I have the unique situation of being  both a volunteer and working for nonprofits who utilize volunteers. 

Volunteers are an essential resource for nonprofit organizations.  Volunteer opportunities are also a great way to engage the community and with their help, work to achieve the organization’s mission.  Additionally, when there’s a lack of resources, volunteers help to fill a need. 

Volunteers can be a great help, but they can also be a huge headache for an organizaton.  While many nonprofits appreciate people willing to give of their time, it doesn’t always mean they are always the right fit .  Throughout my nonprofit career, I’ve worked with volunteers who have been a great help, but I’ve also worked with volunteers who have run amok.  It’s critical for nonprofits to capitalize on utilizing volunteers, but people have to realize the relationship needs to be mutual. 

As a volunteer, I value when nonprofits recognize my work and truly listen to my feedback.  The expectation when I give feedback is that my opinions and comments are genuinely being heard.  BUT…they can choose to take my suggestions into consideration or leave it.  I understand that as a volunteer I’m there to help them with their needs.  Yes, I might have suggestions, but they are just that.  Volunteers have to realize that they don’t know the internal processes and why decisions are made.  Policies and processes have been put in place for a reason and as volunteers we need to respect that.

With that being said, I’ve worked with volunteers who do not feel the same way I do.  I think some volunteers feel that if they give of their time they are entitled to make decisions about the programs or nonprofits they volunteer for.  Some go a step further and take it upon themselves to break policies because they think their way is the right way.  Some organizations invest a lot of time and effort in training volunteers on how the organization provides care and services.  If you are going to volunteer, please follow the organization’s policies and procedures and utilize their methods.  It’s there for the protection of you and the people they work with.

Volunteers  are there to fill a need.  If you have a suggestion, feel free to express it, but don’t demand change.  If you feel your not being heard, don’t feel ashamed about leaving an organization.  You may not be a good fit for the organization and the organization may not be a good fit for you.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But remember if you are going to leave, please provide feedback on why you are leaving. And nonprofits, don’t take offense to that feedback.  Learn from it.

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