Animal welfare agencies, as well as other branches of the criminal justice profession, can all attest to the challenges when it comes to resource allocation, especially manpower. Because of this, volunteers are valuable resources that supply the extra helping hand needed to be able to ensure the day-to-day operations run smoothly. However, volunteers aren’t always the solutions that we’re looking for and sometimes can be the source of problems. What to do in such instances? Lori Todd unpacks on this course how she manages difficult volunteers through conversations, not confrontation.
Lori Todd is the Volunteer And Event Supervisor for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Control. She originally intended a career in accounting and human resources but inadvertently discovered her passion in a part-time job and started a new career in animal control.
Points Lori discussed on this webinar include:
- The value of counseling, also known as conversations before confrontations, when working with volunteers.
- Factors and instances that will make your organization lose volunteers.
- The five-step conversations before confrontations process to prevent and fix problematic volunteer situations.
- Orientation: When it should be done, what should be provided, and how to manage the volunteers’ expectations about their responsibilities.
- Providing friendly reminders to look out after new volunteers and remind them of safety precautions, and other critical details.
- Verbal meetings held if friendly reminders do not work, the importance of a simple documentation, and details to include when documenting the counseling session.
- Serving written documentation if issues remain even after providing reminders and verbal notice, and guidelines on what to include in the document.
- Termination as the last resort if they still haven’t followed expectations after all previous steps to mitigate the potential for liability in your organization.
- Why you will never have to resort to termination if you do the previous steps properly and layout the policies and procedures of your agency accordingly.
- The typical qualities of volunteers who will step up and want to assist within your organizations.
- How to best manage the straightforward, no-fuss volunteers who don’t require as much supervision by remembering them and recognizing their contributions.
- Things that the organization is expected to provide the volunteers with – training and counseling, a list of expectations and a volunteer handbook, and an acknowledgment process to ensure that they understand the rules and regulations.
- Samples of crazy volunteer stories that the webinar participants have experienced first-hand.
- The importance of proactive communication to relay important messages to volunteers as well as having difficult conversations to fix ongoing issues and not allow them to escalate further.
- The different communication methods and messaging services agencies can utilize.
- The value of persistence when working with volunteers and techniques on how to answer the same questions that tend to be raised repeatedly.
- Demonstrating responsiveness to volunteers who may need attention, constant reassurance, or maybe even create challenges and finding good in these volunteers.
- Addressing volunteers’ areas for improvement, keeping them accountable for their actions, and conducting investigations when necessary.
- The importance of hearing the volunteer’s side if issues arise and explaining policies and protocols that may have been breached to be able to address the problem holistically.
- Conducting the last resort – termination – firmly and professionally and helpful sample verbiage for such.
- Your obligation to do what’s best for the organization and not allow the actions of a few volunteers to influence other volunteers and muddle the organization’s mission.
- Utilizing documentation forms and templates to make the counseling process swift and not take away time from the core of your work.
Points raised during the Q&A are about:
- The frequency and agenda of volunteer forums.
- Managing volunteers who are defensive and take constructive criticism as confrontation.
- Tools and applications to streamline communications within the workplace including those with volunteers.
- Handling volunteers who feel like they have authority and seniority over staff members who are younger and newer.
- The best time to provide volunteer guidelines and the handbook and have them sign it.
- The framework of the volunteer orientation.
- Whether the volunteer handbook is different from the regular employee handbook.
- Resistance from volunteers when verbal and written warnings are being served.
- Dealing with entitled volunteers.
Resources and Handouts
- Handout: R Wright Report (Sample)
- Handout: New Volunteer Information
- Handout: Dog Observation Forms
- Handout: Dog Mentoring Checklist
- Handout: Documentation of Counselling (Volunteers) Signature Page
- Handout: Documentation of Counselling (other) Signature Page
- Handout: Corrective Action Form
- Handout: Corrective Action Form (sample completion)
- Handout: Volunteer Resources Statement of Eligibility
- Resource Mentioned: Trello.com
- “A couple of things that stood out. “Nothing will kill a great employee faster than watching you tolerate a bad one.” AND Conversation before the confrontation. Excellent webinar, the presenter did a wonderful job, she was animated, good voice inflection and great supporting slides, not long wordy ones.” — Donna Lynn
- “The information on the process (one of the first slides) was really helpful to go through. Also info on having volunteers sign agreements.” — Hope
- “Lori Todd did an excellent presentation. She is funny, kind, detailed, and I loved her accent – she speaks slowly and very plainly! Thank you for hosting this seminar.” — Kim
- “It was nice to know we are already taking the correct steps in handling difficult volunteers (also that we are not alone in dealing with entitled volunteers!)” — Kathleen
- “The assurance that I am not alone in dealing with the ebbs and flows of that that is coordinating volunteers. The assurance that I am doing things correctly in the documentation and I am not losing my mind (lol) thinking it is just me!” — Tracy
- “It is just as important to document a volunteer’s behavior/poor choices as it is a paid employee.” — Erin
- “I’m not in animal care but everything that was mentioned works with my department.” — Mercilla
- “I think my biggest takeaway was the “You are not the bad guy” when having conversations with volunteers or in the situation of termination. They have done something at this point to violate a rule, and so you are doing your job as a manager to help them become a better volunteer. It reframed this idea into more of a teaching moment, that if not addressed, leads to termination anyways.” — Brandon
This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.