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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

~ August 2006 ~

Productive Volunteer-Staff Partnerships

Dear Readers:

Recently, many people have asked me about volunteer-staff partnerships – how to build, manage, and strengthen them. So I decided to share my response with everyone! Feel free to copy this article and share it with your colleagues (just be sure to give VolunteerToday.com the credit).

I hope your summer has been productive and restful!

Best wishes,

Productive Volunteer-Staff Partnerships
by Connie Pirtle, http://www.VolunteerToday.com

Productive volunteer-staff partnerships are characterized by:

1. Two-way communication to inform both staff and volunteers about "who's doing what, when, and how."
2. Team building that involves volunteers in all levels of the organization's planning and decision making to increase the ownership of its goals by everyone.
3. A clear understanding by volunteers of all institutional roles including their own.
4. Open and honest evaluation of volunteer activities by both staff and volunteers.
5. Public and private recognition of the accomplishments of volunteers and their staff partners.

My favorite approach to guidelines for staff and volunteers is one of "expectations" for both. 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: Staff members 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
  • 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

If you're looking for specific examples of guidelines for staff working with volunteers, here are a few to consider:

  • the types of things that volunteers do (and don't do)
  • who volunteers are and what their backgrounds are
  • what volunteers contribute to the organization
  • the role of staff members in designing volunteer jobs, recruiting, screening, and supervising
  • what to do when problems arise (volunteers who don't dress appropriately, eat on the job, don't behave appropriately, etc.)
  • who supervises whom and about what (lines of communication, supervision, etc.)
  • what not to do with volunteers (personal errands, meaningless/repetitious tasks, get angry, yell, etc.)
  • how to recognize and reward volunteers (give specific examples)
  • explain what's in it for the staff if the volunteer program works
  • how to evaluate volunteer performance (create an evaluation form for staff to use)
  • erase any stereotypical images of volunteers (little old ladies with blue hair)

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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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