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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

~ December 2005 ~ Topics

Dear Connie:

I have been assigned the task of creating and heading up an Employee Volunteer Recognition Program for our company of approximately 250 employees. Employees are involved in a wide range of volunteer activities. Management has requested that I come up with a way to promote volunteerism by employees, track and record the hours volunteered (regardless of the charity or organization), and initiate a recognition program. I have buy-in from top management, but little direction. As far as organizing all of this, I’m at a loss. The responsibility fell to me because I am the "public affairs” department. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Dear L.S.:

Based on your description, it sounds to me like you're organizing an employee volunteer program that has recognition as just one element. I have two suggestions.

First, "begin with the end in mind." What do you want the program to look like? How do you want to access the information you gather? How will you use the information you gather? What will employees get out of it? What will management get out of it? What will the community get out of it? Focus on the overall parameters of the program and then build one piece at a time.

Second, get employee input. Form a small task force of employees to help you organize the program. Employee volunteers will be your best resource for information and guidance on what's important to them and how you can gather information most effectively.

Finally, I suggest that you contact the Points of Light Foundation and become a corporate member so that you can take advantage of the services and resources they provide. They know all about employee volunteer programs and I'm sure they can help you get started!

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Dear Readers:

I am often asked about creating a "code of ethics" for volunteers. One of my favorite examples was published some time ago by OxFam International. I'm happy to share it with everyone this month!

Focus On Volunteer Management: The Rights and Responsibilities of Volunteers

Has your organization really thought through what rights and responsibilities your volunteers have? So often we create volunteer programs almost as an afterthought. But volunteering is serious business. And examining what responsibilities they – staff and even clients – have is an essential part of the many-sided relationship.

The following is an example of how one organization, Community Aid Abroad of OxFam Australia, has addressed the issue of volunteer rights and responsibilities:

Rights and Responsibilities

As a volunteer with Community Aid Abroad you have certain rights that you can expect the organization to fulfill to make your time with us valuable and satisfying. As a worker at Community Aid Abroad, you also have a number of responsibilities that you are required to fulfill.

Volunteer Rights – To carry out their work effectively, volunteers need:

  • a clear explanation of the duties and responsibilities they have agreed to take on;
  • a person to whom they are responsible and regular contact with that person or group;
  • the facilities, equipment and back-up services to carry out the work, including safe working conditions;
  • out-of-pocket expenses (volunteers working a full day at Community Aid Abroad — at least 11am to 3pm – are entitled to a standard payment to cover travel and lunch expenses; claiming this expense is optional.);
  • supervision and support to enable them to carry out their duties; and
  • information about Community Aid Abroad's work and where their volunteer job fits in.

Participation -- Community Aid Abroad values volunteers' points of view and needs their ideas and experience to help make good decisions. Volunteers will be consulted by paid staff on matters affecting them and the work they do.

Personal development -- Volunteers, like paid staff, should be encouraged to develop their skills, abilities and experience within Community Aid Abroad. For volunteers this may involve moving into another voluntary post; others will stay in one job where they can build on their experience.

Volunteer's Responsibilities

  • To learn about Community Aid Abroad's work and how their job fits in. This may involve attending talks and meetings and looking at information available;
  • To work according to procedures and carry out the duties agreed with the responsible member of the paid staff;
  • To give regular and reliable commitment of time where these duties involve special responsibilities or regular hours and inform your supervisor of changes to agreed hours of work or change of address;
  • To be involved in orientation and training programs for volunteers when scheduled;
  • To appreciate the confidential nature of some aspects of Community Aid Abroad's work.

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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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