Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Care and Feeding of Volunteers

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Care and Feeding of Volunteers

Article excerpt

How do you view and treat your volunteers? If you don't see them as employees who are compensated and should be treated just the same as paid employees and get the same benefits, you may be making a big mistake.

There are two kinds of compensation for work: monetary compensation and "psychic" compensation, which is anything other than money that provides a reward of happiness, pleasure, or satisfaction. Paid employees get more monetary compensation, and volunteers get only psychic compensation. But every worker gets compensated somehow. And, therefore, every worker has a responsibility to the employer, just as the employer has a responsibility to each employee.

Paid employees get a paycheck and other benefits such as health and life insurance, pension credits, and sick leave and vacation. Other benefits vary from job to job, from person to person. These include flexible schedules ("flex" time), continuing education opportunities, friendships, and prestige. When a job is short on non-monetary perks or pleasures, the salary often is higher.

Responslblllties of Volunteers

and Employees

For whatever combination of monetary and psychic compensation each paid employee receives, he or she is expected to do whatever tasks are assigned regularly, including some tasks that he or she may dislike. He or she also must do special tasks judged by the employer to be necessary even if it requires overtime. The employee must get to work regularly and on time, follow all the company rules, and be polite and courteous to co-workers.

Likewise, a volunteer should be expected to do all assigned tasks, get to work regularly and on time, and follow all the rules of the company and all the rules of simple social fairness. Only the expectations of onerous tasks and overtime may be relaxed in the case of volunteers because they get less total compensation than paid employees - although even those expectations are not unusual for volunteers in some places. Just as volunteers are expected to follow all the work habits and rules that apply to paid employees, they also should have access to the same "perks" paid employees enjoy. These include liability insurance, access to the employee cafeteria and/or lounge, parking privileges, uniforms, reimbursed expenses, adequate work stations, and invitations to attend staff meetings and office parties. "Hiring" volunteers means an application form, an interview, a reference check, and a personnel file.

Like paid employees, volunteers need an orientation to the agency and to the job, an introduction to co-workers, a clearly identified supervisor, appropriate training, and clearly stated assignments that have meaning. They need performance evaluation and guidance, a pat on the back for good work, discipline when appropriate, and firing when necessary.

While one normally doesn't think of "firing" volunteers, it is important to remember that volunteers who can't perform their duties effectively can be dismissed.

Why People Volunteer

There is no one reason people volunteer, though reasons generally can be divided into four basic categories:

* Some people volunteer because they are required to do so. They may need the experience for school or may be assigned volunteer work by the justice system. …

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