When and How to Fire a Nonprofit Volunteer

by J.B. Maverick

2 min read

Firing a volunteer at your nonprofit organization is never a pleasant task, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Regardless of the rigorous nature of your screening process, difficult and troublesome volunteers may still make it onto your organization’s team. To protect the safety and stability of your nonprofit, it’s important to know when it’s time to let a volunteer go, and how best to go about the task.

Warning Signs

As part of the volunteer screening process, you should have ample opportunities to interact with volunteers and their supervisors. Throughout the volunteer’s time with your organization, he or she should have some form of accountability to help ensure conduct and job performance are satisfactory. Troublesome volunteers will often quickly make problems evident through their general conduct or interactions with other volunteers, or in how they deal with clients. Record troublesome incidents, and keep regular tabs on volunteers whose names continue to pop up on your radar. Sometimes sitting down and talking with a volunteer is enough. He or she may simply not understand that the behaviour is inappropriate.

Before a Termination

You want written documentation explaining behaviours that are unacceptable and not tolerated. This document should also outline the disciplinary process your nonprofit has established, including the step-by-step process used to address the behaviours. Behaviours noted may include consistently being late, failing to complete assigned tasks, attempting to work on projects or assignments without permission, theft from the organization itself or from anyone else, slander, discriminatory speech or actions, and any form of violence.

The Firing Process

If you determine you must fire a volunteer, wait until you fully prepare written evidence of the reasons for the termination. Conduct the proceedings with a third party in a quiet place away from others. The volunteer should have been given ample opportunities to amend conduct or behaviour before this point unless the behaviour is severe enough to warrant an immediate dismissal, such as a case of theft.When you bring the volunteer in, get straight to the point. Tell the person he or she is being fired, list the reasons, and provide the written evidence and any other documentation you collected to prepare for the termination. You want to give the volunteer feedback, but focus the feedback on performance and actions, listing specific incidents when possible. Avoid critiquing or criticizing the individual as a person. If the volunteer being fired has any type of organizational badge, keys, security codes, or any other property that belongs to your nonprofit, make sure to collect all of these items before you allow the volunteer to leave, and have the third party document the entire process from beginning to end. In most cases, it’s a good idea to escort the volunteer from the premises to avoid any problems that might result from the response to being fired.While you have to protect the privacy of the volunteer, it is smart to let the rest of your team know that a volunteer was let go for behaviour that did not match your nonprofit’s rules and policies.When you need to fire a troublesome volunteer, following an orderly process can make this difficult task a little easier.

References & Resources

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