by Marie Palacios

Bless and Release

Let’s be honest for a minute.

We all know that volunteers are the lifeline of the average nonprofit organization.

There are those charismatic individuals who inspire and breathe new life into every project they undertake…and there are THOSE volunteers.

Yes. You know the ones.

The volunteers who may have the greatest intentions in the world for some reason or other seem to suck the life out of the organization or simply serve as a permanent road block for any real change.

So how does the tactful nonprofit staff or board member address such an issue? How does one gracefully face a person who regularly donates their time and energy and tell them that they simply aren’t needed anymore?

No matter how you slice it, this conversation is difficult. As the Executive Director of a nonprofit I have found myself in a few of these uncomfortable situations. While I cannot claim the official title for “Queen of Bless and Release” here are a few of the strategies I have learned first-hand or from watching other nonprofit friends in the “blessing process”:


  1. The “Building Capacity” option- Explain to a long-time, but not currently needed volunteer that the organization appreciates all their time, talent, and treasures, but must open up volunteer opportunities for new members of the community to become engaged.


  1. The Freeing Up Your Time so You can focus on other interest” conversation- Acknowledge the volunteer’s tremendous dedication and time commitment and explain that while they are greatly appreciated and always welcome at events, the organization does not want to monopolize all their time and energy.  Encourage them to continue their many other community endeavors and thank them for being an ambassador for your programs with other organizations they serve.


  1. The “our mission and your goals don’t align” conversation- For those volunteers who have strong passions and insist on trying to shift programs/energy away from your nonprofit’s already established mission and vision, it’s time to part ways. Recognize their passions and encourage them to connect with another worthy organization whose mission is more closely aligned with their passion.

There is nothing more difficult than to turn away a new or returning volunteer who is eager to serve your nonprofit. If the volunteer is honest, is passionate about your mission, and respects your operating principals and leadership in place, it is usually worth the effort to find a special niche for them to use their skills/energy.

If the prospective volunteer is prone to conflict, is unwilling to follow instructions, or simply does not possess the skills set needed to be effective in a volunteer role, it might be best to graciously accept their volunteer application form and let them know that they might not be a fit at the moment but you will call if an opportunity opens up.

Many nonprofits find it helpful to have an official volunteer application form, screening process, and orientation so the flow of volunteers in and out of your organization is efficiently managed. Establishing volunteer term limits is another helpful way to avoid uncomfortable conversations with long-term volunteers who are not the best fit for your current needs.

What strategies have you and your nonprofit employed to “bless and release” volunteers or manage volunteer flow? Share your feedback on Funding For Good’s facebook page