Episode 24: How can nonprofits navigate the blurry line between staff and volunteer

Have you ever experienced tension between your board of directors and yourself or your staff? I think it’s safe to say that, especially for nonprofit leaders, navigating board relations is one of the tougher parts of the job.

But, it’s not just our relationships with board members that can create this tension. In our relationships with other volunteers who play mission critical roles, we can find that sometimes the boundary between staff and volunteer becomes a bit blurry.

When that happens, tension may result. So, the challenge we’ll be tackling today is: how can nonprofits navigate the blurry line between staff and volunteer?

Here’s what you can expect to take away from this episode…

⦿ An understanding of the origins of the staff-volunteer tension

⦿ What boundary work is and how volunteers use boundary work to navigate the blurry line

⦿ What welcoming work is and how nonprofits can use this to ease the tension between staff and volunteer


⦿ [2:54] So, we went from playing a support role to now leading the effort. Along with this new role came the professionalization of the nonprofit sector.
⦿ [4:58] The tension between staff and volunteer will vary based on what we’re asking volunteers to do. I think we can distinguish volunteers into three categories.
⦿ [7:28] While tension may emerge within any of these three groups of volunteers, it’s more likely to occur with these mission critical volunteers because they are often treated like pseudo-staff.
⦿ [12:53] While boundary passers helped their committees meet the requirements of the national office, they also reinforced volunteerism among the volunteers who did not have the same professional background.
⦿ [16:20] Tension emerged between staff and volunteers mainly in the monitoring and evaluation of the volunteers.
⦿ [19:12] And, both nonprofits inadvertently engage in demarcation work just by the very nature of professionalization of the organizations.
⦿ [20:50] Finally, we need to become aware of how the organization engages in demarcation work and consider whether we can instead engage in welcoming work.  

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⦿ Article: Volunteers as boundary workers: Negotiating tensions between volunteerism and professionalism in nonprofit organizations
⦿ Article: Ambiguity: Exploring the complexity of roles and boundaries when working with volunteers in well woman clinics
⦿ Article: Reconstructing the professional domain: Boundary work of professionals and volunteers in the context of social service reform
⦿ ⦿ Download The SIGNALS Framework FREE e-book

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