The Director's Desk


Releasing and Replacing Volunteers

Many times we’ve all heard another member remark “You can’t fire me, I’m a volunteer!”  Yes, it may be true that they are volunteers BUT when a volunteer commits to be a part of the team, they are committing to follow the assignments and guidelines set forth by the team leader. Why? Because the team leader is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the project. This responsibility places the team leader in the position of being 'the boss'. 

There are times when it becomes necessary to release and replace a volunteer.  There can be many reasons for it:

·         The volunteer does something completely contrary to the Rules and Bylaws and refuses to change.

·         The volunteer or a close family member is seriously ill.

·         The volunteer is not productive even after repeated counseling.

·         The volunteer doesn’t get along with the others on the team.

·         The volunteer refuses to follow the leader’s requests. 

Having to ask a volunteer to vacate their position is a sad and heart wrenching action for all parties. Prior to asking the volunteer to vacate, the leader should review:

·         Has the volunteer been given a clear understanding of the job and their authority limits?

·         Has the volunteer received ample counseling regarding performance?

·         Was the counseling honest and direct?

·         Will additional counseling improve the situation?

·         What are the ramifications if the volunteer is replaced? 

When you have no choice except to release the volunteer, schedule a meeting:

·         Meet personally one-on-one; meet at a private location, not in front of their peers.

·         Come to the meeting with a prepared letter removing them from their position but don’t display it until after your discussions.

·         Tell them your position and why. Discuss things calmly.

·         Let them speak about how they feel and listen closely to what they have to say; expect them to be hurt and upset. 

·         Many times after a brief discussion, the volunteer will decide they want to resign rather than continue under the circumstances.  If so, accept the resignation and ask them to follow up in writing.

·         If the person gives no sign they’ll resign on their own, advise them you’d like them to vacate and ask them to voluntarily resign.

·         If the volunteer refuses to resign, present them with the prepared letter.

·         Make sure the volunteer realizes this action is not personal; that you are doing it in the best interest of the group.


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