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What Volunteers Do to Each Other Is Not Always Pretty

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As we’ve often noted, the most frequently-requested topic for a workshop that any volunteer management trainer receives has always been, and continues to be, employee/volunteer relationships. The tension between paid and unpaid staff surfaces in all types of organizations and settings, and program leaders want to find ways to develop effective teamwork.

Less often discussed, but just as prevalent, is conflict in volunteer-to-volunteer relationships. This can express itself in various ways, from long-time volunteers being less than welcoming to newcomers; to generational, ethnic or cultural groups that don’t mix with others; to “true believers” versus those who are “just helping.” The truth is that volunteers do not automatically work well together or even like each other. It’s up to us to foster good relationships among volunteers just as we seek to assure teamwork between volunteers and paid staff.

In this “Points of View,” Susan and Steve discuss the consequences of volunteer-to-volunteer tension, why you neglect such relationships at your peril, and how to assess if you are helping or hindering volunteer unity.