When Volunteers Leave

What happens when the relationship between your volunteer and your organisation is no longer working and has to come to an end?

‘Counselling out'

When the relationship between volunteer and organisation breaks down and the decision is made that a volunteer should leave (for whatever reason), your approach should enable that volunteer to see that it is not appropriate for them continue to do voluntary work within your particular organisation anymore.

This is sometimes referred to as ‘counselling out’, although there is some debate as to whether or not 'counselling' (or ‘to help others help themselves’) is the most appropriate word to use.  However it is referred to, the procedure needs to be carried out tactfully and with sensitivity and not be seen simply as a case of ‘getting rid of’ or ‘finishing’ a volunteer.

You group should consider including 'counselling out' procedures within your Volunteer Policy.

Offering alternatives

There could be one or several reasons why a volunteer is deemed unsuitable for a specific role. Yet, given the opportunity, the same volunteer may prove more than adequate at achieving other tasks. Attempts should be made to offer volunteers alternative opportunities.

Further training may be needed, but investing the time and effort will hopefully bring rewards. If no alternative roles can be found, refer the volunteer on – perhaps to another community group or organisation that may be more suitable.

Or suggest that they contact their local Volunteer Centre or Third Sector Interface organisation where there may be a much wider range of opportunities to consider.

Which other issues need to be considered?

Complaints procedures

Ideally as part of your 'Volunteer Policy', volunteers should have access to the organisation's 'Complaints Procedure'.

Personal issues

The person responsible for asking a volunteer to leave should do so in a straightforward but sensitive manner.  The reasons may well be 'clear cut' but a volunteer still needs something positive to take with them.

Sharing information

There may be instances where an organisation obtains information on a person which they feel needs to be shared with others.  For example, there may have been a complaint made against a volunteer by a client.  

If, after investigation, this is substantiated and the volunteer asked to leave, it may be appropriate to share this information with certain other organisations, despite the issues raised regarding confidentiality and prejudice.

This situation may be difficult, and will entail careful consideration, however if it is felt there is a possibility of placing an already vulnerable person at potentially even greater risk, then the reasons for disclosing this information will be justified. This does not, and should not, necessarily mean the volunteer is prevented from doing any further voluntary work. Rather, work undertaken in the future should be concerned with not placing clients (or the volunteer) in an unnecessarily vulnerable/stressful situation.