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Be Directive

By Linda Graff
From Well-Centred, Volunteer Canada, 1998

Policies should clearly tell people what is expected. While one would hope for complete compliance with all policies, it is obvious that compliance with some policies is much more important than compliance with others. It is appropriate, therefore, that some policies be more strongly worded and more authoritative than others. For example, there are some policies for which the imperative mood - a command - is entirely proper:

Volunteer Centre personnel will never divulge information about individual or organizational clients except when necessary and appropriate in the context of service delivery, and even then, never without ensuring that the required 'Release of Information' form has been completed. Under no circumstance will volunteer centre personnel represent, or act as a spokes- person for, the Centre to the media, unless specifically authorized to do so by the Board of Directors.

In all cases, remember that policies are policies. They must be directive and they must articulate, as Cryderman says, the what.

Emphasize The Positives
Not to diminish the importance of the three preceding principles, it is recommended that policies be empowering and enabling wherever possible. That is, wherever possible, policies should motivate and inspire. They should articulate outside limits, leaving as much room within them for flexibility and creativity. The presence of supportive and enabling policies can provide the encouragement and recognition that people need to maximize their potential. Policies can demonstrate just how important the work is, and the very real consequence of error when standards are not attained or guidelines are not followed.

Here are some illustrations:

On conflict of interest
Any person who has a conflict of interest with the work or business of the Volunteer Centre will be asked to immediately suspend their position (s) with the Centre until such time as the conflict can be investigated and resolved.

An alternate might read something like this:
Volunteers are very busy people who often have many connections in the charitable community, and who sometimes volunteer for more than one organization at the same time. It is, therefore, not unusual for volunteers to find themselves in a conflict of interest situation, regardless of whether they do administrative (board or committee) or direct service volunteering. Any volunteer who suspects that be or she may have a conflict of interest must notify his/her immediate supervisor to determine what the next steps should be. A copy of the centre's conflict of interest procedure is available from ...

On turning volunteers away
The volunteer centre reserves the right to refuse to refer any prospective volunteer who is deemed to be 'not ready to volunteer,' or who, in the opinion of Centre personnel, may pose an unacceptable risk as a volunteer to placement agency or its staff, volunteers, or clients.

Versus:
From time to time, the volunteer centre may be unable to refer a prospective volunteer to a placement in the community. Every care must be taken, in turning such applicants away, to respect the applicant's sense of self-confidence and dignity. In the process, emphasis must remain on the absence of a match between the gifts that the volunteer has to offer and what volunteer positions and placement agencies require at the present time. Wherever possible, volunteer centre personnel will recommend what the individual might pursue in preparation for possible future involvement in volunteering. (See also, the Anti-discrimination Policy (sample policies 44 and 91), outlined on pages 63 and 93 respectively.)

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