VOLUNTEERS IN NFP AND NGOS
VOLUNTEERS IN NFP AND NGOS
The Victorian equal employment opportunity law stipulates volunteers’ rights. The law states that, volunteers in not for profit and non-governmental organizations should have equal protection against harassment and damages as the other paid employees. Volunteers are important recourses for NGOs and NFP organizations. Most of these charitable organizations are run and managed by volunteers (Taylor, 2011). They offer their services free of charge to the organizations that deliver charitable programs to disadvantaged countries and communities. They have no interest in financial compensation. Most of them derive personal satisfaction from offering their services free of charge to charitable organizations. The importance of volunteers is attached to their contribution towards achieving an organization’s mission and objectives. According to Ralph (2006), qualified volunteers should be retained through motivation. They can be encouraged by training incentives and rewards.
CHARACTERISTICS OF VOLUNTEERS
Volunteers are very important resources for NFP and NGO’s. They are expected to deliver their services like the other employees. They are not entitled to any payment by the organization. There services are considered to be of good faith and charitable (Farmer & Fredor 1999). The fact that they are not entitled to monetary compensation, does not oblige inefficiency and lack of commitment. They work voluntarily, they cannot be forced to work, they can stop their services any time and the organization can dismiss them any time. Volunteers should be willing to learn and train in order to acquire the necessary skills and qualification required in the organization. Choudhory (2010) found out that, most of them have different professional backgrounds that may not correspond to the nature of the organizations work. They should be flexible to acquire appropriate skills and experiences that are necessary through training.
Taylor (2001) states that, volunteers do not have tenure of employment and when unproductive they are dismissed by the organization. The organizations objectives should be achieved through volunteers who should be willing and are committed to provide their services to the respective organization. They should be flexible in delivering their duties, some organizations work in risky and hardship areas, these calls for volunteer resilience and endurance. Volunteers should be productive, efficient and motivated in carrying out their duties. Transparency and accountability is an important aspect in volunteering, they should be able deliver their services in a diligent and honest manner (Boraas, 2003).
Agreements between the volunteers and the organizations are not legally binding. The organization is not obligated to act in accordance to the volunteers’ specifications and the volunteers have no legal obligations with the organization. However, some organizations provide insurance cover for the volunteers, such covers shield against work related injuries and liabilities. In an occurrence of losses or damages, such organizations are liable to cover for the respective damages.
According to Vitner & Yodfat (2008), organizations may award volunteers minimal payments as incentives but the organization is free from obligations. They can be entitled for allowances, rewards and should be reimbursed for their out of pocket expenses. They can also receive non monetary benefits like free air tickets and free access to services provided by the organization. Volunteers are entitled to work in good working conditions and in safe environments like the other paid employees. The equal opportunity Act protects their rights.
These charitable organizations have their responsibilities to fulfill. Qualified volunteers with proper skills, experiences and interests should be recruited so as to reduce turnover rates. The organization should provide proper training and orientation to volunteers. Proper induction facilitation should be enhanced so as to enable volunteers to work towards achieving organizational objectives.
RECRUITMENT OF VOLUNTEERS
Non for Profit and Non governmental Organizations have significant intentions of attracting and recruiting qualified volunteers. In order to establish long- term productivity and relationship between the volunteers and the organization, volunteers should have appropriate skills, interests and qualities that correspond with the objectives and mission of the organization. Attracting and recruiting volunteers with these characteristics, ensures good performance, such volunteers have high chances of being retained. Once qualified volunteers have been recruited, it is important to specify and delegate duties, responsibilities, expectations and tasks between the organization and the volunteers.
Recruitment of volunteers depend on the organizations specifications regarding skills and competences. Background checks are also considered during recruitment. Background checks vary in accordance with the nature of the work the volunteer will be entitled. Volunteers working with children, elderly and disabled individuals should have distinct background check. The nature of the organization should correspond with the background checks.
It was established by Bruney (1999) that during recruitment, a written agreement is not necessary. However an agreement stipulating the roles and responsibilities is initiated between the organization and the volunteers. These will help to resolve any disputes concerning obligations between the volunteer and the organization. An organization should not take anyone as a volunteer if it believes he is incompetent and cannot perform the required tasks. A volunteer may take action against the organization if he is discriminated in respect to personal characteristics. The Victorian Equal opportunity and Human rights commission stipulate laws that protect the volunteers against discrimination.
