Better Together: Part 3 – Sustaining

Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash

As we discussed in the previous blogs, volunteers are a human resources treasure! Volunteering benefits both organizations and individuals. Managing human resources has always been important, but is more important than ever now during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Part 1 we discussed the first three standards of practice from the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement. In Part 2 we continued the discussion covering the framework required for getting the right person for the right job.

Part 3 concludes the discussion with how to build a sustaining work environment.

The Standards of Practice for Volunteer Involvement
  1. Mission-Based Approach
  2. Human Resources
  3. Infrastructure for Volunteer Involvement
  4. Evaluation: Tracking Measuring and Reporting
  5. Volunteer Roles and Recruitment
  6. Risk Management
  7. Screening
  8. Orientation and Training
  9. Support and Supervision
  10. Recognition: Valuing volunteer Involvement

Orientation and Training

Ensure volunteers receive orientation to the organization. This should cover its history, mission, values, policies, and practices, as appropriate to their staffing role, and their individual needs. They should have a good understanding of the impact of their contributions and how it supports the mission and purpose. A well-informed volunteer will raise the organization’s profile when they talk about their volunteer work. While the form of orientation can be as simple as a pamphlet, or as structured as a meeting and tour, it may be helpful to use more than one method.

Provide the information and skills that a volunteer needs to do their specific job. Some tasks may require training before their work begins, other coaching can happen on the job. Allow opportunities for feedback, to ensure instructions are understood.

Offer ongoing access to training to upgrade skills and adapt to changes in the organization. Such opportunities help to keep volunteers interested in their role. If they have mastered skills in one role, moving to new assignments keeps them engaged and challenged.

Support and Supervision

Even after orientation and training has been completed, volunteers should continue to receive the level of support and supervision needed for their role. Opportunities to give and receive feedback are an essential part of this support. Supervision is about building strong relationships, which is the best context for a volunteer to get adept at their task. It is also the best context for providing correction or direction when needed.

Review performance on a regular basis. Evaluations are a great time to make sure that the tasks are completed as needed, and that the volunteer’s needs are met by the opportunity. A paid staff member might expect a raise or more holidays. What incentive or benefit can the organization offer? If a volunteer’s performance is below expectation, an honest discussion of the problem may be helpful. Perhaps additional training, or a different shift would be a welcome support. Situations requiring correction or dismissal should follow the policies and labor legislation fairly and consistently, while respecting privacy and dignity of those concerned.

Recognition: Valuing volunteer involvement

Acknowledge the contributions of volunteers in ways that reflect the needs of those volunteers. Their value and the impact of their contributions should be recognized by the organization and communicated back to the volunteer.

Since recruiting and training new volunteers is an investment of energy, time, and money, doing things to retain those volunteers is key to sustaining the volunteer program. Strengthen communication to build teamwork, give volunteers a voice in daily decisions, and recognize their accomplishments.

Formal, public recognition appeals to achievement-motivated individuals. Socially motivated people appreciate group events which do not single them out, such as dinners, or branded hats and t-shirts. Cause motivated people might appreciate opportunities for influence, such as teaching others or being highlighted in a newsletter. Recognition should be ongoing and even simple tools such as written thank-you cards, or desserts and treats are an important part of building the kind of culture that volunteers want to continue to be a part of.


Many will be familiar with the ancient ideal of life, that if we can do marvelous things but do not treat others with kindness and respect, we have really accomplished nothing. This paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 paints a picture of that ideal workplace community:

If I could speak all the languages of earth, but did not value others, I would only be background noise in the office or an annoying ringtone.

If I had the ability to read into the future, and knew all there was to know, but did not respect those around me, I would really be a nobody.

If I donated all my salary to charity and even sold off all my possessions and donated my body to science, it would be amazing and newsworthy, but if I did it just to get into the Guinness Book of World Records and didn’t really have regard for the fellow human beings my actions helped, I would come across as arrogant and have gained nothing of real value myself.

True respect for others is patient and kind. When we value others there is no room for jealousy or boasting, pride or rude behavior. Treating others with courtesy allows room for multiple opinions and ways of doing things. Dignity means when others lack skills, we are not irritable, unforgiving, or bitter. Encouragement in the workplace will never result from running others down, but from truthful assessments. Supporting co-workers means we do not give up when someone has a bad day. We believe they are doing the best they can with what they have understood and are willing to try again.

Financial forecasts and the latest software and marketing knowledge are quickly obsolete, but a person’s respect for others is their legacy. We are all human and make mistakes in our journey through life, but we should also be willing to continue learning and growing into better people and help make the world a better place.

Someday, when this chapter of our life is complete, we will look back and see more clearly how what we did was not as important as the attitude we did it with. Then our ordinary little everyday actions will have grown into a legacy that can inspire others. After all, nothing in this world lasts forever – but respect, dignity, and appreciation of others – those create environments and organizations that live on inspiring others long after we have retired!


1 Corinthians 13

Stories of everyday heroes

September 4, 2020

Written by the Plains Edge team

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