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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

~2009 ~

 

Dear Connie:

My supervisor has asked me to do an assessment of the risks in our volunteer program.  Can you give me any guidelines and/or advice?

Thanks!
GC

Dear GC:

One of my favorite resources for volunteer risk management issues is the Nonprofit RiskManagement Center. [www.nonprofitrisk.org]  I have found this organization to have thebest volunteer risk management information around, including a free volunteer riskmanagement online tutorial!  A recent issue of their free online newsletter was devoted tovolunteer risk management and I've reprinted an excerpt below.  You can sign up for thefree newsletter on their website.  Here’s the excerpt:

Measure Twice, Cut Once: The Science of Volunteer Risk Management

While there are nuances of effective volunteer management that depend on the culture, mission and programs of your nonprofit, there are some aspects that must be followed like the directions for an angel food cake: don’t mess with the recipe.

Provide explicit directions because volunteers want to succeed. And, generally speaking, they want to meet the high standards set by your volunteer program. To help them do so, you need to provide explicit direction about what you expect and what is required to volunteer in your program. You may expect an ongoing commitment of five hours per week, or a minimum level of weekly contact between a volunteer mentor and his or her mentee. Whatever you require, say so. Unless you’re recruiting volunteers from a group of psychics, it isn’t fair or appropriate to assume your volunteers will be all-knowing.

Ensure widespread communication.  Do what you can to get your critical volunteer policies in the hands of the people who need them the most – your volunteers. A set of policies gathering dust in the office of the director of volunteers is of no use out in the field, on site, or where services are delivered and risks arise.  Many nonprofits have developed volunteer handbooks as a way to capture core policies in a single location. Some groups give paid and volunteer staff time to read the manual and require that they initial each page. Others also post these policies on a website. There is no single best method for distributing information about volunteer service requirements and expectations. For many organizations multiple communication methods are necessary to get the word out. And always make certain that volunteers have plenty of opportunities to ask questions and seek clarification.

Monitor policy implementation and revise policies that aren’t working.  Solicit feedback from your volunteers about your risk management activities and policies. Doing so will help you determine what’s working, what’s unclear, and what policies need to be changed or scrapped.  Got complaints?! Turn complaints into progress by involving those who complain in updating and revising policies. Getting help is a sign of strength not
weakness when you reach out to outsiders for help developing or updating your volunteer risk management program. Obtaining an independent review of your policies before you implement them is an excellent risk management strategy.

There are also many good books on risk management, and I find the best to be by Linda Graff.  Here are three of Linda’s books that are available in the VolunteerToday bookstore:

BETTER SAFE... RISK MANAGEMENT IN VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS & COMMUNITY SERVICE  ($35.00)

BY DEFINITION: POLICIES FOR VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS ($25.00)

POLICY DEVELOPMENT FOR VOLUNTEER SERVICES ($14.95)

Volunteer Today also has a nine year collection of archives. These include dozens of articles on risk assessment and management. You can search back to the year 2000 for free articles and commentary on that topic and many others. Vist the
Archives page and use the search feature.

Finally, there are many free articles and free e-books on risk management and liability available at Energize, Inc. [http://www.energizeinc.com/art/subj/risk.html]




Interested in assessing your volunteer recruiting strategies?

Use a self-directed evaluation tool

Get help with one of the Volunteer Program Evaluation Series.

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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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