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When Should We NOT Involve Volunteers?

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As advocates for volunteers, we are generally in the position of convincing administrators and frontline paid staff to be more creative in designing work for volunteers – to involve them more. Yet there are times when an organization might consider assigning volunteers to a role or task, but ultimately decide not to do so. When would a “no” decision be best? What criteria should be applied or what circumstances should be considered, and why? Further:

  • Of the criteria you use in deciding not to develop a volunteer assignment, which are situational/temporary (that might be resolved and then you would assign a volunteer) and which do you consider basically non-negotiable?
  • What reasons for not involving volunteers appear reasonable and practical on the surface, but actually speak to fundamental beliefs/assumptions about the relationship between paid work and volunteering? How can we challenge these?
  • What would you consider a warning sign to say “no” to volunteer involvement?

There are no clear-cut answers to this important topic rarely presented to the field. But this Keyboard Roundtable provides a unique discussion among colleagues from Australia, the UK, Canada, Lebanon, and the US.