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On this page are ideas to help you work more efficiently with volunteers. There are tips on recruiting, engaging, coordinating, and managing the work of volunteers.

~ March 2011 ~

Monica White posted a question on CYBERVPM about using the 1-9 form. Here is the report of her journey.


Monica White

Some of my organization’s leaders approached me and asked why we don’t have our volunteers fill out the I-9 Form.   The I-9 Form was initiated in 1986 to verify that all employees hired could verify that they are eligible to be employed in the United States.  The purpose of the form is to verify identity and right to work. 
I knew that it wouldn’t hurt to fill it out because we already collect most of the information necessary for I-9 verification.  However, I am generally opposed to more paperwork just for the sake of adding more paperwork.  I asked for some time to investigate and find out what my more intelligent cohorts are already doing in the field. 

I posted a question about the use of I-9 forms in screening of current volunteers to a couple list-serves including CyberVPM (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cybervpm/) and Hospicevols (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hospicevols/).  I also did some Internet research on the topic to find out what information already existed.
From the responses I received, most organizations who utilize volunteers do not require the I-9 form to be completed.  However, in my Internet research, I did encounter some volunteers who reported that their organization does require them to fill it out.  I came across many websites indicating that volunteers are exempt from filling out the I-9 but no direct link to a verifiable source.  I also encountered many legal and risk management related sites recommending organizations protect themselves by having all volunteers complete the form.
According to the I-9 Instruction manual, "you must complete Form I-9 each time you hire any person to perform labor or services in the United States in return for wages or other remuneration. Remuneration is anything of value given in exchange for labor or services, including food and lodging.”
While none of my volunteers fit the description for receiving wages, some of my volunteers may qualify under the “remuneration” description.  There are occasions where we’ve sent a restaurant gift card to thank an exceptional volunteer – or a gas card to a volunteer who struggles to make ends meet but drives many miles to see our clients.   We quite frequently feed volunteers, though I’ve never considered any of these examples to be remuneration – just pure recognition and appreciation.  
I believe that the true test as to whether to require your volunteers to fill out the I-9 form or not lies with the following question:  Is your volunteer participating without compensation and without the expectation of compensation or remuneration at the completion of their service?
If your volunteer will be receiving compensation in the form of a stipend or educational scholarship, then it seems that the I-9 is required to be filled out.  In speaking with some contacts who supervise Americorps volunteers, I determined that they do have their volunteers either fill out a modified I-9 form (that is stricter than the I-9 requirements) and/or they have their volunteers complete an I-9 form with the organization they are completing their service with.
As always, however, I believe that we should not put up barriers to volunteering.  We want to bring talented people into our organizations and sometimes those talented individuals are not United States citizens.  I’ve had the wonderful experience of supervising volunteers who are here on educational visas and have found them to bring many wonderful professional skills and service to our clients and staff.
With the purpose to verify identity and right to work, I feel confident that the I-9 form does not apply to my volunteers, though it seems it is applicable to some select volunteer opportunities.

Monica K. Ebberts, C.V.A. is the Director of Volunteer Services and IT Manager for Love Healthcare. She is the first in Utah to receive the Certification in Volunteer Administration and has worked in hospice for the last 8 years.  Prior to her experience in hospice, she worked for various nonprofit and community-serving organizations in volunteer management, event management and development.  Contact Monica at mebberts@lovehealthcare.com or 801-201-8555.

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Interested in quick tips on recruiting, coaching, communication, record keeping for your volunteer program.  Follow Volunteer Today publisher and editor, Nancy Macduff on Twitter. She is posting quick ideas each workday on Twitter about the administration of volunteers.  Check out this new quick resource on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ NLMacduff.  It is the VERY abbreviated form of Volunteer Today. You do not need to be a Twitter subscriber to view these posts!

Nancy is seeking tips, hints, ideas, comments on things related to the management and administration of volunteers.  You can leave a Tweet on the Twitter site or email Nancy at mba@bmi.net.  The tip cannot be longer than 140 spaces or characters.

REMEMBER: Followers on Twitter can set their profile on privacy to avoid getting unwanted Tweets.  Also, you must pick up Tweets, they do not pop up like your email.  Make it a bookmark on your computer.  Yes, you can Twitter from your computer.  You do not need a smart phone! Although you can pick up on a smart phone, too.

