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3 min read

Exiting Volunteers The Right Way

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Exiting Volunteers The Right Way

Volunteering New Zealand is the New Zealand peak body for volunteers and volunteering. With a wide-ranging membership of national organisations, it connects to a vast range of voluntary organisations that primarily achieve their purpose through a voluntary workforce.

We often hear from volunteers, or volunteer leaders, when there has been a conflict, communication, or relationship breakdown between a volunteer and their organisation.

Volunteer leaders may not have internal policies and procedures or experience to help them navigate complex situations. Volunteers, in turn, may find themselves without a fair and transparent system to rely on.

Additionally, there are limited legislative protections for volunteer workers.

✅ Good Volunteer Practices

To avoid conflicts or mitigate fallout, there are good practices that volunteer-involving organisations should follow. These include:

  • Clear expectations: When a volunteer first signs up, have a volunteer agreement and a code of conduct to clearly establish what is expected.
  • Check-ins: Throughout the volunteer’s involvement, regularly check in with the volunteer and address any issues.
  • Support and training: Offer support, training to address any knowledge gaps, and recognition of the volunteer’s efforts.

📋 Options for Exiting a Volunteer

Volunteers may choose to leave for several reasons, such as retirement, family commitments, or relocation. Understanding why volunteers leave is crucial for succession planning and improving volunteer engagement.

If the organisation needs to exit a volunteer that’s no longer a good fit, consider these options:

  • Reassign: Could you find the volunteer another role or responsibility within your team or another? Could they help train new volunteers?
  • Refer: Can you suggest another team, or another organisation the volunteer could apply to?
  • Retire: Is the volunteer role no longer needed, or are they no longer able to perform their role? It’s time to discuss retirement with them.
  • Release: Allow the volunteer to leave the organisation with dignity. Could they set their own departure date? Help decide how they wish to be acknowledged?

When asking a volunteer to leave, ensure you have solid HR processes in place. This includes documentation, a meeting to discuss the situation, allowing the volunteer to comment, and a good process for the handover of knowledge and return of equipment.

😀 Making an Exit Meaningful

A meaningful exit is important for several reasons:

  • Reputation: Maintains a positive image of the organisation.
  • Recognition: Acknowledges the volunteer’s contributions.
  • Future Opportunities: Keeps the door open for the volunteer to return as a volunteer, donor, or advocate.

To ensure a positive exit:

  • Ask their preferences: Find out how they would like to exit.
  • Celebrate achievements: Acknowledge their contributions and successes.
  • Provide a gift or memento: Offer a token of appreciation.
  • Gather feedback: Conduct an exit interview to learn from their experience.
  • Stay connected: Keep them informed with newsletters, emails, and invitations to social events.

🗺️ Manage the journey

Exiting is a stage in the volunteer lifecycle. Manage the whole journey of the volunteer well from the start, and when volunteers leave - whether by their own choice or yours - it will be much easier.

Volunteering New Zealand has a new tool, the Volunteer Best Practice Guidelines, with seven practice areas to guide volunteer managers. It can also be used by volunteers to ensure they have a good volunteer experience.

Volunteer Best Practices Guide