Philosophy

Materials dealing with the underlying principles of volunteerism, including attitudes about the value of volunteer service, often raising issues that deserve consideration and debate.

Advocacy for Volunteer Involvement: The Role of Funders, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2001
America's Voluntary Spirit, Brian O'Connell, 1998
AmeriCorps and Senior Corps Targeting Volunteer Management, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2010
Assigning an Economic Value to Volunteering, Volunteer Canada, 2010

Well-articulated position statement on the issue of calculating the monetary value of volunteer contributions.

Best Way to Donate? Do Your Research, Holden Karnofsky, 2008
Interview in which the founder of GiveWell.net questions volunteering -- and the responses from the public
Both Receiving and Giving, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2010
Canadians Are too Busy to Volunteer, Carol Neuman, Vantage Point blog, 2016

Commentary on how to interpret the statistics shown by the latest "state of volunteering in Canada" report.

The Choice of the Citizen: Pay Taxes, Do Without, or Volunteer, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2011
Citizenship, Barbara A. Lewis, What Do You Stand For?, Free Spirit Press, 1997
Common Sense and Volunteer Involvement, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2012
Confidentiality and Other Objections to Volunteers, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2009
Corporate Citizenship: A Tax in Disguise?, Richard Teather, 2003
Challenging the philosophy behind the practice.
Creating a Statement of Philosophy on Volunteer Engagement, Betty B. Stallings with Susan J. Ellis, Energize Inc., 2010
Days, Hours and Minutes of Service - Enough Is Enough, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2009
Differentiating between Volunteering and Working for Pay, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2010
Encouraging Entrepreneurial Volunteering, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2006
The Engagement Pyramid: Six Levels of Connecting People and Social Change, Gideon Rosenblatt, Idealware, 2010

What does it mean to "engage people"? Rosenblatt offers a new assessment of engagement levels.

Enough Formal Banquets! Let's Transform Recognition Events, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2000
Faith-Based Initiatives: What Might This Mean?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2001
From Organizing Charity to Building Community, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2008
Give Volunteers a Voice, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1998
Government, Politicians, and the Use of the Word "Volunteer", Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2004
The Holiday Season: Going Beyond "Feel-Good" Volunteering, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1997
How Will the Economic Crisis Affect Volunteering?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2008
Identifying Who Is and Is Not a “Volunteer”, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2014
If the Whole World is Changing, Can Volunteerism Stay the Same?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1999
I'll Never Understand Why Executives Still Don't Understand, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2011
The Implications of History, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2006
Is For-Profit the Future of Non-Profit?, Amy Schiller, The Atlantic, 2014

"The troubling allure of turning philanthropy into consumer activity."

Is Volunteering the Emperor's New Clothes?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2012
Lessening Social Exclusion through Volunteering, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1999
Let's All Resolve..., Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1998
Let's Commit to International Exchange, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1998
Limiting Volunteers through Insurance Requirements, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2010
The Limits of the "V" Word, Sarah Jane Rehnborg, Energize Hot Topic, 1998
Making an Impact When You Spend Money, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2003
The Missing Link: Where are Volunteers at the National Level?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2002
Mixed Messages to Volunteers Whom We’ve Asked to Be Friendly, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2015
Mixed Messages: What Do We Really Think about Young Volunteers?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2000
The Money Factor in Volunteer Management, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1999
Money is No Object, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2001
The Moral Obligation of Volunteer Recruitment Promises, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2007
Moving on from 2001, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2002
The Need for Specialized Principles, Ivan H. Scheier, Energize, Inc, 1992
Not 'Just' a VPM, Andy Fryar, pp. 28-29, Energize, Inc., 2003
On Being a Dream-Catcher, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2000
Once in a Millennium Opportunity, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1999
Philanthropy, Civic Engagement, and the Lessons of Volunteering, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1999
The Power of Difference, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2008
Practicing What We Preach: Volunteers Helping Us, Too, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2012
The Presidents' Summit One Year Later, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1998
Professional Ethics in Volunteer Administration
oiginally developed by the former Association for Volunteer Administration and kept current by the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration http://cvacert.org/
A Proposal for Five Additional Goals after the Summit, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1997
A Proposal for IYV2001: The Look Back to Look Ahead Project, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2000
Purity and Reality: For-Profit Consulting in Volunteerism, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2001
Raising Money through Volunteer Labor, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2003
Real Professions Have Strong Associations, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2011
Redirecting Corporate Volunteering, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1997
Replace Current Volunteers or Redirect New Ones?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2015
Rethinking Volunteer Engagement, Volunteer Canada, 2001
Revisiting the Seven Deadly Sins of Directing Volunteers, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2013
The Self-Directed Volunteer, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2010
Servi-Tourism, Ann Hulbert, Slate
Short Attention Spans versus Long-term Causes, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2011
Should Board Members Be Paid?, Mark Athitakis, Associations Now, 2014

Includes links to similar articles at end.

