5 Conclusions About Volunteers And Accountability

One of the most common concerns of nonprofit leaders, whether CEOs or Board Chairs, is expressed as follows:  How can I ask volunteers to be accountable when they’re not being paid?

My answer?  You have no choice if you want to be an effective leader.

Here’s why:

  • Being a volunteer means you have agreed to provide service to the community within the structure of an organization that is accountable to the community.  If a volunteer is unwilling to work within the organization’s structure of accountability they should look elsewhere to make their mark.
  • If, as a leader of a Board of Directors, you do not hold volunteers accountable you send a very discouraging message to other Board members who are engaged and responsible.
  • If, as a CEO or manager, you do not hold service volunteers accountable you are setting a double standard that may also be operative in other areas of your organization.
  • When you don’t hold volunteers accountable the word will get out and it will be more difficult to attract high quality service volunteers and Board members. Great volunteers often want to be a part of an organization where the performance bar is set high.
  • Lastly, the failure to maintain accountability with volunteers is squandering valuable resources – your time, the efforts of others, and your future. For most time is just as important as money, if not more so.

The discomfort that one feels when there is a double standard for accountability is a good thing.  Without action the discomfort becomes cynicism and the creator of an unnecessary obstacle for you organization’s success.