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April 06, 2006

Renegade Volunteers

Although it's geared more for the philanthropic/charitable organization, there's an excellent article in the current edition of NonProfit Times on 10 Ideas For Creating Meaningful Volunteer Assignments. My favorite is number five:

Volunteers, as citizens of a free society, have the right to be mavericks. The way that genuine social change occurs is that a few pioneering volunteers are willing to be ostracized (even jailed) for their actions. While an agency has the right to refuse a placement to a volunteer, that individual has the right to continue to pursue the cause or issue as a private citizen. In fact, that’s exactly what leads to the founding of new organizations and institutions, changes in the law, and even changes in cultural mores (just consider how MADD transformed attitudes about drinking and driving).

This right to see things differently also raises an ethical consideration in how we develop assignments for volunteers within our agencies. Do we expect to keep volunteers always “under control?”
I have been working with a new volunteer over the past six months where I've been giving up some control. It's very liberating and the results of her volunteering have been great. When there's a high degree of trust and the volunteer shows extraordinary initiative, that seems to be the best scenario for giving up control.

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