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


~January 2012~

How Do You Spell Commitment?


There was a time when someone gave you their word they lived up to it.  It seems in today’s world that is a thing of the past.  According to the Merriam-Webster, commitment is defined as:  “an agreement or pledge to do something in the future.”  That is my understanding as well and one that I adhere to when bringing on new volunteers. 

I have long been a proponent of clarifying expectations during the interview: 

  • Clearly identify tasks and duties with a position description,
  • Review processes for reporting in for duty, and
  • Sign a service agreement confirming the position and specific time commitment involved. 

Talking about it during the interview process, providing a written copy in the hanbride and groomdbook are all ways to build a common understanding of the work, duties, time and expectation involved.  So when it comes to signing that service agreement where it is re-stated, there should be mutual understanding, right?

Imagine my surprise then when new volunteers who appear to be eager and totally engaged just quit showing up!  We live in an uncertain world with the current economic situation.  That world operates in a state of instant gratification what with cell phone technology at our fingertips (no pun intended).  It seems as though the mindset of instant gratification (I want it all and I want it now!) translates to volunteer commitment as well.  

Time will tell if this is the new normal…..or just a result of the unsettledness of our current world.

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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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