Training of volunteers is very important in ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery. Most volunteers do not have a background of professionalism in their assigned line of duties. Training is necessary towards achieving important organizational objectives. The aims of training volunteers include; maintaining long term motivation and orientation of duties and responsibilities to the volunteers. Volunteers are equipped with tools, experiences and exposure in their line of duty, further more leadership lessons and skills are facilitated through training (Courtney 2001).
Training volunteers is an aspect of supporting, attracting, rewarding and retaining volunteers. It enhances improvement in performance and quality in service delivery. Volunteers from different backgrounds with diverse needs and duties are catered for through training and proper orientation. Companies that train their volunteers attract potential volunteers; this is because motivation is provided through training and careers development. An organization that trains its volunteers is committed to supports its volunteer’s welfare and needs for career development.
According to Johnson (2007), volunteer training involves either formal or informal training. The training is administered through out the volunteers’ lifecycle. Informal training involves induction programs while formal training involves college training for a specific period of time. Organizations train their volunteers according to their specific needs. Important aspects to be included in training include, determining the training needs, establishing the training objectives, designing, implementing and evaluating the training program.
DESIGNING A TRAINING PROGRAM
A training program should be designed according to the organizations’ needs. Important aspects to be considered when designing training program include, determining the type of training to be administered, identifying the facilitators, determining the content of the program, sourcing for the appropriate materials and determining the setting through which the training will be facilitated. Settings for training may include, on job training, classroom or in the field training (Zullo, 2011).
Individual volunteer needs should be considered when designing training programs. Suitable training should be administered to different groups of people. Younger and older volunteers should be trained differently according to their needs and duties. Volunteer’s diverse cultural settings should also be considered (Nagbhushanam & Sridhar, 2010).
Implementation of the training is the most important stage of volunteer training. The training contents should be appropriate and to be delivered effectively. Facilitation and coordination of the training is very important because it determines the outcome of the program. The success or failure of the program will be determined by carrying out an evaluation on the effectiveness of the program. Evaluation questionnaires are usually used to collect feedback from the program participants. Criticisms, suggestions and proposals are obtained from the evaluation. According to Thomas (2007), criticisms from the participants can be used for continuous improvement in future trainings. A strategy can be formulated from the strengths and weaknesses established from the program.
It was observed by Allhyari (2000) that, evaluation should be carried out to determine if the volunteer target competency was achieved. It is very important in determining the effectiveness and reliability of the program. Volunteer training should be an on-going process. Volunteer’s skills and competencies should be frequently updated to suit the rising needs of the organization. Through training volunteers will be able to achieve career development and leadership skills.
MOTIVATION AND RETENTION OF VOLUNTEERS
Not for Profit and Non-governmental organizations should develop strategies that will enable them retain and motivate their volunteers. The success of such organizations highly depends on the workforce which majorly constitutes the volunteers. Many NFP and NGO’s have experienced a significant percentage in losing volunteers. This emerging trend has necessitated the need for motivation, so as to retain volunteers. Elshaug & Metzer (2001) established that, most volunteers serve briefly in their respective organizations. Such organizations fail to provide sufficient motivation to retain the volunteers. Recent studies show that older volunteers most likely serve longer than younger volunteers. The younger volunteers have 20% lower retention rates than adult volunteers. The retention rate in adults is high up to 69.9%.
Various organizations employ different motivation strategies. It has been established that proper recruitment and motivation strategies leads to successful strategies for retention. Retention is affected by barriers and factors which discourage or encourage volunteers. Major barriers that discourage volunteers include risky and costly nature of their work, lack of appropriate skills and experience, insufficient time, poor working conditions, poor reward systems and lack of personal and career development (Odenheirmer, 2011).
Volunteer retention can be achieved through various strategies. Frequent training is a strategy that motivates volunteers. Their personal and career development needs are enhanced through training. Another strategy to ensure volunteer retention relates to attraction and recruitment strategies, the recruitment process directly relates to retention. Recruiting interested and qualified volunteers improves the retention rates. Other important factors that contribute to volunteer retention include proper skills experience and qualifications, improved reward system, flexibility, recognition, leadership roles and career development.
