Sunday, August 19, 2012

Maintaining Useful Volunteers

(Guest post) "Volunteers play a unique role in the work of non-profit organisations. Often they are not there for the long term and lack positions of authority. It is difficult to include volunteers as leaders. At the same time, volunteers cannot be counted as employees because there is usually nothing binding them to the non-profit that promotes strong accountability or incentive except for their personal integrity. This often makes the role of volunteer in the non-profit sector an “other” or an “extra”.

It seems to me that many volunteers feel just that. They understand their roles to be dispensable, temporary, and additional rather than essential. When non-profits engage volunteers, they must carefully set up a structure that understands and communicates well the role of volunteers. This requires flexibility, clear expectations, and a form of accountability. Often the non-profit trades such requirements for easier strategies, like flattering volunteers, playing on emotions, and unrealistic marketing messages.

For example, a non-profit might market that it needs volunteers using emotionally-gripping images and stories. The marketing message might state the goals of the non-profit as though they were already realised and definitely being accomplished. It might promote that volunteers are able to join the effort by doing simple tasks at the convenience and pleasure of the volunteer.

While such strategies tend to function well in the recruitment of volunteers for the non-profit sector, they also set up failed relationships and projects for both volunteers and non-profits because of the lack of clarity, expectations, accountability, and flexibility. Anyone who has worked at bettering the world (especially through non-profits) and faced the reality of the brokenness and complexity of the world is aware that the goals of a non-profit are rarely fully accomplished and are often met with challenges, setbacks, and multiple changes. This is simply reality, and it requires flexibility. Volunteers need to have a clear knowledge of this reality while they set their expectations and incentives for working with a non-profit.

Even if non-profits employ strategies for clear communication about expectations, goals, and incentive with volunteers, these are not enough without accountability. Empowerment language hardly belongs in messages marketed to volunteers because volunteers given power are rarely also given humility, servitude, and purpose. These allow for the accountability that ensure continuity, long-term commitment, and the growth of integrity in volunteers and the projects they serve in for non-profit work. It must be clear to volunteers and to the non-profit sector what goals, expectations, and roles need to exist for the success of projects, not for comfortable recruitment. This recruitment starting point is not enough, the non-profit sector must honestly engage volunteers to succeed. 
Author Bio
Nancy Parker was a professional nannies and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, nanny background check tips etc. You can reach her @ nancy.parker015 @

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