I am teaching an
online class on supervision and management of volunteers
at Portland State University. Some conversations
during class will address the issue of volunteer/paid staff
relations, but not nearly enough conversation. In times
of lay-offs, downsizing, and reductions in force the fragile
relationship of volunteers and paid staff can fray. This
information is from an article first published 2009. I revised
a bit and it is as pertinent today as it was in 2009. Nancy
In many organizations there is a tribe of
volunteers and a different tribe of paid staff. Each tribe has its own culture and value
system, this is according to Maureen West, author of an article in
the Chronicle of Philanthropy, (Oct. 15, 2009, pg. 21). West
interviewed many people to address the issue of staff and volunteer
conflict, which according to Susan Ellis, of Energize, Inc., and
Jone Pearce, author of Volunteers: The Organizational Behavior
of Unpaid Workers (Routledge, 1993),is inevitable, but manageable. Here
are some points discussed in this excellent article of how organizations
are tackling the problem.
From Volunteer San Diego
Challenge the notions about what volunteers can and should do
Ask employees about concerns and get ideas
on how to bridge the gap between “tribes”
Staff wanted volunteers who behaved professionally
and honored time commitments. New policies for volunteers
were instituted to address these issues.
From California Library project
25 teams of librarians were trained to develop unpaid jobs for
volunteers that go beyond the traditional ones
For example, a retired advertising copywriter might help a library
with marketing its services
Lines of authority need to be clear
All staff need training in how to work effectively with volunteers, not
just the manager of volunteers
Administrators need to assure volunteers
and staff that things are changing and it likely won’t
From Lutheran Social Services
Be sure that position descriptions are clear and unambiguous
Spread supervision responsibility for volunteers throughout the
staff, not just with one person
Be willing to reassess and revise programs
Be sure staff have realistic ideas about what volunteers can
Respect crosses both ways—volunteer
for staff and staff for volunteer
From the High Desert Museum in Oregon
Communicate with staff and volunteers
Include volunteers and staff in planning and working together
Post volunteer positions on Web site, similar to those for paid
Regular meetings and seminars for paid staff and volunteers
Personnel policies for staff and for volunteers
should have clear steps that outline how conflicts will be resolved. Better
known as grievance procedures.
Opportunities for staff and volunteers to socialize, i.e.. summer
volunteers includes considering the risks to the volunteer, the
organization, the person or thing being served, and to the larger
organizations are working toward protecting all these stakeholders
from the common types of physical risk. It is also important
to consider the risks related to money.
Many volunteers handle money
for gift shops, events, sales of memorabilia, and the like. Here are
some risk management questions to insure that you are taking steps to protect
everyone who deals with money or fiduciary issues.
If you are running an organization, are
the appropriate audit controls established and enforced? For example, two signatures
on all checks and no exceptions and no “pre-signing.”
Are the volunteer positions that deal
with money rotated on a regular basis? Keeping the same
person in a position indefinitely is not good management and
has the potential to invite problems.
If cash or checks are handled by a volunteer,
are they deposited immediately? Establish systems to get money into a secure
location as quickly as possible. It might mean deposit slips
and bank envelopes for weekend deposits, but better than the trunk
of a car.
If you use a safe for money is it fire resistant?
Are the premises where cash is kept secure?
Do you establish volunteer responsibilities
so no one person controls the entire process—receiving money, registering
deposits, withdrawals, and balancing the accounts? By dividing
up the duties you automatically build in a check and balance system
for dealing with cash. Recent cases across the world show
that voluntary and nonprofit organizations are not immune from
the skullduggery of unscrupulous people.