Volunteer Responsibility: How Much is Too Much?

נשלח 2 בינו׳ 2011, 7:30 על ידי Sustainability Org
published on 22/12/2010

~ The volunteer with the keys to the event venue never showed up.

~ Five months waiting for a volunteer to complete a website that never happened.

~ Clients and funders given harmful information by a volunteer.

~ The volunteer who disappeared with the bank deposit.

These are just some of the volunteer horror stories we’ve had to respond to through our On-call Support program over the years.

We know that most new organizations must be led by volunteers. But such leaders of healthy organizations build the capacity of their organization towards a point when they and their staff will be paid a market salary, thus ensuring the long-term success of their organization. And most (emphasis on most) board members are also capable of high-level responsibility for their organization because they’ve made a commitment to this governance role. These sorts of volunteers are not what inspired this month’s Hot Topic.

Lately at One Street, we’ve been answering too many coaching calls after troubles occurred from volunteers not following through on commitments. These calls are very difficult to respond to, not only because the harm has already been done, but because the source of the problem is usually not the volunteer. The organization leaders who ask us for help are often fixated on how to reprimand or even get rid of the volunteer who dropped the ball.

Instead, we usually find that the volunteer system and expectations the organization has been operating under are flawed. Yes, these ambitious volunteers often prompt the failure by enthusiastically promising to take on important projects. But without a clear understanding of appropriate roles, overworked organization leaders are vulnerable to accepting these unrealistic promises instead of gently guiding them towards a more appropriate task.

Here’s an easy rule to help you avoid giving your volunteers too much responsibility while still keeping them engaged and excited to help: Ask yourself if your organization depends on the task you are about to give to a volunteer. If the answer is yes, don’t assign it to a volunteer!

Generally any task with these characteristics should not be given to volunteers:

  • An event cannot move ahead until the task is completed.
  • Your organization’s communications are dependant on it.
  • The task requires a deep understanding of your organization’s principles.
  • The task includes responsibility for funding or valuables.
  • If the task is not carried out, your organization will suffer significant harm.

And don’t worry. There are always plenty of other fun tasks for volunteers to take care of. Just because you give the keys to a staff or board member doesn’t mean your volunteers can’t dig into all the fun and creative ways to help your event succeed.

By understanding roles and the appropriate levels of responsibility for each, you will be setting your volunteers up for years of enjoyable success with your organization. This is the least you can do for them for all the help they’ve given to your organization.

Source: OneStreet.org newsletter Dec-2010
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