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ASK CONNIE

VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com


~ September 2004 ~ Topics

Dear Connie:
Do you know where I might find examples of "code of ethics," or something similar, for volunteers? Thanks!
Kim

Dear Kim:
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 that is agreed upon by the majority of those affected by the standards. 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:

  • We provide training that adequately prepares volunteers to support our mission.
  • Our staff and volunteers value human dignity in our relationships with each other.
  • We involve staff and volunteers in program decisions that affect them.
  • We respect the privacy and confidentiality of volunteers and staff.
  • We work at enhancing the relationships of volunteer/staff teams.

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Dear Connie:
My question involves accountability. How do you keep volunteers accountable, act respectable, come on time, and give the true time commitment we all seem to be searching for? I hope you have some lifesaving advice.
Lee

Dear Lee:
Accountability in a volunteer program 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 aren't "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; and
  • 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; and
  • For their volunteer partners to be courteous, kind, and thoughtful.

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Dear Connie:
I have been employed as the Volunteer Coordinator for a family hospice for about four months. I am planning a volunteer appreciation banquet. I was wondering if you could recommend how to organize one. I was also wondering if you could recommend guest speakers or what type of speaker I should look for.
C. in Texas

Dear C.:
First, welcome to the wonderful world of volunteer program managers! First, be sure to join the Association for Volunteer Administration (AVA) so that you connect to the bigger world of volunteer administration. And, don't forget to sign up for their free listserv!

There are three important elements in a volunteer appreciation banquet: Food, Folks, and Fun! Most banquets follow a standard format:

  • A served or buffet meal
  • Participants seated at round tables so they can visit with each other
  • Brief welcome remarks to get the event going
  • The program after dessert usually involves a speaker and presentations

The main purpose of the event is to recognize your program volunteers for their time and efforts supporting your hospice organization. One way to accomplish this is to have an inspirational speaker – perhaps the executive director or board chairman of your organization who will put into perspective how the volunteers helped the organization to accomplish its mission. Or, perhaps there's a local official who's a good speaker – the mayor, city manager, police/fire chief, etc. Some organizations give certificates or small gifts to volunteers for special "above and beyond" accomplishments. They also incorporate drawings for prizes to liven up their events.


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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 AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
10103 Edward Avenue * Bethesda, MD 20814 * VOICE: 301-530-8233 * FAX: 301-530-8299


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