The Nonprofit FAQ: Volunteer Programs

Select an FAQ   (59):

Do people volunteer more during the winter holidays?
Researchers and managers report their experience and evidence
How can we avoid volunteer-staff conflicts?
Points to a rich resource on working with volunteers.
What is National Volunteer Week?
Background on this annual event
What's a good program development strategy?
Here's is a suggested outline, along with several guidelines.
Where should we place our volunteer ads?
A collection of ideas
Are 'stipends' wages?
Yes. Reports must be filed on the money people are paid for work and taxes may be due, however small the payments and no matter how they are calculated.
Are volunteer job descriptions necessary?
Before volunteering, be sure you understand what's expected of you in the job
Aren't telemarketing volunteers or canvassers a special breed?
An effective telemarketing volunteer can be anyone who supports your organization and has its best interests at heart. 'Canvassers' are paid to do telemarketing.
Can a member claim a 'refund' for contributions?
When members leave a program, may they claim a 'refund' for part or all of donations they have previously made?
Can attorneys serve on boards?
Of course they can. But there are things to think about that don't apply to board members in other professions.
Can employees of a nonprofit also volunteer their time?
This is a very tricky problem, subject to complex rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act and many state laws. Great caution is advised.
Can volunteers and board members deduct out-of-pocket expenses?
In general, yes. Volunteers for charitable organizations can deduct unreimbursed expenses.
Can we recruit volunteers via the Internet?
There are increasingly sophisticated websites available to help
Can you get a tax deduction for a gift to 'your own' nonprofit?
When you work for a nonprofit -- either for pay or as a volunteer -- you can make the same sort of gifts anyone else could make.
Compare and contrast volunteering and service learning
A university career center's explanation
Considerations in setting up an all-volunteer program?
Assess the depth of commitment to this approach before starting in
Do I need a lawyer to form a nonprofit? How much should it cost?
Some people can do it on their own. Others find a lawyer very useful. There are legal referral services which sometimes can help locate low-cost or even free assistance.
Do volunteers own the copyright when they contribute creative works?
US law specifies that the creator owns the copyright unless specific agreements are in place.
Do we need to report volunteer time to the IRS on Form 990?
New information about volunteers is required in the new Form 990, to be used by many nonprofits in 2009 and beyond.
FAQs about 'Virtual' Volunteering
Summary: Virtual volunteering, also known as online volunteering, cyber service, online mentoring, telementoring, and various other names, offers a number of benefits to both volunteers and the organizations who involve them.
Good interview questions when hiring a volunteer coordinator
Thoughts about how to give candidates a chance to show their strengths.
How can staff use email for board and committee relations
Incorporating email into in-house communications strategies has many advantages, a veteran fundraiser wrote in this 'FAQ classic.' Caution is needed about using email for board business.
How can we be sure training is meeting volunteers' needs?
Ask the volunteers themselves
How do volunteers use blogs?
For that matter, what is a blog? Volunteers (and anyone else) can use these personal websites to report experiences, opinions, and interesting finds. For better or worse.
How do we advertise our volunteer opportunities?
Suggested texts for strong recruiting ads
How do we develop effective training for our volunteers?
Learn about working with adult learners
How do we know what training volunteers need?
Good training builds on context
How much information should be provided to volunteers?
It's important to accomodate a broad range of personal styles among volunteers, but there are still some kinds of information that everyone must have. Some information is always necessary though; here's a list of some things to consider.
How will we know what volunteers can do at our organization?
Some key questions to ask as part of a review
Is it important to interview volunteers?
Even though people question the value of the process, organizations will want to interview prospective volunteers.
Is it Possible to Receive a Deduction for a Gift of Services?
In general, the answer is 'no.' A deduction cannot be taken when no income has been earned.
Is there software to help with keeping track of volunteers?
A webpage listing some options is at
It seems rude to evaluate volunteers. Do we really have to?
When people are working because they believe in the importance of the task, it is especially important to let them know when they succeed and when they fail.
List of Books on Volunteerism
Here is a list compiled in 1996.
Must we do criminal background checks on our volunteers?
It is required by law for some types of assignments. A program for doing background checks for long-term volunteers may also be a good idea.
Online services for volunteers and volunteer programs offers a broad introduction and links to other websites about volunteering.
Organizations that Promote Volunteering by Persons with Disabilities
A list compiled by Jane Cravens of the United Nations Volunteer Program
Should volunteers be asked to make financial contributions?
A veteran fundraiser thinks so. And offers advice about how to make such requests.
Should we keep volunteer and staff roles clearly different?
The Fair Labor Standards Act makes doing so very important.
What about equipment for telemarketing? Training? Etc?
Find a friendly stock or real estate brokerage firm for phone equipment and look for consultants to train callers or trainers.
What are some ways to thank volunteers?
An example from an active program
What are the key advantages and disadvantages of hiring a telemarketing firm versus using volunteers?
The key advantage is that you may not have to lift a finger! The key disadvantage is that many firms take a percentage of each donation.
What goes in a conflict-of-interest policy?
Here are some examples including one from the IRS.
What Information Should Board Prospects Receive?
Enough to help them understand the organization and be sure of a 'fit' between their interests and the mission. Plus (and this is the tough part), enough to support due diligence about the organization's work.
What is service learning?
Discussions of several topics concerning students engaged in community service.
What is telecommuting? How can it help me?
Telecommuting means working from home, and it's rapidly on the rise.
What is the legal definition of 'volunteer'?
There is no single and universal definition. Much depends on the context and the organizational setting.
What should not be on a volunteer application?
The Americans with Disabilities Act sets standards for recruiting and screening volunteers as well as employees.
What should I look for at an agency where I might volunteer?
Several observers give detailed advice about how to review the management practices of agencies that are seeking volunteers.
What should we ask when interviewing a volunteer?
Guidelines from a pro.
What supervision styles work best for volunteers?
Define tasks, clarify expectations, and give people permission to proceed
Where can I find general information about volunteer programs? offers several comprehensive Resource Centers about volunteering, volunteer program management, and international volunteer work. Brief descriptions and links to the Resources are in this item.
Where can I find information on volunteer program management?
Several websites provide information directly and pointers to other resources.
Where can I get training in Volunteer Program Management?
Several resources are linked here.
Where can I post volunteer opportunities (want ads) online?
There are several choices; these webpages list many.
Where can we get insurance for our volunteers?
CIMA offers the Volunteer Insurance Service
Why is it important to recognize volunteer contributions?
Volunteers deserve the assurance that what they are doing is needed
Why screen volunteers at all?
The approach to recruiting volunteers should be as careful as the process used for adding any new staff.
Why should I volunteer?
Because it is satisfying to do useful work that benefits others or the community and because volunteering offers many benefits and opportunities for the people who participate.