to have a limited number of spaces for women and a limited number of spaces for men. That way you guarantee an equal gender mix which is a Single Volunteer goal.

15. Is there a project manager with expertise (not necessarily from your group) and you promise to provide labor?

Habitat for Humanity provides a building supervisor. Typically, Single Volunteers asks for supervision and the liability coverage of the sponsoring organization. Waivers can then be signed. But of course there is no liability in stuffing envelopes or stocking food shelves.

16. Do you guarantee a certain number of people in your labor pool?

If the organization asks for 12 people, they are provided with 12 people. Typically, if an organization asks for two people, Single Volunteers can turn them down. There is supposed to be a socializing component to each project. Also, if specific skills are needed, those are aligned to a project. By the way, the qualified people are always so nice to the unqualified and teach them a new skill.

17. Do you provide anything at the project?

The names of the volunteers are typed up and distributed at the end of the project. Usually name tags are handed out...so you can holler to someone by name in case a two-by-four is about to land on his head. And we try to have food. Sometimes the food is provided by the sponsoring organization. Vermont ETV phonathon always has dinner for the volunteers. Or people bring food. For a park clearing project, people were asked to bring pot luck lunch. At 12:30 the huge Antique Car Show parade was going to drive right by the picnic table where the crew was going to be eating.

18. BUSINESS Is this a "formal" business? With "papers" filed at the County?

The local chapters can eventually file to be not-for-profit status and then later file to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. To start though, they can just begin doing simpler volunteer activities or more difficult ones under the sponsoring organizationís liability clause.

Single Volunteers is in the process of becoming a 501(c)3 organization.  At this time we don't yet know if our national incorporation will be used to cover individual groups as well, or if the groups should file on their own.

19. Do you carry liability insurance?

No. If incorporated, there would be insurance for the activities of the group. As mentioned if the work is difficult, the organization such as Habitat for Humanity has the coverage. Liability insurance with volunteers is a national issue. In this country, we need to solve the issue rather that reduce the volunteer laborers. Without volunteer labor, this nation couldnít survive.

20. Do you have other folks who help you?

That is a matter of style. Some SV groups tend to delegate a lot of the work. Other groups have leaders who shoulder much of the responsibility.

21. PARTICULARS Do you have examples of newspaper articles?

A few of our press articles can be found at http://singlevolunteers.org/dc/media.html

22. Is it fun for you?

Before Single Volunteers, many of the members lacked one thing, hope. You knew it was difficult to meet a potential someone and yet you didnít know how to go about correcting the situation. Single Volunteers provides that opportunity. Yes, itís fun. If you volunteer with singles, you put in a good dayís work and go home feeling terrific. If you meet someone during that activity then fine, but if you donít you know youíve done a good deed. There is fun in finding that perfect second hand coat and trying it on for size for the homeless man whose wife couldnít come out in the cold. There is also fun in sitting down to a meal with all the other volunteers. There is fun in making and receiving the e mails, letters and phone calls related to Single Volunteers.

But, don't be fooled, it takes a lot of work to run a SV group.  I personally have put in upwards of 30 hours a week running the DC chapter.  With our growth I've been able to find a lot of dedicated help, so I now only put in 5-10 hours a week.  But, if you work full-time like I do, even 5 hours a week can be daunting.  Many groups have formed only to die out soon after because the group leaders didn't realize how much work it would be.

23. Are there any flaws to Single Volunteers?

Women tend to volunteer and men donít. The men will show up when asked, but you have to know who they are to call them. To compound matters, there are fewer and fewer men for the abundance of older women. The word needs to get out that if a man wants a good female, he should come to Single Volunteers. The members are always a cut above. Because of the desire to have an equal mix of men and women at projects, some women will have to "sit on the bench" while the men will always be called for projects. But one sure way to let Single Volunteers not survive is to hold functions where only women show up. Everyone wants to have an equal gender mix. It just makes the conversation livelier.