Low volunteer retention is a vital problem that such organizations face. High rates of volunteer turnover affect the capabilities of these organizations in service delivery. In order for these organizations to achieve their missions and goals volunteer retention must be achieved. Proper working relationships should be enhanced between the volunteers and the organization (Ralph, 2006).
VOLUNTEERING AND ITS BENEFITS
Vitner & Yodfat (2008) argued that, despite the current trend of low volunteer retention rates, enormous benefits can be derived from volunteering. Individuals are able to acquire more skills and career development through volunteering. One of the greatest benefits of volunteering is the impact it creates on the community. Charitable services and activities offered by NFP and NGO’s are aimed at improving the status of the community. Most of these organizations’ activities address social and development needs in the community. The disadvantaged countries and poor nations are the major targets of these organizations.
Volunteers are able to expand their social skills, make friends and create networks through wide interactions with the communities. Some individuals derive personal fulfillment and satisfaction through community service. These individuals attach themselves to the society and are determined to impact positively on the society. Such individuals desire to give back and may commit their own resources to improve the community. Recognition and appreciation in the community provides personal satisfaction (Zullo, 2011).
Career development is enhanced through volunteering. Individuals are able to acquire important work place skills such as problem solving skills, teamwork, project management and task management through voluntary exposures. Individuals with these qualities have high employability rates and a competitive advantage in career development. Professional experience is acquired through volunteering. Such experiences are useful in acquiring long-term professional career. Furthermore, volunteering may lead to a well paying job in similar organizations.
BARRIERS TO VOLUNTEERING
Recent studies show that voluntary services have declined drastically. The perception that volunteering is charitable and has no monetary benefits has prevented individuals from volunteering their services in charitable organizations. The most significant barrier against volunteering is lack of time. Individuals who could be willing to volunteer are committed in their families or in other activities (Boraas, 2003). The notion that volunteering requires a long-term commitment is another challenge. However, most individuals dismiss voluntary work because it has no monetary benefits.
Economic conditions and needs have severely affected voluntary work. Voluntary work has no monetary benefits yet economic conditions are worsening. There is high demand for money, which dictates the preference for individuals to work in paying institutions. The impact of economic changes has forced employees to multi-task with various employers. Such employees hardly find time to volunteer in charitable organizations.
Voluntary work is associated with lots of risks and costs. Some organizations work in hardship and risky areas. Volunteers are exposed to risks of injury, death, financial loss or legal action. These risks discourage potential volunteers from joining charitable organizations. Thomas (2007) observed that, technological advancement has impacted on voluntary work. Potential young volunteers spend most of their time operating gadgets. They prefer to try out new things and very entrepreneurial. The young generation lack commitment in voluntary work because it is very involving and have no substantial benefits.
Odenheirmer (2011) suggest that, charitable organizations should implement strategies to reduce the barriers to volunteering. Organizations should reimburse volunteers out of pocket expenses and should be able to provide incentives such as transport allowances among other incentives. Allocating roles according to individual’s preferences and interests is another strategy. Adequate training and support should be provided to volunteers as well as their needs should be considered. In the case of organizations administering charity in risky areas, insurance covers should be secured for volunteers. The covers will shield against any losses and damages that may arise due to the nature of the work.
Charitable organizations should initiate programs that will facilitate successful volunteers to be absorbed in to long-term career opportunities. This strategy is very effective in attracting and retaining volunteers. They will be able to gain professional experience in their line of careers giving them competitive advantage as compared to the other potential recruits. This strategy addresses their long- term objective of professionalism and career development. Organizations that implement these strategies are advantaged in volunteer retention. When volunteers are motivated and satisfied, the retention rates will be high (Courtney, 2001).
In conclusion, volunteers are very important resources in the community. They constitute the major work force in charitable organizations. The fact that they are not entitled to any monetary benefits does not authorize any neglect, mishandling, harassment and frustrations on the volunteers. Organizations should adopt appropriate attraction and recruitment strategies in order to draw many volunteers. Proper motivation and retention strategies should be employed to reduce volunteer turnover rates.
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