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When Volunteers Go Bad

Thank goodness for volunteers! Where would we be without them?

According to

· 25% of the U.S. adult population volunteer their time

· 42% started volunteering because they were asked

· 72% are involved with just one organization

From board members to after school tutors to museum docents, volunteers have a positive impact on our nonprofit organizations, until they don’t.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure your volunteers are the best match for your organization:

1. Have your volunteer policies and procedures in place before you recruit volunteers.

2. Use a reputable business to conduct background checks on potential volunteers.

3. Interview the volunteer(s) to make sure the placement is a good match.

4. Provide relevant training and proper supervision.

5. Honor your volunteers in a meaningful manner.

So, now you’ve done everything you can to make sure your volunteers are happy and productive, but something isn’t right. Joe misses his day to tutor. Your staff doesn’t want to work with Ellen. Cash goes missing whenever Kelly volunteers at the thrift store.

As the supervisor or executive leadership of an organization you have every right to “fire” a volunteer who is not dependable, who steals, who doesn’t do the work. It is your responsibility to protect the clients you serve, your staff, and the reputation of your organization. Volunteers who are disrespectful, undependable, or dishonest can do a lot of damage.

Your policies and procedures should outline how to discharge volunteers who do not serve the best interest of your organization. The following are suggestions on how to handle a volunteer who needs to be “fired.”

· Meet privately with the volunteer and include a third person to observe the meeting.

· Be specific and to the point about the issue.

· Be firm, but kind (if appropriate).

· Escort them off the premises and notify your staff about your decision.

Volunteers are an integral part of every nonprofit organization. In 2016, the national value of volunteer time was $193 billion (source:

Our volunteers are valuable, but they are not irreplaceable.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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