24. How do you get men?

Some men run Single Volunteers. Others join and attend a few of the meetings. We need to aim for coverage in the male dominated press. Women read Good Housekeeping, People, Family Circle and watch CBS This Morning, Good Morning America and Oprah making the membership lopsided. Additionally, the male CEOís, lawyers, doctors and executives need to be solicited to champion the cause of Single Volunteers. Their presence will keep the women coming, thus continuing the flow of male and female members, but many of the executives work incredible hours and feel they havenít the time to volunteer. Also, one man said, it was a "Sign that the system failed him" if he had to resort to a dating service. Assurances have to be made to the male population that Single Volunteers is not a dating service and they can find the time to help a good cause.

25. How does Single Volunteers continue?

The understood rule of Single Volunteers is, once you have found someone to whom you are committed, you are no longer a member. There is discomfort for both parties if someone approaches someone who is already romantically involved. But the founders and present champions of Single Volunteers have committed to continue the organization even if they find that special someone, thus keeping the organization alive and always growing.

Below is an outline of the duties of the Single Volunteer Coordinator, Project Coordinator and Volunteer. These duties may change from organization to organization but this can serve as the basis.

Duties of the Single Volunteer Coordinator

(either a volunteer or a person paid through grants)

1. Find the members by calling them, using dating services, referrals, or press. Encourage them to call or e mail you. Keep and update the data base of members.

2. Find the projects by calling nonprofit organizations or answering calls or e mails from nonprofits which need people.

3. Coordinate the event by picking the time, getting a project coordinator, sending them the database of members, possibly getting a project on-site supervisor, and deciding if there will be a meal, etc.

4. Mail or give to new members a one time newsletter or brochure which explains the organization and which newspapers or e mail addresses to consult for lists of projects, their times, and the name of the project leader.

5. Organize, with the assistance of volunteers, general gatherings within the year of all the members. These gatherings can serve as general sign-ups for upcoming volunteer activities.

6. Write general public relations newspaper articles and second, put in the paper, weekly or monthly announcements of upcoming projects. (Need to decide ahead which newspapers will carry these announcements for free and ask them.)

7. Create and maintain a web site. Also, have someone answer e mail.

8. Possibly organize monthly meetings if the newspaper announcements or e mail systems donít manage to communicate with everyone.

9. Be available for answering general questions, steering people in the right direction and being the keeper of the files.

10. Apply for grants to pay for staff and expenses.

11. Help organize larger fundraising gatherings if necessary such as funding for a Habitat for Humanity House.

Duties of the Project Coordinators

1. Accept responsibility of a specific job. Have a phone number or e mail address which can accept calls or e mails from people wanting to sign up to work on your project.

2. Be prepared to use the member data base to call people to fill up or even out the crew.

3. Type up and duplicate a list of the crew members with their names, phone numbers and ages. Hand these papers out at the project.

4. Show up early at the project and take extra tools. Be the last person to leave the project.

5. Mail or e mail to the SV leaders, the list of those who participated in the project and a general description of the project. (This gets used later in press. Plus, new members might have shown up.)

6. Additional responsibility...if the Project Leader so chooses, he or she can suggest and find new volunteer projects and tell the Single Volunteers coordinator.

7. Help with general fund raising events such as those for Habitat for Humanity.

8. Take turns hosting the monthly meeting if the group decides to hold those.

Duties of the Volunteer

1. Read the newspaper or e mail to learn about the upcoming volunteer projects.

2. Call or e mail the Project Leader to sign up.

3. Show up for the project on time with the necessary tools.

4. Bring food if a pot luck is suggested.

5. Try to stay till the end of the project time period unless other necessary commitments demand otherwise (kids, etc.)

6. Attend the general "volunteer court" socials plus try to attend the general fund raising events such as those for Habitat for Humanity.

7. Encourage single friends to join Single Volunteers.

8. Attend the monthly meetings if the groups decide to hold these and check e mail.

Starting a New Chapter

The Single Volunteers National Organization is here to help you, although in limited ways.  Please realize that Single Volunteers has no paid staff, we all are volunteers who wish to assist new chapters as we can, but our time is limited.  We hope to develop this website enough so that you can find most of the information you need here, but we are not yet at that point.

For the time being, if you are interested in starting a new chapter please contact info@singlevolunteers.org