Should We Cap the Number of Hours a Volunteer May Serve Each Week?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2013
So, What Do You Do?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2008
Stop Volunteers from Being Their Own Worst Enemies, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2013
Tackling Causes Not Symptoms: New/Old Roles for Volunteers, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2001
Taking the Client's Perspective in Designing Volunteer Roles, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2009
Universal Standards vs. Your Own Situation, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2003
The Volunteer Generation Gap, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2000
Volunteering and Charitable Giving, Carolyn M. Appleton, 2013

Thoughtful discussion comparing money and time donors -- with a long list of related online.article links.

Volunteering in For-Profit Settings: Exploitation or Value Added?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2000
Volunteering Is Inherently Political, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2012
Volunteering: Noble Gesture or the Logic of Necessity?
detailed book review of Volunteers and Volunteering, highlighting key issues in Australia and elsewhere
Volunteering: The Human Face of Democracy, Jennifer Wilkinson and Michael Bittma, 2002
A Volunteerism Perspective on the Days after the 11th of September, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2001
Volunteers as the "Third Branch" of an Organization, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1997
War and Volunteers: History Repeats Itself, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2003
What Does Love Look Like Politically?, Bob Seidel, 2003
Excellent, provocative article examining social justice and controversies in service-learning and other places where "diversity" is a focus.
When a Volunteer Transforms into an Employee, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2001
When the Ax Falls: Budget Cutting and Volunteers, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2009
When Things Look Dark, Volunteers Can Spark Lightning, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2016
When Volunteers Resist Change, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2010
Which would most benefit your organisation...
Directory of Social Change (UK), February 2011 "Quick Survey Analysis" on the question: Which would most benefit your organisation, a 10,000 cash donation or an equivalent value in volunteers (or volunteer hours)?-- 91% chose the cash.

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By Bea Boccalandro, published by the Centrum for Corporate Citizenship Deutschland. Proposes that there is a different between ordinary "volunteering" and "strategic engagement" by corporations. , 2010, pp. 21

Guide from Volunteer Canada on how to consult stakeholders in the development, design, delivery or review of services and programs.

, pp. 37

Prof Anne-Marie Greene and Dr Jenna Ward of DeMontfort University (Leicester, UK) were commissioned to provide the National Trust with a detailed, evidenced-based understanding of: (1) what it means to manage volunteers in the National Trust (2) the nature of similarities or differences between the management of volunteers and paid staff (3) the implications of these similarities or differences for policy, resourcing and strategic planning around volunteer management within the National Trust. This report is based on empirical evidence from in-depth qualitative case studies carried out at two National Trust properties between 2013 and 2015. 

The researchers concluded that, "in practice, the management of volunteers within the National Trust is, and should be, significantly different to the management of paid staff. These differences can be classified around five broad, yet interconnected, themes: Performance Management, Communication, Task Differentiation, Trust and Fear vs Autonomy and Creativity, Emotional Labour."

 

, 2016, pp. 44
A Guide to Implementing Neighboring and Its Asset-Based Community Development Principles, from Points of Light., 2011, pp. 159
Allison Fine for the Case Foundation. Social Citizens BETA addresses the unique characteristics of Millennials, who have grown up in a digital era, and "are equipped with innovative tools and ideas for bringing about change. This is a paper intended to start a "larger conversation with these 'social citizens, to share new ideas and "challenge perceptions about their approaches to being engaged." , 2013, pp. 65

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the United Nations-declared "International Year of Volunteers," United Nations Volunteers (UNV) conducted an extensive research project to produce this unique overview of volunteering in 80 countries around the world. Sub-titled "Universal Values for Global Well-being," the report examines the important contributions of volunteers in diverse fields such as sustainable livelihoods, social inclusion, social cohesion and disaster risk reduction. By suggesting how volunteerism can be taken forward, the SWVR also provides an alternative vision of a better society.

