I was honored to guest blog the Energize, Inc. Hot Topic for December. The topic I chose to write about: “Letting Fear Prevent Volunteer Involvement is Too Risky.” If you can’t tell from the title, it’s about how the risks around involving volunteers often aren’t as great as NOT involving them – to NOT involve volunteers puts your organization at risks that I consider far greater than by involving them.
Linda Graff is a volunteer management trainer, with a specialization regarding risk management in engaging volunteers.
Linda is retiring, and Andy Fryer has done an interview with her that talks about her incredible contributions to our knowledge about effective volunteer engagement. It’s worth your time to read the interview.
Readers are invited to comment, and my comment says, in part:
I can’t count how many times I have run to my risk management books by Linda to be able to make a point or even win an argument – and I pretty much dismiss any volunteer management expert who doesn’t have one of her books on the shelf or doesn’t seem to know who she is (blasphemy!).
Every nonprofit organization/mission-based organization needs at least one Linda Graff book on the bookshelf – and staff need to consult such regularly. My recommendation is Beyond Police Checks. It’s North America-specific, but the advice is applicable to any country.
It’s a loss for our sector that Linda is retiring, but I know that she now gets to spend much more time fishing, and that makes me happy.
Among the women interviewed on the program was Casey Frazee, whose story and request for change were first published in the Winter 2009 issue of the National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA) WorldView magazine. A follow-up blog post was published in September 2010. She formed an ad hoc group, First Response Action (FRA), that “advocates for a stronger Peace Corps response for Volunteers who are survivors or victims of physical and sexual violence.” The group envisions “a Peace Corps with policies that reflect best practices in all areas of training, prevention and response.” FRA is currently conducting a survey of current and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers about their experiences during sexual assault training in the Peace Corps.
If you have experienced sexual assault or safety and security issues during your Peace Corps service, here are some resources from the Agency:
As noted on the Peace Corps website, Peace Corps works in some of the least developed countries and in some of the most remote areas in the world, therefore health, safety, and security risks are an unavoidable part of life and of Volunteer service. Peace Corps has gathered the key points about Volunteer safety and security on the following website page: Safety and Security in Depth for Family and Friends.
Although the Peace Corps is not authorized by law to provide medical care or counseling to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, all Volunteers who leave Peace Corps service after having been the victims of sexual assault are eligible for counseling under the Federal Employees Compensation Action (FECA), the workman’s compensation program for federal employees, under which Peace Corps Volunteers are covered. Peace Corps offers three counseling sessions following sexual assault to serve as a bridge for Volunteers until they can arrange counseling under FECA, with the cost paid by the Peace Corps, not the Volunteer. FECA is administered by the Department of Labor. Full information on FECA can be found here on the Peace Corps website.
I’m going to continue to monitor how Peace Corps responds to complaints about the safety of its members, particularly women, and continue to post updates here on my blog. To be fair, such information is not available about other volunteer sending organizations, at least than I can find. If you have a heads up about such information, please let me know.