Accomplish Work

Volunteer ToolkitYour committee or task force has members, you have a role description and responsibilities or a charter with a specific charge and you are looking forward to achieving the work set before your volunteer unit. In order to accomplish the work, there are a number tools and services that will help. Here are a few.

Many of these tools and resources will be helpful in any organization your serve, not just AMSN. And if there are effective tools you are using elsewhere, feel free to share with your VU. Learning from each other is an important way to develop personally and professionally.

Chair, Board & Staff Liaison Relationship

Every volunteer unit has a leader, whether they are called the chair, editor, representative or coordinator. In addition to this volunteer leader, a member of the AMSN Board of Directors is assigned as a liaison between the board and the VU. A National Office staff person is also assigned as a liaison between the National Office and the VU.

These three people, the leader, board liaison and staff liaison, can and should have frequent contact via phone calls and emails regarding the work of the VU:

  • clarifying direction or requesting additional information from the board liaison,
  • brainstorming how to organize, delegate and accomplish the project,
  • discussing timelines,
  • understanding the resources available through the National Office to help accomplish the work,
  • learning how the staff liaison can assist.

With this additional support, the chair can focus on leading the VU.

Board Liaison

The primary function of a board liaison is to be a two-way communication vehicle to and from the board.

Board liaisons must be in touch with their volunteer unit chairs or contact persons periodically to communicate what is going on in the organization, how it affects the unit, and to give direction, guidance, and support.

Listening to the concerns and issues posed by these units can provide valuable information and insight back to the board. The liaisons must also understand the group and the group’s work well enough to communicate the work to the board.

Board liaisons conduct progress checks with their volunteer units and offer any assistance to accomplish their work.

Board liaisons do not get involved in the unit’s work because they are not a member of the unit. Rather, their role is communicator, advisor, coach, and cheerleader. They ensure that the unit is clear about its purpose and expected outcomes, and they connect the group with resources needed to do the job.

Read more about the role of the AMSN Board Liaison.

Staff Liaison

The staff liaison assists the chair in many administrative ways;

  • helping with email communication,
  • sending form letters,
  • helping to draft and proof board reports,
  • scheduling conference calls,
  • developing surveys,
  • advising on normal procedures,
  • researching information.

The staff liaison is also the communication link to other departments at the National Office to gather pricing or other information (internet services, art department, etc.).

The staff liaison can also be counted on to share the knowledge and experiences of previous groups.

The staff liaison should be included on all communication regarding the VU.

Conference Calls

AMSN is a national organization so its volunteers live across the country and in many time zones. Conference calls allow the Volunteer Units (VU) to meet via phone to discuss their work. There are some special considerations for planning, leading and participating in a conference call.

AMSN has a conference calling service with special numbers for each VU. Your AMSN staff liaison will have the telephone numbers and codes. These calls can be recorded when one or more participants are unable to attend. Be sure to discuss this with your staff liaison prior to the start of the call.

Several days prior to the conference call, your staff liaison will confirm the date and time for the call along with the number to call and the participant code. If you are the VU chair, please coordinate with the staff liaison so that the agenda can be sent along with this information.

Scheduling with Doodle®

Doodle® is an online, free, easy-to-use scheduling tool that many AMSN volunteer units use to schedule conference calls. Learn more about Doodle® and watch a vimeo.

The AMSN staff liaison will usually check with the VU chair for their availability, before creating the Doodle®. Then the staff liaison will set up a Doodle® and be asking you to respond with your availability.

Doodle® has a time zone feature that allows you to view the scheduling request in the times for your time zone. Make sure that this feature is activated and correctly selected for your time zone, the one from which you will be participating.

Tip: If you are traveling and wi-fi has picked up that you are in a different time zone than your normal, you may be answering for that time zone, instead of your normal time zone. 

Doodle® is a great tool that you may use with any organization, friends or family, not just AMSN. Setting up your own account is free and easy. 

