When Is it Okay to Refuse a Potential Volunteer?

What’s your worst volunteer horror story?  Well, if it can top the Maryland SPCA’s current situation, then your story must be bad indeed.  From news reports last week, we learn the story of Derrick Chambers and the Maryland SPCA.  Chambers was arrested and charged with four counts of animal cruelty by Baltimore City.  Because of an apparent lack of evidence, the lawyers and judge reached an agreement.  Chambers would serve 50 hours of community service with the SPCA.  The only problem, no one asked the SPCA, and they don’t want him as a volunteer.  Their Executive Director, Aileen Gabbey puts it this way:

“This recommendation wouldn’t be made if the abuse had happened to a child.  Certainly a defendant wouldn’t be ordered to work with children for his rehabilitation. If the court wants rehabilitation, then counseling for violent behavior is appropriate, and it’s safer.”[i]

 Gabbey’s argument makes sense.  If you organization’s mission is to work with a certain population, would you want an accused abuser of that population to volunteer for you?  I assume not.

 What’s the simplest lesson to learn from this?  That’s right; make sure your non-profit has a clear, effective volunteer policy in place.  The Standards for Excellence® code states:

“With respect to volunteers, the organization’s policies and procedures should also address initial assessment or screening, assignment to and training for appropriate work responsibilities, ongoing supervision and evaluation, and opportunities for advancement.”

 Many non-profits depend on volunteers for the continued success of their mission.  If you are going to use volunteers, make sure you go about it in the best way possible.  We wish that everything works out well for our colleagues at the Maryland SPCA.  And we hope that you are prepared to respond, should you find yourself in a similar situation.  Make sure you protect your organization, your staff, and your volunteers.  Make sure you set yourself up for success. 

 Want some help implenting this advice?  The Standards for Excellence Institute offers educational resource packages that will help you set up goverance, ethics, and accountability policies and practices.  These packets are free and available to Standards for Excellence Institute® members through the members only section of our website. Hard copies are also available upon request. Not a member? Join now!

[i] The Baltimore Sun, September 22, 2010.

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