Download chapter by chapter or the entire document.

, 2011, pp. 148

Produced by United Nations Volunteers, this new edition of their SWVR focuses on "Transforming Governance" through volunteer power, particularly in the developing world.  Important reading. Can be read online or downloaded as a PDF.

, 2015, pp. 132

By Nora L. Silver, based on work done by The Volunteerism Project on volunteering by diverse ethnic/cultural groups. Seven focus groups provided the basis for the book:

  • A Chorus of Voices, African American focus group facilitated by Vicki Clark in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Self-Determination: Messages for Our Native Youth, two American Indian focus groups conducted by Kouslaa Kessler-Mata in Oakland and San Francisco, California
  • Uno Recibe lo que Uno Da: You Get What You Give, Central American focus group conducted in Spanish, facilitated by Coco Mendoza and translated by Gary Wheelock in San Francisco, California
  • Extending the Family, Chinese American focus group conducted by Mae Chao in San Francisco, California
  • Giving Generously, Japanese American focus group conducted by Mami Ishikawa in Berkeley, California
  • Three Continents, Four States, Ten Cities, Korean American focus group facilitated by Debbie Ng in Oakland, California
  • La Gran Familia, Mexican American focus group facilitated by Ramon del Castillo, with simultaneous translation by Patsy Roybal in Denver, Colorado
, 2011, pp. 131

By Natasha Menon, Amanda Moore and Michael Sherraden, published by Center for Social Development/Global Service Institute.

, 2002, pp. 15

When newspapers in England reported of serious breaches of trust between volunteers and their organisations in 2009, Volunteering England was prompted to set up the Volunteer Rights Inquiry to begin to understand the nature and scope of the problems experienced by volunteers and identify suitable remedies. This Interim Report goes into detail about the findings of the intensive set of hearings held.  In 2014, a Final report of the Call to Action Progress Group following the Volunteer Rights Inquiry was produced by NCVO.

, 2010, pp. 32
Charity Village: Corporate Volunteerism

Series of articles from Charity Village on many aspects of engaging businesses in volunteering.

Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society

London-based independent research institute devoted to deepening public understanding of the legal, institutional and moral framework that makes a free and democratic society possible.

Codes of Ethics

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has compiled this list of online resources for creating codes of ethics.

Giving and Volunteering in the Americas

From the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, this complete online journal issue contains more than 30 articles by various authors on some aspect of philanthropy, volunteering, corporate social responsibility, and more in Central and South American countries (particularly Brazil, Peru, and Mexico).

Helping the Poor: Friendly visiting, dole charities and dole queues

155-page PDF by Robert Whelan for Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society, London, 2001, examining the roots of organized charity in England from the "volunteer person of leisure" to paid social workers.

Jayne Cravens Blog

One of the field's first blogs run by Jayne Cravens, expert in online volunteering, that offers great information and insight on volunteerism as well as nonprofit, development, and women's issues.

Management4Volunteers Blog

By Sue Hine in New Zealand, with the tag line: "Great volunteer programmes do not fall out of the sky: it is good management practice that makes them even better."

PACE - Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement

A learning community, not a funding community, of grantmakers and donors committed to strengthening democracy by using the power, influence and resources of philanthropy to open pathways to civic, democratic and community participation. PACE does not make grants or serve as a conduit for those seeking grants from PACE members.

Project Volunteer.cz

The English-language site of the volunteer resource center in the Czech Republic on which there are several provocative articles about the meaning of volunteering in socialist and formerly-communist countries.

Rob Jackson Consulting, Ltd. Blog

Read the informed musings of UK colleague Rob Jackson on volunteer management and trends in the field.

Schools of Citizenship: Charity and Civic Virtue

70-page PDF by Frank Prochaska for Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society, London, 2002, thoughtfully examining the history of voluntary collective action in Britain versus the rise of the welfare state.

The Serious Leisure Perspective

Canadian academic William A. Stebbins has devoted his career to studying the connection of leisure to work and volunteering,as well as professional to amateur. The site offers a wealth of materials, including a Digital Library of many articles.

Speaking out on Volunteer Management! (blog)

Colleague DJ Cronin in Australia challenges the volunteer management community to get engaged in debate to strengthen the profession.

Value Volunteer Management

Initiative of Volunteering England to advocate for the importance of "investing in volunteering."

