Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Quick Tips for Working with Volunteers and Staff Members

Back to my Secrets of Non-Profit Management Series today!

Not many non-profit executives are going to say this, but I'm gonna...

We trust our staff members more than we trust you to finish the job.

Yes, you heard me -- sometimes volunteers just don't measure up.

Now of course, there are exceptions to this Secret -- I have worked with great volunteers (especially board chairs and executive committee members) and have also hired a few crappy staff members -- but mostly, the staff members win every time.

I know what you're thinking -- Well, duh, Paige -- your staff members are getting PAID to organize the warehouse, complete the spreadsheet, call the event donors, and well, we volunteers are not.

True dat.  We do pay our staff members (Not as much as they need or deserve, of course -- we're a non-profit, after all, so remember the economic scale, people...) and volunteers are just that -- volunteering for no pay.

But, the reason I'm telling you this today is two fold:
  1. If you agree to take on a volunteer position -- DO IT -- or tell the agency as quickly as possible that you are not going to be able to fulfill the need.  So many people agree to take on a big volunteer task, but then don't follow through.  They don't return calls from the staff, don't send in their list, don't show up for the meetings, and worse. 
  2. If your life has changed and you can no longer keep your commitment -- tell us asap so we can move on.  We will think much more highly of you if you're honest and resign than if you just won't call us back.
It may sound like I'm bashing volunteers today, but I love volunteers.  We couldn't do what we do without you and many of you are amazingly helpful.  We need volunteers desperately, so keep helping your favorite charities!

And if you are a staff member of a non-profit, I'm not letting you off the hook either.

As a staff member working with volunteers, you need to just know that you are going to pick up any and all slack they leave for you.  And as my mother would say -- be sweet about it.  Don't bitch and moan and certainly don't ever speak negatively about that volunteer who isn't getting the job done.  You knew this job was dangerous when you took it. 

And you are responsible for the outcome.  But let the volunteer take all the credit.  Your boss knows who finished the job.

No comments:

Post a Comment