Archives: 2014 & Earlier

Visionary Leadership in Volunteer Programs: Insight and Inspiration from the Speeches of Marlene Wilson


Marlene Wilson
Energize Inc.
167 pages. $16.95 paperback, $12 electronic.

This compilation of Marlene Wilson’s speeches and workshops is a treasure trove of leadership principles that apply to any nonprofit or community endeavor. It is also a portrait of the profession of volunteer administration, which Wilson has helped to develop since 1968.

Instrumental in creating the Volunteer and Information Center in Boulder County, Colo., the state’s first volunteer center and a national model, Wilson then founded the Volunteer Management Certificate Program at the University of Colorado in 1972; transcripts of some of its sessions appear here. During 25 years with this first professional training program for volunteer directors, she took her workshops on the road to 250,000 people in the United States, Canada and Europe. She still runs a consulting firm.

Among this collection’s 14 presentations from 1974 to 1999 is a valuable mini-course distilling the essence of her groundbreaking 1976 book, The Effective Management of Volunteer Programs, a best-selling classic that applies management principles to volunteer recruitment and empowerment.

Other highlights include “It’s All About Leadership: Enabling Volunteers and Staff to Be at Their Best,” which illustrates the “Enabler/Servant Leader” style that allows others to succeed.

Wilson’s most popular workshop, “Motivation: Placing People in Right Jobs,” is based on David McClelland’s theory of motivation that identified three motivational types: achievers, “affiliators” and power people. She explains how to assess these types in interviews and job placement, how to lead them, and how to organize meetings to meet everyone’s needs. Placing volunteers in roles that match their motivation “significantly increases the odds of a volunteer remaining committed to your organization.”

The book’s eloquent opening, “Musings of a Chronologically Gifted Crone,” sets the tone for how Wilson integrates the quest for meaning with the meaningful work of service. (215) 438-8342,



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