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Bringing Ethical Values to Life as a Volunteer Manager

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As leaders of volunteers, we encounter ethical questions regularly. The Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration (CCVA), which administers the Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA) certification, strives to inspire and empower us to apply an ethical lens to our work. The core values of Citizenship, Respect, Accountability, Fairness and Trust align with AL!VE’s Professional Standards and VMPC’s Code of Ethics to frame the vital efforts of volunteer managers in making ethical decisions. Let’s explore each of these values and how they can help us do our work effectively!


Leaders of volunteers know that volunteering is essential to the impact our organizations make. The value of citizenship aligns this impact with the integral role of volunteerism in civil society – and the social responsibility we all have for ourselves and each other.

Bringing Citizenship to Life: Sometimes, our colleagues can have different perspectives of volunteerism. This could lead to people asking volunteers to do something that would cross a boundary or would be inappropriate. It’s the role of the volunteer manager to define the expectations of what volunteers can and can’t do and set an example for a caring and compassionate culture of volunteers.


Anyone who wants to volunteer brings skill, abilities, passion and value to each organization. The value of respect acknowledges the mutual benefit of volunteering to the individual and to the cause.

Bringing Respect to Life: You may have encountered leaders in your organization questioning the need for volunteers. We know volunteers are essential to making an impact, and their voice must be heard in decision-making. As a leader of volunteers, you can acknowledge the value, experience and energy of your volunteers, while removing barriers to participation whenever possible.


Leaders of volunteers are responsible for successful volunteer engagement, which succeeds when stakeholders are involved. The value of accountability is all about demonstrating responsibility (and listening) to community members, colleagues, clients/customers and the volunteers themselves.

Bringing Accountability to Life: Volunteerism is constantly changing, and the values of potential and existing volunteers will never be the same from one year to the next. It’s an ethical imperative of leaders of volunteers to keep growing, collaborating and learning to stay ahead of shifting realities. Working together, and being accountable to each other, can only make it easier to keep up.


A culture of volunteering can help inform an effective volunteer engagement strategy. The value of fairness emphasizes the individual and collective efforts toward a just and fair organizational culture.

Bringing Fairness to Life: Leaders of volunteers must maintain impartiality when possible. If a volunteer communicates that they feel they are being treated unfairly, such as other volunteers getting more favourable shifts or responsibilities, this ethical value dictates that you find out all the facts and make the fairest decision for everyone.


Volunteers should be treated with integrity, and they must consider their role with commitment and honesty. The value of trust encourages leaders of volunteers to set the groundwork for lasting, meaningful relationships with volunteers that can maintain this trust.

Bringing Trust to Life: We may feel ethically bound to over-protect ourselves, our organizations and our volunteers, but we also need to trust our people to be effective in their roles. When it comes time to review policies and processes, learn from challenges – and from the volunteers making an impact – to make the right decision.

What’s next?

Not sure how to bring these ethical values to life in your work? Join an ethics webinar hosted by Better Impact this year or check out the ethical decision making guide from the CCVA. Take time to learn and develop your volunteer engagement practice and consider becoming a CVA to join the voice of advocacy for our profession!

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