If you have not used this social media form of communication and would like to learn how to use it for future communication with volunteers, this is a good way to practice.  Tell the people in your organization and your colleagues in the community about this new site, exclusively for those who coordinate the work of volunteers.

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Imagineering In Volunteer Programs

Volunteer Today columnist, Mary Kay Hood has referenced the wisdom of Disney in previous articles and how managers of volunteers can use the lessons of customer service from the Disney staff team.  The wisdom of Walt Disney, founder of the Disney empire.  Here are his eight principles of imagineering applied in the volunteer setting.




Area Development

Disney certainly considered the overall picture important in developing his theme parks, but he believed the devil was in the details.  He wanted everything, landscaping, architecture, etc. to send a consistent message.

Volunteer programs provide meaningful work for volunteers, but are frequently sloppy at the recruiting and screening process.  This sends a mixed message to potential volunteers.  How does your organization look to an outsider from the moment he/she hits the Web site or FaceBook page of the organization.  Is information on the volunteer program easy to access?  Is the opportunity to volunteer visible?  Are there pictures of volunteers and not just those served?




Blue Sky

Disney’s view was that at the beginning of any project no idea was too outrageous or impossible. . .the sky was the limit!

A recent experience at a Board meeting showed me the truth of this maxim.  Someone suggested creating a FaceBook page in order to increase visibility .One person on the board, who “doesn’t believe in FaceBook,” derailed the discussion by refusing to have anything to do with it.  Nay sayers often derail new ideas.  Managers of volunteers need to help people be creative at the outset.  Don’t derail ideas before they get tested, that’s the Disney way. 



Disney staff hold regular brainstorming sessions.  No idea is stifled and there is no such thing as a bad idea. 

See Blue Sky!



Dark Ride

Disney’s use of this term was really about controlling a show’s elements as needed.

Volunteers need to focus on their work.  Having volunteers wander around a building or work site wondering what to do makes for a poor experience.  Plan the volunteer experience as if you were creating a park ride at Disneyland.  Know what the volunteer will hear and see.  Where does the coat go?  Who welcomes them?  Where is check-in?  Make it flawless.




Elevation referred to the design aspects of a ride, a building, a hotel.  It was the construction details.

Planning is the friend of the administrator of volunteer programs.  It is stepping back and taking stock of how something is organized and delivered.  I currently have two students in an online class with years of experience in successful volunteer programs.  It is clear the programs are successful because both people believe you can never learn enough when it comes to making things better.   Disney’s term, “elevation,” is a big part of why they are taking my class.  To step back, look at the structure and make improvements.  Or build it from scratch.



Movement in a Disney view is key, be it changes in lighting or banners in the wind outside a building.  Movement creates energy.

Volunteers bring enthusiasm and should get it back.  Static programs are dying programs.  It is the lively new program with new opportunities to serve or learn that keep people coming back year after year.  “What will they do next?” is a good question for a volunteer to ask. 



Disney desired to make everything better.  No project or site is every “done.”  There is always an effort to make it better.

See comments in elevation about two experienced and capable managers of volunteers.




Disney believed that everything was part of the “big show.”  It includes everything Guests see, hear, smell, or come in contact with at each park.

A key component of good volunteer programs is how effortlessly the experience looks to the volunteer.  From applications to recognition there is orderliness and control to enhance the experience for the volunteer and for the person or entity served.  Nothing is haphazard or scattered.  Volunteers feel calm and well informed about the work to be done.  Just like the thousands of people who visit Disneyland they never see the work behind the “scenes.”


Online Training for Administrators of Volunteer Programs

Supervision and management; leadership and communication are key elements in effective volunteer programs. Enhance your skills or learn new ones in two four-week classes with the emphasize on useful management practices. Part of Portland State University's Volunteer Engagement and Certificate Program the classes are a combination of theory and practice. Assignments are related to job challenges. Classses start soon. For more information:



Enroll Now

starRecruiting Volunteers (8 weeks)

starLeadership and Communication with Volunteers (4 weeks)

starSupervision and Management of Volunteers (4 weeks)

Online classes in Engaging and Leading Volunteers

For more information contact Portland State University:



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