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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs in health care settings.


~December 2011~

What do you want to know from a volunteer?


You now know and understand the purpose and process of interviewing.  But how do you find out what people really want to do?  What’s important to ask during the brief time you have with someone who wants to volunteer in your organization?

Let’s take a look at David McClelland’s theory of volunteer motivation.  His theory delineates three basic motivations for volunteering:

  • Affiliation – social in nature, these potential volunteers need personal interaction with others.
  • Achievement – goal oriented, these potential volunteers are task oriented and need feedback as they work toward the goal.
  • Social power – generally persuasive, these potential volunteers like to have an impact on others and are generally good at teaching or helping others master new skills and knowledge.

If you understand these three motivations as it relates to the volunteer opportunities that you have in your organization, it becomes easier to make appropriate matches.  For instance, if someone is all about the social aspect of volunteering, then they are motivated by affiliation.  Consequently, offering that person the opportunity to work alone would not be a good match.

Consider incorporating the following questions/items into your normal interview process.


Answer Provides

Of all the organizations that you could pick to volunteer, why did you choose this organization?

  • This will identify for you why they chose your organization.


Tell me your three greatest accomplishments

  • Answers to this question will tell you if they are motivated by affiliation, achievement or influence.  

What does the phrase ‘volunteering your time/service’ mean to you? 

  • This gives you insight into if they truly understand what volunteering really means.

What does ‘commitment’ mean to you?

  • Answers provided here will help you know if the potential volunteer truly understands the commitment associated with volunteering. 

What do you want to achieve with this volunteer experience? 

  • Answers will provide information as to whether it is a career move, building a resume, or filling a void. 

Whatever the questions you find the most useful; you have to be objective in assessing their matching ability.  Are there any factors in what they have shared with you that make them either valuable or detrimental to volunteering wiwoman at interviewth the organization?  Are they accustomed to working with all kinds of people? Can they handle volunteering in a regulated environment?

You’re not doing yourself or your organization any favors by compromising the standards of your organization just to fill a void.

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The author of the Heath Care Volunteer Programs column is Mary Kay Hood MS, Hendricks Regional Health, Danville, IN (317) 745-3556. With a BS degree in biology from Marian College and a Master of Science in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University, Mary Kay has been involved in volunteer management over twenty years with a zoo and in the health care field. During that time, she completed the Management of Volunteer Programs course offered at University of Indianapolis, several supervisory training programs as well as the Indiana Hospital and Health Association’s Management Institute offered by the Executive Education Program, School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. Mary Kay served on the Nonprofit Training Center of United Way from 1993 to 2006. During that time, she taught many workshops also facilitating speaker arrangements for the Basic Volunteer Management series. Additionally, she has presented at various national and international conferences. Mary Kay served as president of the Central Indiana Association for Volunteer Administration (CIAVA) from 1993-1997 and the Indiana Society of Directors of Volunteer Services (ISDVS) from 2006-2008. She was also the recipient of the 1995 Outstanding Director of Volunteer Services Award and the 2002 United Way of Central Indiana Volunteer of the Year Award. Most recently she served on the Steering Committee for COVAA resulting in the formation of a new national membership organization for those in volunteer management, the Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement (AL!VE). With several published articles, she is also author to two books: The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions and The Volunteer Leader as Change Agent.

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