Ethics in Volunteer Leadership – Hidden in Plain Sight
Tuesday, 15th May 2018 at 8:33 am
The need for volunteer leaders to apply ethical decision-making in the way they design and manage their volunteer program is often taken for granted, write Volunteering Victoria ahead of the Volunteering Victoria National Volunteer Week Forum.
Volunteer managers and leaders with a desire to “walk the talk” in volunteering are often confronted with situations that challenge their personal and professional ethics.
Leaders and managers of volunteers face ethical dilemmas in the workplace every day. Whether it is brought on by the changing not-for-profit environment and outside pressures or internal organisational change. The need for volunteer leaders to apply ethical decision-making in the way they design and manage their volunteer program is often taken for granted, in other words, “hidden in plain sight”. It can also sometimes be a stressful part of the role.
Familiar scenarios where the talk is not followed by the walk include: community leaders saying that “volunteers are the cornerstone of community” then leaving volunteers to their own devices when an emergency happens; organisational leaders saying “volunteers are the lifeblood of our organisation” then offering little recognition of their contribution beyond a morning tea; leaders telling volunteers “we couldn’t do it without you” then continuing strategic and service planning without engaging volunteers in the process.
These situations and many more require volunteer leaders and managers to draw on their personal and professional ethical framework to decide how, when and where to act.
Ethical dilemmas for leaders and managers of volunteers
Some ethical dilemmas as reported to Volunteering Victoria by volunteer managers include:
It’s not about the money, or is it?Either there are no banners, they are disabled or none qualified for this location!
Decreasing government support, increased competition for funding and the need to develop new business models and diversified income streams, puts pressure on NFPs to deliver services that are financially sustainable and even generate their own income. In this situation volunteer managers are often asked to “get more volunteers” to help out. The question about what work should be done by paid and unpaid roles can become a bone of contention within an organisation and present an ethical challenge for VMs.
Update the mission statement or leave well enough alone?
In this scenario long-standing board members of a faith-based organisation were not up to date with changes to the volunteering landscape. The volunteer manager suggested a strategic review pointing out that the organisation’s mission statement was outdated. The board, however, contended that if the mission statement was to be updated, many private donors would stop giving, compromising the financial underpinnings of the organisation. Should the volunteer manager insist about the need for the changes or leave well enough alone?
Inclusive, compassionate care for all
There is increasing interest in having volunteers with lived experience to support clients, taking a “peer to peer” approach to providing services. For example, volunteers with a mental health issue or medical condition supporting clients with the same condition. This may lead to additional support, training, and supervision being needed to properly resource the volunteers. Lack of proper resourcing for the volunteer program in this scenario may lead to it being poorly executed or not executed at all. What is the ethical path for a volunteer manager when there is insufficient or limited support for them to create an inclusive program?
A forum to discuss ethical decision-making
As part of National Volunteer Week, Volunteering Victoria is hosting a half-day forum to discuss the complex topic of ethics in volunteering.
The forum will explore a framework for ethical decision-making, build knowledge on how to engage and influence people, and share approaches for addressing ethical dilemmas common to volunteer managers and leaders.
The keynote speaker, Robert Wood, will present a framework for ethical leadership that includes the values, personal characteristics and levels of skills required to be an ethical leader in today’s contemporary society. During the panel discussion, experienced and diverse speakers will explore the often “hidden in plain sight” ethical dilemmas and aspects of volunteer leadership.
The forum will also call on volunteer leaders and managers to share their experience with ethical decision making and responding effectively to “walking the talk” scenarios.
Ethics in Volunteer Leadership – Hidden in Plain Sight
Thursday 31 May, 2018
10.00am – 1.00pm
Experimedia Room, State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne
Free for members of Volunteering Victoria, $110.00 for non-members
BOOKINGS CLOSE: 24 MAY 2018
A forum to support leadership development of volunteer managers to address the ethical dilemmas they encounter and better prepare them to respond to situations where incongruence and “walking the talk” go seemingly unnoticed.
- Robert Wood, director Cognicity Pty Ltd
- Rowena Doo, National Television Quiz Show Champion
- Chirag Lodhi, founder/director, Positively Transforming World
- Marie Sloan, CEO, Work for the Soul
- Geoff Sharp, board director, Volunteering Victoria
- Robert Wood, director, Cognicity Pty Ltd