THE STATUS OF THE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM
This article is a chapter in a book no longer in print. It talks about the status of the volunteer program within an organization. The status of a volunteer program impacts the ability to get internal resources, send a message to current volunteers about their importance to the organization, and can is instrumental in the ability to recruit and retain volunteers. The information has as much relevance in 2012 at it did in 2006.
Volunteer Management: Mobilizing All the Resources of the Community, 2nd Edition
By Steve McCurley and Rick Lynch
"Enhancing the Status of the Volunteer Program"
Excerpted from Chapter 16 in Volunteer Management: Mobilizing All the Resources of the Community, 2nd Edition
by Steve McCurley and Rick Lynch 2006
Enhancing the Status of the Volunteer Program
To make the most difference, a Volunteer Program Manager and the volunteer program itself must have influence in the larger organization. In order to have influence, paid staff of the organization must place a high value on the volunteer program. If they are to place a high value on the volunteer program, staff must place a high value on the things volunteers do. Agencies will respect Volunteer Program Managers only to the extent that they also respect volunteers. They may like you personally, but they will only value you to the extent that volunteers make a significant contribution to the agency.
In too many agencies, staff pay lip service to the value of volunteers, but their actions say otherwise. Although they find the work of the volunteers to be useful, they too often do not value it as highly as the work of paid people....
Ensuring Respect for Volunteers
In order for the Volunteer Program Manager to gain influence, staff must respect and value the contributions of volunteers. A theme of this book has been to upgrade the volunteer program, to make it more mission-critical in the life of the agency. As the Volunteer Program Manager begins to engage volunteers in high-impact ways, staff will start to think about volunteers in new ways.
An example comes from a hospital volunteer program. For decades, volunteers had done the usual things, such as transporting patients from one place to another, acting as a runner in the pharmacy, or providing information to visitors. The administration of the hospital talked about how "we couldn't stay open without volunteers," but, in truth, people never thought of volunteers as doing things that were as important as the things staff did.
One day the director of volunteers met with the purchasing manager of the hospital. With her, she brought the purchasing manager of a large defense contractor who had agreed to volunteer his expertise to help the hospital. She had arranged the meeting by telling the purchasing manager that she had found a volunteer who might be helpful in purchasing. The purchasing manager was skeptical about this, but agreed to the meeting. At the meeting, the volunteer asked the purchasing manager three questions about the purchasing system of the hospital. The purchasing manager was embarrassed to admit he did not know the answers to any of the questions and was smart enough to see that he ought to know them.
To make a long story short, the volunteer helped to revamp the entire purchasing system of the hospital, saving it thousands of dollars each year. As the purchasing manager told his peers about this, they began to see volunteers in a different light and were receptive to talking to the director of volunteers about new roles for volunteers in their departments. The status of the volunteer department is now so high in this hospital that the director of volunteers recently served as acting director of the hospital for two months.
To gain increased status for the volunteer program, Volunteer Program Managers must act as leaders. They must make positive change in the way people view volunteers. To do this, they should follow the planning suggestions in the second and fourth chapters of this book, connecting the work of volunteers to the mission in both traditional and nontraditional ways. As more volunteers engage in new mission-critical activities, more staff will view them in new ways.
Permission is granted for organizations to reprint this excerpt. Reprints must provide full acknowledgment of the source, as provided:
Excerpted from Chapter 16 in Volunteer Management: Mobilizing All the Resources of the Community, 2nd Edition, by Steve McCurley and Rick Lynch
Edition 3 of this book is available from the Volunteer Today Bookstore.