- You have to decide how careful you want to be about who you recruit/accept, for example, so you will need a policy and practice around vetting the volunteer, and whether or not you will do criminal background checks or reference checks or both. For your own risk management, even if the volunteer works in the center and not in a person’s home, you want to decide about this.
- Who matches the volunteer to a task? Do they get to choose from open positions, or do you make up a position to match their interests?
- Make sure that the volunteer isn’t doing something that would typically be a paid position. That would violate some Department of Labor regulations. A Non-profit risk group says, “Federal law, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, (FLSA) defines individuals that provide services without any expectation of compensation, and without any coercion or intimidation, as “volunteers” (non-employees).” They also provide some nuances related to the question of when a person is a volunteer and when they must be an employee.
- You also need to decide whether you will use youth as volunteers and what restrictions you might have because they are under age. (You probably would not want them to volunteer off site without supervision.)
- Orientation is the next element you want to examine. What does the person understand about Independent Living philosophy? You don’t want a proponent of sheltered sub-minimum work to be preaching that to a consumer, so you need to make sure the person’s beliefs are consistent with your philosophy. Often centers provide volunteers with the same orientation as staff members.
- How will the volunteer track their time and activity? There are some states that have a match arrangement for donations, and that may allow you to count volunteer hours. If having volunteers is an important goal, you want to identify a way to report it to your board, staff and volunteers on the number of people and hours. If the volunteer works directly with a consumer, how will you record this in their Consumer Service Record?
- You might find some useful tips in this Volunteer Management Guide on line. This site is a rich resource for orientation, training and management ideas related to volunteers.
What are some ways to use volunteers? Volunteers can work on your landscape, build a ramp for a consumer, sew a quilt for a fundraiser, teach your classes in an area of expertise. Done right, they can extend your resources to provide services to more people.
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