chapter 43 When No One Is Paid

Thousands of successful nonprofits are run entirely by volunteers. Most service clubs (Rotary, Lions, Ruritan, Shriners, and so on, as well as PTAs, hospital auxiliaries, “friends of” groups, and neighborhood organizations) have no paid staff. In many rural communities, even the fire department consists of all volunteers. Many of these organizations have run effectively for decades. They are designed by volunteers and designed to be run by volunteers. Other organizations may prefer to have paid staff but cannot afford them, so they too run on the energy of volunteers. Finally, there are untold numbers of short-term projects that are run by volunteers from beginning to end. Examples include building a new playground; organizing a demonstration, a conference, or multiblock sidewalk sale; or organizing local political campaigns. If your group or project is an all-volunteer endeavor, here are some pointers to help you function smoothly and effectively.

The goal for any organization, but especially one run entirely on unpaid energy, is an environment in which people do what they say they will do and do not take on any more than they can do. In an all-volunteer organization, the volunteers should think of themselves as unpaid staff. An organization should not tolerate incompetence and lack of follow-through from a volunteer any more than it would from a paid person.

Like staff, volunteers have lives beyond the organization and should be encouraged to ...

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