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What are the rights of mistreated volunteer?

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What are the rights of mistreated volunteer?

My daughter is volunteering for a nonprofit that is treating her like an employee and placing a lot of pressure on her to complete her work. She has received emails from a board member that have been unkind and the same board member has sent an email to other youth about my daughter's leadership skills. My daughter has been very stressed out, and the emotional toll has impacted her ability to pursue her other activities. What rights does my daughter have? 

My immediate reaction is that she has the right to quit and walk away from the entire situation, probably today if she wishes.

That response may be a little too hasty, however. She ought to think about why she took the position originally and what she expected to gain from it. Can she imagine a way in which the situation can be salvaged? It is highly unusual for a board member to send emails to volunteers complaining about their work and probably even more unusual to send emails to others criticizing the work. The problem may be primarily with the board member and not with your daughter.


If she wants to try to remedy the situation, or if she cares a lot about the mission and wants to protect the organization’s opportunity to use other volunteers, you and/or she should probably talk with the chief executive of the organization to explain how you perceive the problem and see if it can be rectified for you or for others who might be affected.  If you don’t want to go to the CEO or if you are not satisfied with the response, you can always go to the board chair or other directors. 

If you aren’t interested in doing any of that or are dissatisfied with the response, she always has Option 1.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021


I assume from the answer that is no legal action she can take to protect future volunteers?

I will echo the issue about a board member emailing a volunteer directly. The board and its members should not be getting involved in day-to-day management.

I would want to know if the volunteer was provided with a volunteer's scope of work or other document which describes the nature of the volunteer work being done. If such a document exists, it provides a check and balance against what may be inappropriate expectations by the referenced board member. Volunteer job descriptions are important for this very reason. If none are used by the organization, it is a remedy going forward.

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