Volunteers: I Signed Up to Do What?
If you asked your staff members if they could handle multiple tasks at once, many would say no. What they might say is that they need volunteers to assist them with their jobs. Better yet, they need volunteer board members because board members have a higher degree of loyalty, engagement and accountability to the organizations they serve.
Sadly for many volunteer board members, they are unintentionally caught up in a shell game. They signed up believing they would do certain tasks. In reality, various constituencies tied to the organization tried to obtain their services for other things. Many wind up feeling confused and mislead.
For the majority of volunteers, this action is embedded in the culture and history of each organization. The true question is how do you break the cycle that board members are supposed to play a certain role because they have always done it a certain way?
I have worked with many boards and volunteers in my career. How volunteers are recruited, provided with orientation and engaged varies with the organization, but there should not be unintentional shell games.
The key with volunteer board members is to have:
- Clearly written job descriptions
- Clearly defined term limits
- Understanding of give or get or both policies
- Complete knowledge of the organization
- Stated expectations by administration, staff and peers
- Understanding of time parameters for each year
- A sound recruitment, orientation and evaluation process
- Passion for the cause and joy in representing the organization
- Understanding that lack of engagement means a short tenure
- Commitment that the organization is their No. 1 volunteer priority
As a consultant, I was asked to make recommendations regarding several board members' poor performances with one particular organization. One board member told me he was on 38 boards and had no time to work with the organization. Another proudly said he supported another organization because he had passion for its cause. A third said he was given a "bill of goods" when he signed up. He felt he was fooled to join the board and intended to resign.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy.