Monday, June 30, 2008

Volunteer Rights and Responsibilities

The question also came up at the conference about volunteer rights and responsibilities.

You may hear that "volunteering is a privilege, not a right".

While that is true, it is important to address the rights and responsibilities of volunteers.

For a smaller organization, something as simple as a "Volunteer Rights and Responsibilities" document may be sufficient.

Here is a sample document:

Some jurisdictions incorporate volunteers directly into the regulations and procedures that govern the organization's employees.

The following website out of the Directgov in the United Kingdom, provides some good information, including a sample volunteer agreement.

It is important for the volunteers to:

- understand which policies they are required to follow,
- understand the limitations of their assignment,
- be provided with those policies,
- have access to those policies,
- sign off on those regulations, as being read and understood, and
- have a mechanism to be able to provide feedback and address concerns.

Recently, when working with a university, there was discussion on incorporating the university's ethics policy into the bylaws of the volunteer organization. There was a recommendation that a link to that policy be included in the revision. A staff member mentioned they had difficulty getting the document themselves.

If a volunteer (or employee) cannot easily access the policy, how can a volunteer be required to follow it???

It is important for the person coordinating the volunteers to:

- understand which policies apply to the volunteers,
- remember the people are volunteers and not employees,
- treat volunteers with respect, and
- take some time to listen to the volunteers.

And one thing to also keep in mind is that volunteers should not be treated as "free" employees/"free" labor.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Volunteers and Legislation - International Guidance

At the World Conference on Disaster Management, there were several questions raised in my session about how to incorporate spontaneous and non-affiliated volunteers.

The following materials from the International Federation on Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies provides some good starting material.

Report: Taking volunteers seriously

The volunteering progress report, Taking volunteers seriously is now available. The report is important tool to address future need on volunteering development as well as reporting on the implementation of the Internatonal Federation's Volunteering Policy to date. The report covers the period 1999—2007.

Volunteerism and legislation: A guidance note

Published jointly by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the International Federation, and United Nations Volunteers (UNV), this guidance note on volunteerism and legislation is for use by parliamentarians around the world. The note was prepared following extensive consultations with parliamentarians from all regions, volunteer-involving organizations and Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Blog Readers Around The World

Since the last readership update in January 2008, the number of countries that view has doubled.

We now have readers from approximately 50 countries, over 650 cities around the world, and all 50 states.

Sharing best practices locally and around the world helps us all be better prepared.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto Canada

How will you handle all the different volunteer organizations in your community? Hear how technology used by volunteers can play a major role in planning, communication, response, recovery, and security. Learn techniques you can put to work immediately and also with questions that you probably did not think of.
Presentation available upon request.

Sully District’s Royal Family

Father and daughter honored for volunteering.
By Janet Weinstein, Centre View
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Volunteering at the Fairfax Fair in the summertime’s blazing heat may not sound like an ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but for Andrew Levy and his 5-year old daughter Gabrielle, it’s normal. And, on top of that, they were all smiles.

So, when it was time to make the choice for the annual title of Sully District’s Lord and Lady on June 2, Sully District’s Supervisor Michael Frey and his staff were convinced the pair from Centreville was perfect.

"I first became aware of Gabrielle Levy and her father, Andrew, when talking to the folks at the Fall for Fairfax. Then, I read a cute article in a local newspaper about their work. When I was going through the options for the Lord and Lady title, I knew they were the most deserving not only because of their extensive volunteering hours, but they also sent out a message that you’re never too young to give back to your community," said Frey.

Over 50 hours a year of volunteer service in the community and all-around model citizens are the basic requirements to be eligible for the title.

Andrew Levy, as a father of two — Gabrielle, 5, and Aiden, 3 — with wife, Eva Beth, felt that the immersion of volunteering into his children’s upbringing was key. "Volunteering has been built into our family. We do lots of hours together as a family, like the Fall for Fairfax and the Fairfax Fair," said Levy. "Now, with Gabrielle, it’s become not a case of ‘daddy volunteering,’ but instead, it’s her who is initiating it.

"Not only has Gabrielle been known to initiate her own work, but she has also made it her duty to motivate others. "I’ve been telling all of my friends about volunteering, like lots of people around the neighborhood, "said Gabrielle. An advocate of helping out, she has been active in the community since the age of 2.

SINCE ACQUIRING the crown, Gabrielle and her family have received many emails from children and parents around the area who want to join in helping. "It’s great. Folks from all over the community have been writing us, asking how to get involved. The title has been nothing but a positive impact," said Levy.

Toddler Aiden has also began to dig his roots into volunteering. "Sometimes, when Gabrielle is making cards in the morning at the kitchen table for troops overseas, she will leave her materials there when she goes to school. Then, Aiden will wake up from his nap and come to the table to make his own. " said Levy.

When the title of Sully District’s Lord and Lady were announced, friends and co-workers of Levy at IBM had no idea. "[Levy] didn’t tell me about the honor at first, he was shy about it. Then, when I heard, I was very excited for them. Working with the family at the Fairfax Fair has been great. They are so involved with the community, it’s very impressive," said fellow co-chair of merchandise at the Fairfax Fair, Ginny Biggs.

At the end of the day, the title is more then just a title. As Supervisor Michael Frey said: "Volunteers don’t volunteer for recognition; they do it to make the community a better place to work, live and raise a family. This is mainly a way for the community to take a moment out and say ‘thank you’."


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

National Award for Northern Virginia Volunteers

Northern Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and the Faith Communities in Action Interfaith Emergency Planning Steering Committee were awarded the 2008 National VOAD Award for "Preparedness Non-Profit Partnership."

NoVa VOAD partnered with the committee to strengthen regional emergency preparedness, response and recovery through four programs:

"Ready–Pack–Go:" a congregational initiative to help members build home emergency kits.

Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Faith Leaders Summit: FCIA collaborated with the local health department to organize a Pandemic Flu Summit for 150 faith community leaders.

FCIA Interfaith Emergency Planning Newsletter: The newsletter promotes emergency issue awareness to more than 900 faith communities and provides program development resources.
Building faith-community relationships with emergency service agencies:

The FCIA committee has representatives on the Citizen Corps Council and the Northern Virginia VOAD and invites the regular attendance and active participation of the Emergency Management Office, the Red Cross, Volunteer Fairfax, Department of Family Services and the Department of Health, and other key groups in their programs.

For more information about the award, contact NoVa VOAD Chair Trish Redmond at (703) 577-3123 or The contact for FCIA is Sandy Chisholm,