Effective Meetings

Leading meetings effectively is a skill that volunteer leaders will want to acquire in order to be successful, and it is a skill that can be learned.

To help you learn some of the basic techniques and hone your skills we offer an excellent overview of how to plan and run an effective meeting, including some tips for how to handle difficult situations during a meeting.

From the book Mentoring the Stars: A Program for Volunteer Board Leaders, 2nd edition, Chapter 8, Effective Meetings.

Volunteer Units and the AMSN Hub

Volunteer units often find it convenient to share files in a central location online.

To help our volunteers, AMSN maintains a central online filing location for each volunteer unit through the AMSN Hub. Although most files can be shared via email, finding them after you’ve read the email the first time can be time consuming and difficult. Each volunteer unit has their own private, online community in the AMSN Hub which may is accessible only by the VU members.

Within each community there is a library and a discussion forum. The library is where you’ll upload documents. VU members can collaborate on these documents together. Utilize the discussion forum to form conversations pertaining to any work the VU is looking to accomplish.

You will receive emails from the Hub once someone has started a discussion thread. You can reply by email or login directly in the Hub to join the discussion. Instead of searching through countless amounts of emails for a response, all you need to do is login to the Hub to find the full discussion thread.

Tip: To get started, go to the information page for the AMSN Hub and check out the tutorial video in the "Help" section. Detailed instructions will help you navigate your way through the AMSN Hub.

Screen Sharing Software

A powerful meeting tool for volunteer units is screen sharing software, an online application which allows a presenter or chair to share what is on their screen with other viewers.

When used in conjunction with a conference call, screen sharing helps everyone to be “on the same page,” increasing understanding and maintaining focus during a call, particularly when discussing or reviewing long, complex documents.

Each viewer goes to a specific Web location and enters a code, or participants are provided with specified Web link which has been set aside for the session.

Sometimes an app needs to be downloaded prior to the session, but it is usually very small and quick. After the online connection is made, participants can see what is on the presenter’s screen and watch their every move.

This is the kind of software that is used for webinars.

Most screen sharing software has tools that allow participants to sign in with their name and to see who else is participating.

Some allow the presenter to pass or give control to another participating in the session. Some even allow private chats with other participants while the session is going on.

Most also offer audio sharing also, but the quality is not good and we recommend continuing to use the regular conference calling service.

Companies

A number of companies offer free versions of their software for small groups without all the bells and whistles or they offer free trials of their full-featured version. (Join.me, Webex, GotoMeeting, StartMeeting)

Full-featured versions of the application for large groups are available for a subscription fee.

Check out a Google search that show you current results screen sharing services.

Taking Surveys

AMSN maintains a subscription with Survey Monkey, a company that offers online survey services with easy to use software and templates.

Survey Monkey offers a free service for small surveys with limited participants. Our subscription is for unlimited size surveys and participants. We use Survey Monkey to gather information from AMSN members on various topics.

We also use it to collect applications when we send out a call for volunteers, applications for scholarships and awards, and the AMSN Board even uses Survey Monkey to do all kinds of simple votes. Volunteer units can use it too.

Survey Monkey is a full-featured survey tool that is available to committees and task forces when they find that they would like more information from AMSN members or CMSRNs about projects on which they are working.

The group can work on the basic questions and the staff liaison can prepare the survey in Survey Monkey for review by the group. Once the survey is finalized, an email is prepared and scheduled through normal procedures by the staff liaison.

Survey Monkey is also a great tool for polling within a VU, or for scoring and rating applicants or topics within a volunteer unit.

For example, the Clinical Leadership Development Program Task Force brainstormed all the potential topics that could be included in a basic program.

After the list was developed, each member of the task force rated from 1 to 5 the importance of including each topic into a basic program using Survey Monkey.

The results of the survey gave the task force the ranking of topics they needed to continue.

The staff liaison can easily download reports from Survey Monkey to share the results with the group. For more information see SurveyMonkey.com.

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