Print and e-Books in Our Store

Book cover for 12 Key Actions
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Free report on what real-life "Volunteer Program Champion" CEOs think, feel, and do to successfullly support volunteer involvement in their organizations.

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This book offers leaders a new road map for transforming their organizations with talent, not money, by meaningfully engaging and integrating volunteers as knowledge philanthropists.

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Revised in 2005, this book remains the only presentation of the full scope and depth of volunteer activity throughout three centuries of American history.

Exploring Volunteer Space cover

A philosophic-yet-practical exploration of the universe of volunteering, attempting to describe, define, and explain how and where volunteering occurs.

Book cover for From the Top Down

Outlines the key executive decisions necessary to lay the foundation for successful volunteer involvement: policies, budgeting, staffing, employee-volunteer relationships, legal issues, cost and value of volunteers, and more.

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Workbook of checklists, worksheets, idea stimulators, and other practical tools for senior-level leaders to incorporate volunteer involvement as a key ingredient in the overall strategy of an organization.

Making Dreams Come True

Inspiration for leaders of volunteers who act at "dream-catchers" every day.  Examine how to keep dreams alive, form dream-nurturing environments, and support volunteers' dreams to reality.

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Sprinkled with true stories of innovative volunteer engagement, best-practice tips, and perspectives from agency leaders and volunteers, this book will change how you think about engaging highly-skilled volunteers.

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Warmly provides practical tips for adults to share the gifts of generosity, selflessness, and compassion with children of all ages and get past the gimme-gimme mind-set.

Rants and Raves Anthology

Best-selling authors in the volunteer field to share what's on their minds about "hot button" issues.

Share of Mind, Share of Heart

A compact guide providing insight into nonprofit marketing and practical tools for engaging volunteers and paid staff in shaping the organization's image and brand.

Strategic Volunteer Engagement

Based on a research study of executive directors, this report makes a strong case for investing in volunteer effectiveness and introduces a new a Volunteer Involvement FrameworkTM with which to plan future volunteer engagement.

Visionary Leadership in Volunteer Programs

A collection of favorite and most-requested presentations from Marlene Wilson, volunteer management pioneer and leader in the field.

Volunteer Engagement 2.0 book cover
New

35 experts in volunteerism explore innovative volunteer engagement approaches that are reshaping nonprofits and their communities, and share how you can put these insights into action in your own organization. 

Volunteer Program Management: Essential Guide

Truly an essential guide, the book is filled with solid information for both starting and strengthening a volunteer program in any setting.

Volunteering and the Test of Time

Drawing together a selection of articles, this book illuminates the ways that the political and social context in which volunteering operates has changed from the 1990s to the present.

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Challenges conventional wisdom about boards, fundraising, and membership development when applied to grassroots volunteer efforts. Includes great group interaction exercises.

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Stories and strategies of youth-adult partnerships that succeed, with over 20 reproducible tools to help you engage youth participants to the greatest effect in your organization.

Packed with practical information, stories, tools and resources, this guide provides support and advice for making organizations more socially inclusive and including individuals with mental health problems as volunteers.

Youth Board Involvement and the Law

An analysis of the key legal issues arising when involving young people under the age of 18 on a board of directors, with strategies to maximize youth involvement whatever your state's laws.

Revisiting Fundamental Values
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Identifying the values about volunteering held in your organization is a worthwhile exercise. It uncovers what executives, frontline employees, and volunteers themselves think about why volunteers are involved at all. It points the way for creating meaningful volunteer assignments and provides a framework for working together. It also reminds us that volunteering is bigger than our one setting or even this one point in time. Start the conversation!


Here are some statements of my own philosophy. Do you believe in these, too? What else do you feel is fundamental to understanding volunteer involvement?


1. Participation by citizens is vital to making democratic communities work.


Participatory democracy is based on the value that it is a good thing for citizens to participate in running their communities and in making sure that things happen the way they want. This is the heart of volunteerism and is why, in a free society, volunteering is a right, not a privilege. (This is not to be confused with the parallel right of any agency or individual to refuse the services of a prospective volunteer.)


Volunteering generates a sense of ownership. People who get involved feel connected to others and affected by the outcome of their "sweat equity." It's the complete opposite of the attitude "that doesn't concern me."


2. Volunteers are more than free labor and fill a role that's different from employees.


First, volunteers are not "free." There are costs to an agency for their support and tools, as well as out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the individuals donating time.


