State & Local Programs

How to Generate Conflict Between Paid Staff and Volunteers

Document Author:  Steve McCurley & Rick Lynch

  • Don’t involve staff in the decisions as to if and how to utilize volunteers within the agency.  Everybody loves a surprise.
  • Don’t plan in advance the job descriptions or support and supervision systems for the volunteers.  These things will work themselves out if you just give them time. 
  • Accept everyone who volunteers for a position, regardless of whether you think they are over-qualified or under-qualified.  Quantity is everything.
  • Assume that anyone who volunteers can pick up whatever skills or knowledge they need as they go along. 
  • If you do insist on training volunteers, be sure not to include the staff with whom the volunteers will be working in the design of the training.
  • Assume that your staff already knows everything it needs about proper volunteer utilization.  Why should they receive any better training than you did?
  • Don’t presume to recognize the contributions that volunteers make to the agency. After all, volunteers are simply too valuable for words.
  • Don’t reward staff who work well with volunteers.  They are only doing their job.
  • Don’t let staff supervise the volunteers who work with them.  As a volunteer director, you should be sure to retain all authority over ‘your’ volunteers.
  • Try to suppress any problems that come to your attention.  Listening only encourages complaints.
  • In case of disputes, operate on the principle that  “The Staff is Always Right.”  Or operate on the principle of “My Volunteers, Right or Wrong.”  This is no time for compromise
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