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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.

~June 2013 ~




Portland State University

Earn a Professional Development Certificate

Volunteer Engagement and Leadership Program

Online Classes

  • Recruiting Volunteers
  • Training Volunteers
  • Leadership and Communication
  • Supervision and Manageme
  • Evaluation and Recognition of Volunteers

The VELP program is moving departments and will be up and running in the fall of 2013.

There is an email list for those who wish to be notified about the new location and how to register.

Send inquiry to: mba@bmi.net


Assimilation: Recognize that something new has the potential to alter the volunteer program and impact the future.  The advent of episodic volunteering has altered many organizations utilization of volunteers.

Analysis:  Once there is a sense of comfort to the new thing, there is a an interest in learning new things. It is an effort to understand the how and why.  In some organizations short-term volunteers are working side by side with regular volunteers.  This provides the opportunity for learning more about why people are giving episodic service.

Adaptation This is the step where the organization builds a new framework of thinking in order to incorporate the change. The availability of episodic volunteers can encourage paid staff to design jobs that are short in duration. 


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Many people are attracted to volunteering because he/she has been personally touched btwo meny the issue and/or mission of the organizations.  A person whose child was injured by a drunk driver might seek a volunteer opportunity with an organization like MADD (formerly Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers). This can create stress for the volunteer.  Here are some tips to manage the participation of such volunteers.



Establish policies to determine when people are eligible to volunteer.  Organizations like MADD and Hospice have a requirement that some time has passed from the incident or death before the person can volunteer.
Rigorous screening for readiness

Hospice screens volunteers by how much time has elapsed since someone close has died and getting a complete grief history.  Interviewers need to look for things like beingoverly emotional or angry

Be sure the potential volunteer knows what the organization does and does not do.

Never assume that a volunteer is aware of what the organization does.

It is easy for volunteers to make assumptions about what the organization does and what he/she will be permitted to do.  The person arrives with an expectation of being able to do one thing and it turns out the organization only allows very experienced volunteers do it. 

Create a probationary period. Let people tryout working as a volunteer.  It gives the organization and the prospective volunteer an opportunity to see how their skills match with organizational needs and if he will feel comfortable.  It gives staff opportunity to see if the person is ready to volunteer
Be sensitive to the needs of the person. Everyone processes trauma differently, so checking in frequently is required.  Holiday periods are likely to be more difficult than other times.  Scheduling flexibility is a requirement.
Set clear standards for boundaries. Training of volunteers needs to review written policies on volunteer behavior.  Sympathetic volunteers might want to contact clients outside the organization.  This needs to be discussed with prospective volunteers.  Rules that are not written and discussed are hard to enforce.  Never assume volunteers know the boundaries.
Look for signs of distress. Volunteers and staff are usually people who care passionately about the mission of the organization.  That passion can lead to spending too much time volunteering or identifying too closely with clients.  A volunteer cries when working with a new client.  That is a red flag.  Time for the volunteer to take a sabbatical.  It is important to act gently.  The volunteer likely does not recognize the signs stress.
Make a plan for the future. Volunteers who have lost a loved one can throw themselves into the work of an organization and neglect family, friends, or job.  It is important to help the volunteer think ahead.  Help them make a plan to move forward in their volunteer engagement. Today he/she is working with clients, but maybe in a year he/she will be visiting elected officials to lobby for passage of legislation.  This helps volunteers move forward in recovery.

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