Nonprofit Sector Gary Grobman Pad 4144 University
Pick one of the following topics and post your thoughts in the Module 6 Discussion Area. Make sure that you cite the texts and draw from your own personal experience when answering these questions.
Volunteers are also referred to as “unpaid staff.” Explain what you think about this term as applied to volunteers and the way they should be treated by the organization.
Volunteers are an invaluable asset for nonprofits. The textbook says that “a volunteer can have the same organizational impact, negative or positive, as a paid staff member” (Grobman 244). Additionally, utilizing volunteers has numerous benefits outside of what is essentially free labor. Volunteers that are treated well will serve your organization well.
The term “unpaid staff” is accurate because of the hard-work and dedication that many volunteers provide these organizations. The textbook notes that “volunteers are there because they want to be, not because it is their livelihood” (Grobman 241). Volunteers are providing aid out of the goodness of their heart, rather than for money. Despite this, they are often putting in a ton of work. These factors make the term “unpaid staff” an accurate description.
There are tons of benefits from utilizing volunteers. The book lists the following: “1. They do not require salaries or fringe benefits. 2. They are often highly motivated. 3. They can speak their minds without fear of loss of a livelihood. 4. They may bring skills to the organization that it otherwise may not be able to find or afford. 5. They may have a network of community contacts who may be a source of contributions, expertise, prospective staff, or additional volunteers” (Grobman 241).
Volunteers should be treated like staff. While they are not paid, they should receive reward for all they contribute to the organization, whether through a ceremony or a regular thanks. Additionally, staff should have the organizations resources available to them in order to accomplish any tasks assigned to them. As stated before, the benefits of having volunteers are extremely helpful to nonprofits and it is essential that volunteers be treated as staff despite their lack of pay.
While I agree that volunteers are staff and do not receive a salary based on the amount of time they work, they do receive compensation to some degree while volunteering. Volunteers should be treated very similarly to staff in the way they are recruited, trained, led, and the performance that is expected from them. The difference is that volunteers can be less committed to a specific organization and more to the cause or the idea of volunteering. Because of this, they may be prone to leaving a volunteer position more quickly for another organization over smaller issues than a paid employee would or leave volunteering entirely as their life circumstances and time commitments change. Because of this, to entice volunteers to remain or return to specific missions, an organization may entice them with little freebies such as shirts, food, discounts at events, etc., all of which cost the organization, though not as much as a salary.
What a better way to run a business than to have other people help bring in supporters, customers, and man power for free. In An Introduction to the Nonprofit Sector Gary Grobman states that “using volunteers is an effective way to stretch limited organization resources, build community support, improve communications, and tap hard-to-find skills.” (2015, p. 235) An organization that has committed volunteers who the organization can trust has the advantage over organizations who haven’t been able to build a strong base of volunteer supporters. A couple of the advantages pointed out in Module 6 is that volunteers are “often highly motivated (and) can be useful sounding boards (since they) can speak their minds without fear of losing their job” (Krick). Having a foundation of trust, filled with open and honest dialog with volunteers can foster new programs and procedures which can benefit the organization, in addition to creating volunteers that think of their organization like family and will openly talk positively about their role and the organization every chance they get.
Volunteers though do have disadvantages such as “added expenses, lower retention, willing to work less hours” (Krick, Module 6). They cost time and money to recruit, train, and retain. Placing a volunteer in the wrong position can hurt your program and possibly the organization as a whole if a volunteer becomes frustrated and disgruntled. Not setting clear expectations and assignments for volunteers can quickly create volunteers who are idle and possibly causing disruptions.
I have been the VBS Director at my church now for 5 years and part of that role is recruiting, training, and supervising close to 200 volunteers over a two week span. Each year it takes months of working to recruit volunteers for our VBS from adults in our church, teachers in our academy, our own youth programs, and students from local middle and high schools. I appreciate all of my volunteers, but sometimes they cause their own set of problems. In the years that I have been doing it, I have had to get better at recognizing the limitations of certain age groups and even some of our individual repeat volunteers to find the best place for everyone to thrive. Each year we ask all of our volunteers to attend a training to go over what changed since the previous year and to get new volunteers acquainted with our program. During the event there are daily check-ins with the volunteers, exemplary service rewards to be given out especially to my younger volunteers who are doing the right thing, and sometimes disciplinary actions to be taken for those who can’t follow the volunteer guidelines and are causing disruptions. Since our program requires such a large number of volunteers, in addition to the obvious community service hours, to incentivise volunteering we provide each volunteer with a shirt, offer a daily volunteer lunch, and do donuts and coffee on Friday each week.
Volunteers aren’t free labor. They are unpaid, but they are far from free. Volunteers can be the backbone of an organization or a program, but they can also bring with them a set of challenges that wouldn’t necessarily follow paid staff. If an organization takes the time to properly recruit, vet, and train volunteers as they would staff, they can be a great asset. Treating volunteers more as staff and less as helpers allows everyone to be more productive and get more done.