Turning Down Volunteers
[Editor’s note] Who would have thought we could have so many people ready to volunteer when they are out of work or losing a home. If you are overrun with volunteers it may be hard to turn them down. Mary Kay Hood, the Volunteer Today columnist (see Healthcare Volunteering Page), sent this commentary to the editor of VT. While it was written with health care volunteers in mind, she makes some good points. Read it for some good insights on saying no.
Turning people away
With the current economy, we are all being inundated with people who want to volunteer. It could be they were laid off and want to keep their skills sharp. Or maybe because they were laid off, people look to healthcare as a stable industry for a career change. If they were lucky enough to take an early retirement package, they may still want to feel useful, needed or just be around people. Whatever the reason that brings them to the door, volunteer leaders are being challenged to be ready, willing and able to welcome them with open arms. Or should we?
It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and welcome these folks with open arms. However, as the leader of your organization’s volunteer program, it is important to remember to stay focused on the organization’s mission. Does the influx of the temporary folks really fill a need for your organization? Or because some of theses people continue job searching while they are volunteering and you know they are short-timers, does the constant introduction and rotation of new volunteers into the already stressed staff really the best way to deliver quality patient care?
As volunteer leaders, we are all generally caring folks who want to help people – after all, that’s what drew us to this business. But, I wonder, are we doing our organizations any favors? Are we doing the right thing for the volunteer?
So if we have to say “no,” how do we do that graciously? As volunteer leaders within our community, should we not truly be leaders?
- What I mean by that is each one of us should have knowledge of other organizations in our area. Then, as the interview process progresses and you get the “feeling” that your organization might not be the best placement, you can offer alternatives for them. This can often be handled in such a fashion that it appears as though you are doing them a favor.
- If you have no openings that match their skills or schedule, you can direct them to other agencies that can utilize the person’s skill set. This can be done very graciously. In the end, you should be honest and forthright with them. After all, isn’t that how you would want to be treated?
Want some ideas on how to keep your job in volunteerism? Read Mary Kay Hood’s column on this topic on the Health Care Volunteering page. It applies to everyone. Then check in with Melissa Heinlein’s column on visibility for your program on the Government Volunteering page. The columnists this month are provocative in their views and inspiring.