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September 2011 

Create Good Relations between Staff and Volunteers with Education and Myth-Busting

In This Issue
Featured Resource: Building Staff/Volunteer Relationships

Other Resources

Excerpt: "Satisfy Staff
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Everyone Ready
Online Training
It Takes Two to Tango: Building Successful Relationships Between Volunteers and Paid Staff
October 17 - November 19

Trainer: Susan J. Ellis

Examines the root causes of possible staff/volunteer tension, acknowledges the employee perspective, and offers a process for building teamwork.

Access this online seminar plus other topics and benefits by signing up for our $99 trial run.

One of the most commonly-identified concerns of volunteer-involving organizations is tension between employees and volunteers (and also between long-time volunteers and newcomers).   Such conflict surprises many, but it shouldn't. Myths about volunteering abound, and we mistakenly assume that volunteers will be accepted because...well...they're volunteers. Energize hosts many resources for educating everyone in the organization about the real reasons volunteers are essential and how to work with them most effectively.

resource2 Featured Resource
Building Staff/Volunteer Relations

By Ivan H. Scheier

By the PeopleHelps employees and volunteers work together successfully by exploring the reasons for conflict between volunteers and employees. Scheier eases the all-too-common stresses of this relationship with a step-by-step process for analyzing tasks and work preferences for both paid and unpaid staff. Offers a great number of creative and practical solutions. Contains lots of useful planning guides.  (If you never met Ivan while he was alive, this timeless classic will show you why he remains so important to all of us.)

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resource2 Other Resources

"Volunteer Motivation": Training Module 4 in The 55-Minute Training Series 

Explores why people volunteer, and teaches how to respect and respond to differences in motivational needs. A single 55-minute training script accompanied by a downloadable slide presentation. Can be purchased separately or part of the complete 55-Minute Training Series.


Focus on Volunteering KOPYKITTM
For training on the run or short brown bag lunch meetings...formatted, printable pages about volunteering, how to work with volunteers, the history of volunteering, and today's trends, for use as training handouts, bulletin board posters, newsletter inserts.


"Staff/Volunteer Relations" articles in e-Volunteerism 

Our online journal, e-Volunteerism, has a huge archive of past articles which are organized by subject, including "Staff/Volunteer Relations." It's a great place get ideas from volunteer management professionals and experts around the world.  Non-subscribers can purchase a 48-hour subscription for only $10 to view all current and archived articles.


Everyone Ready Online Volunteer Management Training Program 

Don't forget our year-long online training program for organizations (individual memberships available, too!). This is the best way to ensure everyone in your entire organization is getting consistent training about working effectively with volunteers. Because the monthly trainings are available online 24/7, it's the perfect resource for organizations with staff in different locations and time zones.    


Resources Book Excerpt
"Satisfy Staff First"

Excerpt from Building Staff/Volunteer Relations

by Ivan H. Scheier
2003, Energize, Inc.


Most strategies for opening up participation by volunteers tend to assume that staff are the primary cause of the blockage. "If only staff would respect and trust volunteers more," we say; "if only they weren't so threatened" and "why can't they delegate more?"


The approach here, by contrast, asks certain questions which suggest that staff are not the primary reason for the difficulty. Planners/implementers of volunteer programs are very likely to be implicated, for lack of adopting appropriate strategies. Our candidate for appropriate strategy begins with this question:


How can we expect staff to carve out meaningful roles for volunteers when staff doesn't even adequately understand their own role?...


Once we've absorbed the need to go beyond job descriptions to actual descriptions of the job, we're ready to face a seeming paradox: you can't develop clear and meaningful volunteer jobs without first analyzing in detail what staff are doing and how they feel about it....So, the first step in developing teamwork between volunteers and employees (or officers) is a process which helps staff clarify fuzzy function areas.


The clarifying process must also be comfortable, and that brings up our second main point:

  • Volunteers must be seen by staff as strengthening their capability and control rather than stretching it thinner.
  • Volunteers should enhance staff competency rather than challenge it.

As for control, asking staff to work comfortably with volunteers is asking them to forego the two main mechanisms by which we exercise adequate control over employees:

  • We pay them (and can stop doing so).
  • We order them (and can continue to do so).

A third control-threatener is overstretched time. Staff, club leaders, chairpersons and other gatekeepers are typically overworked and underhelped; that's usually why we propose involving volunteers in the first place. We then proceed (often) to lecture staff on how much additional time and effort they should invest in supervising/supporting volunteers. To this approach, I once heard a staff person react thusly: "Hey, I've already got a caseload of 70 clients. And now you seem to be asking me to add a caseload of 25 volunteers. Are you out of your mind?"


I sympathize. We need a delegation process which puts staff in the driver's seat insofar as possible and, indeed, can be seen by them as enhancing their control of events and challenges. 




Permission is granted for organizations to reprint this excerpt. Reprints must provide full acknowledgment of the source, as cited here:

Excerpt from Building Staff/Volutneer Relations by Ivan H. Scheier, 2003, Energize, Inc. Available in the Energize Online Bookstore at

Energize, Inc.
5450 Wissahickon Ave., C-13
Philadelphia, PA 19144 

Energize empowers and inspires leaders of volunteers worldwide. Our specialty is creating and selecting the most relevant, innovative resources in volunteer management. We're advocates for the power of volunteers and for the recognition of the leaders who unleash it. About Us