Not-for-profits should prepare for volunteers

Keywords Opinion

I read Maggie Phelps’ recent In the Workplace column [Let’s become better-quality volunteers, Jan. 4] with great interest. Although she briefly touched upon a not-for-profit’s responsibility, I do not think she presented the case impartially by looking through the eyes of the volunteer.

I have volunteered repeatedly for very worthy causes—from the Pan Am games to school help programs to current day poverty/immigration causes. In my experience, some organizations do not put much effort into finding a volunteer coordinator. The coordinator—the face of the organization to the volunteer—may be the youngest and newest hire. He/she may likely have no experience in running a volunteer program. This can translate into a very poor experience for a volunteer.

I am one of those you point to who has left a volunteer position after a year or two. I made my decision after much anguish because I wanted to help the recipient/client of my efforts. But a poorly run program can create havoc and chaos, and it drives away volunteers who want to help.

It is a two-way street between the volunteers and the not-for-profit. The organizations need to hire coordinators who can do the work. They need to review their training programs to see if the program is actually useful. They also need to continually provide support to the volunteer as they would their own employees.

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Cathy Kennedy

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