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.

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~ July 2002 ~ Topics
  • Volunteers and Fundraising -- A Poll
  • International Volunteer Opportunities
  • Volunteer Appreciation Poem
  • To Levy Membership Dues -- or Not!
  • Volunteers and Releases of Liability

A Question from Ask Connie

Dear Readers:

The subject of volunteers and fundraising has many layers and variations. The one that many volunteer program managers struggle with is whether or not to solicit financial contributions from their direct-service volunteers (not volunteer board members or trustees). I'd like to hear from you!

Are the volunteers in your organization solicited for financial contributions? If so, how? If not, why? Please send your responses to me, and I'll share the results of this informal poll in my September column.

Thanks for your help and Happy Summer!


Dear Connie:
I am going to be traveling throughout the southern parts of India for about 3 months. I would ideally like to be taking part in volunteer work along the way in various locations. I have been having a difficult time finding the information I need about locations and tasks. Do you have any leads or suggestions? Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Dear LW:
For "one stop shopping" visit [] Just click on "Internet Resources" at the top of the home page and then click on "Volunteer Opportunities." You'll find a great list of links to organizations that utilize volunteers internationally.

Another tip is to use the search engine (my personal favorite). Just type "volunteer+India" in the search box and a very long list of international volunteering web sites will pop up. Good luck and safe travels!

Dear Connie:
I am looking for a quote to use at a volunteer appreciation luncheon. Thanks so much.

Dear M.T.:
Here's one of my favorites for volunteer recognition. Hope you can use it!

V aluable is the work you do
O utstanding in how you always come through
L oyal, sincere, and full of good cheer
U ntiring in your efforts throughout the year
N otable are the contributions you make
T rustworthy in every project you take
E ager to reach your every goal
E ffective in the way you fulfill your role
R eady with a smile like a shining star
S pecial and wonderful -- that's what you are!!

Dear Connie:
We are a not-for-profit group, no one is paid a salary, and we are all volunteer women doing this work. Our organization is considering yearly dues. The idea for dues comes from our board, which is comprised of all volunteers as well. Our definition of dues is that each member would agree in January to be a volunteer with our organization, committing to a year of service. The service would involve the dues as well as an agreement to work as defined in the previous sentence. We feel it gives the definition of a time commitment (the year), and it allows women to opt out of the organization gracefully, instead of not showing up (which makes us feel they are mad at us, or we feel mad at them for not coming back). Also the dues work to our advantage by adding a bit of seed money each year that we can depend upon. We do have fundraising events, at which we expect volunteers to either sell tickets to, or perhaps purchase tickets. No one is pressured! As is often the case, we have stars, people who will contribute more financially than others (by selling and or purchasing). There are a few members who are extremely opposed to the idea of dues. They feel that unlike other organizations that have paid staff, we do everything. They feel it serves little purpose, would not significantly add to the budget, and make it harder for us to ask everyone to donate money at another time during the year. The donations are optional. No one is EVER pressured to give. What is the pro and con of this dues idea?


Dear Patricia:
For the past 15 years I've worked with volunteer groups that have and have NOT charged dues. The current trend I see is NOT to levy dues for organizations such as yours. The rationale is exactly as you stated in your message: A group that is all-volunteer (from leadership to direct service) relies on the gifts of time and talent from its volunteers (aka members). Asking them to also pay dues is like asking them to pay for the privilege of giving their time and talent - a contradiction in terms to me.

Now on the other hand (and there always is another hand!), your organization should consider its funding needs through an annual budgeting process so that it can RAISE money from businesses (e.g., sponsorships), community foundations (program grants), citizens who support your work but don't volunteer, AND your organization's volunteers. Contributing is voluntary and volunteers can be encouraged to participate, but it is totally optional for them. The research shows continually that people who volunteer for an organization give more money than people who don't volunteer. Volunteers understand the organization's needs and they are already stakeholders in its success. But there's a world of difference between encouraging volunteers to participate in a fundraising campaign and levying dues because you need the money.

Dear Connie:
Is there a waiver form that volunteers may sign in case of injury that indicates they are responsible through their personal insurance? Thank you for your assistance.

Dear Sharon:
The short answer to your question is that release forms come in many sizes and shapes, depending on the situation and your needs. I suggest that you check with your administration department to determine if volunteers are covered under your organization's umbrella liability policy and if the organization requires paid employees to sign a release of liability. If so, then consider adapting that release for volunteers.

Above all, please check with your legal counsel before proceeding much further down the "release" path. You'll find excellent information about volunteers and risk management at the Nonprofit Risk Management Institute. ( Just click on "Volunteers and Volunteer Management" and you'll learn about:

  1. Insuring Volunteers - Whether the nonprofit can be held liable for the injury is related to a number of factors that include:
    * Age of the volunteer
    * Representations made to the volunteer when he or she was recruited
    * Degree of control exercised by the organization over the volunteer.
    * Circumstances of the particular accident.
    * If the volunteer was injured while volunteering for a project sponsored by his or her employer.

  2. Insuring Volunteers Against Accidents or Injuries - There are two approaches to insuring volunteers:
    * Accident and Injury Policies
    * Workers' Compensation (WC)

  3. Understanding the Volunteer Protection Act - An informative overview of the history, background, and purposes of the Volunteer Protection Act.

  4. "No Surprises: Harmonizing Risk and Reward in Volunteer Management"- 2nd Edition 2001/100 pages/$15.00. "No Surprises" is a clear, easy-to-read booklet that demystifies "risk management" and explains this responsibility for every director of volunteers in any type of setting. Learn how to limit risk at each step of managing a volunteer program. This edition of "No Surprises" expands on the common sense and approachable advice offered in the extremely popular first edition, published in 1993. Whether you own the first edition of "No Surprises" or not, you'll want to add this valuable resource to your volunteer management library.

For more information about the programs, services, and publications of the Nonprofit Risk Management Center contact them at (202) 785-3891 or via e-mail at

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.

Send your questions to Connie at

Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
2939 Van Ness Street, NW - Suite 1248
Washington, DC 20008

VOICE: 202-966-0859 FAX: 202-966-3301

Copyright 2002 by Nancy Macduff.

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