VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


V.T. readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
~ August 2001 Questions ~
  • More on Recruiting
  • Ten Tips on Volunteering Wisely
  • Complimentary Tickets for Fundraising Events
  • Volunteer Code of Conduct/Ethics

Dear Connie:
I am the director for a program that recruits volunteers to become a voice for abused and neglected children who are in foster care. I started the program in February 2001. Although I have recruited 7 volunteers, I am very anxious to recruit many more. I am at a stand still in my recruiting strategies. I have done posters, newspaper articles, public service announcements, a kick-off event, speaking engagements, etc. I have found that one-on-one recruitment has been the most successful. Can you tell me other ways that might help me recruit volunteers? I live in a town of about 20,000 people. Thank you!



Dear V.A.:
First I would say continue what you're already doing and don't be discouraged! Many people may be interested in volunteering for you, but the timing isn't right for them at the moment. So you want to keep your volunteer opportunities "in the news" as often as possible so that people remember you when the time IS right for them. The research continues to show that the single reason most people say they volunteer is because they were asked. And, your volunteers are your very best recruiters. Encourage them to be community ambassadors for you and get their friends and family involved whenever possible. There are many, many resources on recruiting available today. Check out these Web sites:

Dear Connie:
I'm doing an internship at a nonprofit organization, and I was wondering if you could give me any pointers on how to be a good volunteer and how to continue to be a good volunteer.



Dear Amy:
Independent Sector offers the following "Ten Tips on Volunteering Wisely." For the full text on each tip, visit their Web site at http://www.independentsector.org.

  1. Research the causes or issues important to you.
  2. Consider the skills you have to offer.
  3. Would you like to learn something new?
  4. Combine your goals.
  5. Don't over-commit your schedule.
  6. Nonprofits may have questions, too.
  7. Consider volunteering as a family.
  8. Virtual volunteering?
  9. I never thought of that!
  10. Give voice to your heart through your giving and volunteering! Bring your heart and your sense of humor to your volunteer service, along with your enthusiastic spirit, which in itself is a priceless gift. What you'll get back will be immeasurable!

Dear Connie:
My office works with volunteers in every area of our business, from our annual arts fund campaign to special events. We want to put a policy into place to deal with the requests and expectations of complimentary tickets. Last year we ended up giving out 45 complimentary tickets in just one fundraising event. We have recognized our problem and need your help. Some of the team believes in NO complimentary tickets whatsoever. Others believe in complimentary tickets for the Event Chair. Others believe in complimentary passes to those who work a certain amount of hours for an event or cause. Will you please give us some suggestions?

Kate in North Carolina


Dear Kate:
When it comes to fundraising events, the subject of complimentary tickets (CT) is one that we all face - and it can be a touchy issue! I have seen all of the options you suggest used in a variety of organizations, some more successfully than others. Board and staff need to agree on the circumstances in which CTs will be given. If you agree that the purpose of a fundraising event is to raise FUNDS, then the CT policy is somewhat easier to determine. Most organizations I work with offer them only to "special guests" at the event - to the "guest speaker" or "honorary chairs," for example. If you decide to limit the number of CTs given at your next event, I suggest you announce it well in advance to everyone involved so that it doesn't come as a surprise. And, you will want to explain that the policy has been created so that everyone is treated fairly and the event nets as much as possible for the organization. After all, that's what everyone is working toward!

Dear Connie:
Are you aware of any volunteer code of conduct? Would you be able to provide an example of a volunteer code of ethics?

Pam and Marion


Dear Pam and Marion:
Webster's defines ethics as "the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation; a set of moral principles or values; a theory or system of moral values; the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group." A code of ethics for a volunteer program is a set of broad-based principles that allow for diversity while also establishing clear and acceptable guidelines of conduct - conduct that is agreed upon by the majority of those affected by the standards set forth. These agreed upon standards then provide a means of measuring our behavior as it applies to our duty to be accountable. Once you have defined the values that are core to your volunteer program, you can put in writing the standards of conduct (code of ethics) that are based on the core values.

Having said all that, here are a few examples of "generic" standards of conduct:

Accountability in a volunteer program is often confused with "ethics." It usually starts with stated expectations, which are often part of the volunteer handbook/manual, orientation, and training. In the absence of written program standards of conduct, it's left to the individual volunteer to interpret what are reasonable and acceptable standards of behavior. While this allows lots of latitude and flexibility for volunteers and staff alike, it may also create an environment for behavior that isn't acceptable.

Your question tells me that some or all of your program volunteers may not be "acting" as you want and need for them to act. If this behavior is program-wide, I suggest that you create an ad hoc group of volunteers to help you identify and document the behavior that is acceptable. By involving them in the process they will be your best advocates for the new standards of conduct.

I've listed a few examples below so that you get the idea. Expectations are sometimes more easily accepted than "rules" or "guidelines."

Volunteers can expect:
to be trained for the tasks they will do
* to understand how their work fits into the organization
* to be thanked for their efforts
* for their staff partners to be courteous, kind, and thoughtful

Staff members can expect:
for volunteers to show up on time for assignments
* for volunteers to be respectful of the demands on staff time
* to be thanked for their efforts
* for their volunteer partners to be courteous, kind, and thoughtful

Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 15 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Connie Pirtle

Strategic Nonprofit Resources

2939 Van Ness NW Street, Suite 1248

Washington, DC 20008

VOICE: 202-966-0859

FAX: 202-966-3301
Copyright 2001 by Nancy Macduff.
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