Most important, when placed in the right positions, volunteers bring a value-added component that actually changes or is lost when a paid employee does the same work. The point is not that volunteers are better than employees. It's that sometimes their status as volunteers can provide a useful difference. Therefore, volunteers are vital to an organization and would be an asset even if there were all the money in the world to pay more staff.


3. Equal respect is due to work that is volunteered and work that is paid.


The value of any work should be determined by its intrinsic quality and impact. Work done by employees does not automatically have a higher value than that done by volunteers (and is also not of lesser value). The contributions of paid and volunteer workers are compatible, collaborative, and integrated.


Even more important, the skills and dedication of the person doing the work are not determined by the presence or absence of a paycheck. There are extraordinary volunteers and extraordinary employees. The potential for excellence always exists.


4. Volunteer involvement is a balance of three sets of rights: those of the client/recipient; those of the volunteer; and those of the agency.


Despite wrangling over employee and volunteer points of view, each situation defines which perspective takes precedence. In most cases, the bottom line should be what is best for the recipient of service. But there are also agency and other long-term considerations. The key is not to presuppose that one perspective always outweighs the others.


5. Volunteers, as citizens of a free society, have the right to be mavericks.


The way that genuine social change occurs is that a few pioneering volunteers are willing to be ostracized (even jailed) for their actions. While an agency has the right to refuse a placement to a volunteer, that individual has the right to continue to pursue the cause or issue as a private citizen.


This right to see things differently also raises an ethical consideration in how we develop assignments for volunteers within our organizations. Do we expect to keep volunteers always "under control"?


6. Volunteering is a neutral act - a strategy for getting things done.


Volunteering is not inherently on the side of the angels, nor is it an end unto itself. It is a means to accomplishing a goal and is done by people on both sides of an issue: Republicans AND Democrats, pro-choice AND anti-abortion advocates, etc. Volunteering is a method that allows people to stand up for their beliefs. Which is why, paradoxically, it is also always a political act - see the current Hot Topic for more on this point.


7. The best volunteering is an exchange in which the giver and the recipient both benefit.


Volunteering should not be confused with charity or noblesse oblige - those who have so much, give to those who have so little. Because volunteering puts the time donor directly into the service delivered, the impact of the activity reverberates back to the volunteer in ways much more complex than writing a donation check. Further, when volunteers also benefit from their service, they have even more motivation to do a good job, which means better service to the recipient, and an upward spiral of reinforcement.


8. Volunteering empowers the people who do it.


Volunteering empowers volunteers, both personally and politically. On the personal level, volunteering contributes to individual growth, self-esteem, sense of control, and ability to make a contribution to society. At the community level, the collective action of volunteers who share a commitment to a cause is extremely powerful - real clout for real change.


9. Volunteering is an equalizer.


When people volunteer, it is often more important who they are as human beings than what they are on their resumes. In a volunteer role, people can rise to the level of their abilities regardless of their formal qualifications: teenagers can do adult-level work, those with life experience can contribute to client service without a master's degree, etc. Similarly, when running in a fundraising marathon, the corporate CEO and the school custodian are indistinguishable, as are all members of a nonprofit board of directors who share the legal and fiduciary responsibilities of this position whether they are employed in professional capacities or represent grassroots perspectives.


10. Volunteering is inherently optimistic and future-oriented.


No one gives time to a cause they feel will fail. In fact, the whole rationale for volunteering is to assure the success of a cause. So, while people may take a paying job that is relatively meaningless if the salary is enticing, the reward for volunteered service is accomplishment. This also means that people volunteer with a vision of the future, often in hopes of a better future in which a problem or disease will be conquered, communities will be safe and inclusive, and the world will be in harmony. This may sound terribly mushy (which may be why such a value is not expressed every day), but it is ultimately true.

Law Enforcement Settings

Supervision Involves Trust
Submitted by Barbara Lightheart, Travis County Jail , Texas, USA

Supervision involves trust. About a quarter of the 380 volunteers here are Twelve-Step volunteers, who lead AA, Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous meetings to supplement our in-house drug and alcohol treatment program. We know these Twelve-Step programs are vitally important to our inmates so we do what to some volunteer coordinators and direct supervisors may seem very unorthodox: we let these volunteers replenish their own numbers by recruiting others. I do not recruit, interview or screen them because we understand the anonymous nature of their work and we trust these volunteers to do their work effectively and successfully. They do.

Last Updated: December 7, 2016