Volunteer management

Updated January 23, 2019

This web page is intended to help University of Missouri faculty and staff as they manage volunteers who help deliver extension programs. A related page containing Volunteer Management Forms contains sample and fill in documents for use by MU Extension faculty and staff who supervise volunteers. A Volunteer Management Policy Manual for Staff, developed in 2017 (updated in May 2019), is available as a downloadable resource. (Current Background Screening Form, May 2018)

Volunteer roles and policy

Volunteers are central to the successful delivery of extension programs and to our communication with stakeholders. Described below are critical roles that volunteers can take to help improve stakeholder relations, as well as helpful information and policy to guide volunteer conduct.

Volunteer roles

County extension councils and other volunteer groups:

  • Inventory and assess current relationships with stakeholders.
  • With the county program director, determine stakeholders not being reached and how to reach them. Develop annual plan for communication through personal visits, phone calls, email, invitations to participate in programs, recognition events and other means. 
  • Share communication plans with regional director.

State and regional extension councils:

  • Brainstorm opportunities for stakeholder communication across regional lines.
  • Develop events, tours and other means to involve stakeholders in learning or recognition events.

Volunteer code of conduct policy

Engaging volunteers to play pivotal roles that guide and deliver extension programs is central to the success of MU Extension. Volunteers often teach with or on behalf of extension employees. Volunteers will often guide and help deliver programs at the local, regional and state level. It is important, therefore, that we consistently understand the role of volunteers that are so essential to the work of extension. At the same time, we must be clear with our volunteers regarding the context of their role within MU Extension, and within the University of Missouri as a whole.

For the most part, these policies and expectations have existed for several years. It is important — in fairness to our volunteers as valued partners — to be clear about these university, state and federal laws. Because we value our volunteers as fundamentally important to effective extension programs, we owe it to them to communicate clearly as we acknowledge their fundamental contributions.

Beginning November 1, 2017, all extension volunteers must read and agree to the policy for MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct (PDF, revised 1/31/18), also available as an Online Volunteer Code of Conduct. Steps for policy implementation will be determined by each extension program director (PD), continuing education director (CES) or vice provost as needed, within each respective program, continuing education or administrative area.

To learn more about volunteer conduct, watch the MU Extension Volunteer Policy Explained video below.

NEW! Code of Conduct Talking Points for Faculty and Staff

Communicating the importance and the necessity of requiring volunteers to sign the Code of Conduct can be challenging. Certain clauses in the Code of Conduct may cause apprehension within our volunteer groups. The Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct (PDF) is intended to equip faculty and staff with talking points to ease any reservations our volunteers may have about signing the form.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who needs to sign this agreement, and who does not?

This policy applies to any volunteer who accepts the following responsibilities:

  • Teaching extension-related content 
  • Serving individually or as a member of a standing advisory group for program policy
  • Serving as a member of a committee or advisory group that participates in allocation or management of resources related to program conduct or delivery
  • Soliciting or managing donations of goods or funds in support of specific or general extension program efforts

Elected or appointed members of Missouri county extension councils are not covered by this policy within the bounds of their role on the county extension council. As members of an official Missouri governmental body, other rules and policies apply. Extension council members working to support specific programs as a volunteer outside of their specific extension council responsibilities should read and sign the agreement.

Volunteers serving short-duration or in a brief ad hoc advisory role may not need to sign the agreement. Consult your PD or CED for guidance.

Individuals delivering information or coordination as part of their professional responsibilities that flow from other businesses or agencies not expected to sign the MU Extension Volunteer Conduct policy in most cases.

What are my responsibilities as a faculty or staff member regarding this policy?

Under the direction of your respective PD or CED, volunteers covered by the policy must sign, date and return the volunteer conduct agreement before engaging in the volunteer activities for which they have volunteered. In cases where volunteers will be working with youth program participants, Child Abuse and Neglect (CA/N) screening is necessary. This will require additional lead time for the screening to be successfully accomplished before the volunteer will be able to begin in their volunteer role. Steps toward volunteer screening will be provided by your PD or CED.

When does this policy go into effect?

Implementation begins Jan. 1, 2016. Some extension programs are already using the policy or are in the process of implementation.

Where do the signed agreements need to be kept on file?

Your PD or CED can give specific guidance on where completed forms must be filed and how to handle forms. In some cases, the answer to this question may depend upon whether the volunteer is working with youths, or only with adults.

Do I need to keep a paper copy of each signed volunteer conduct agreement? Or can I accept and store them electronically?

Consult your PD or CED for specific guidance.

Do volunteers need to sign a copy of the policy more than once?

Some volunteers are active with extension on a county level in multiple programs. Others are active both locally and regionally. How this gets handled is a judgment and management decision by the extension specialist(s) involved. In the real world, it probably will be easiest if a volunteer simply signs an agreement for each volunteer role in which they serve at each level. For example, if one person serves as a local Master Gardener volunteer in one county and also works with the Community Arts program on a regional level, it may make practical sense to ask the volunteer to sign an agreement form that can be filed and kept with the records of each respective program. 

Further, asking the volunteer to sign for each program helps confirm in the mind of the volunteer, the fact that they are working with MU Extension across multiple programs. There are currently no plans for implementing a statewide database as a clearinghouse for all volunteers that have signed the agreement, which would be available across multiple counties or multiple programs.

How often does a volunteer need to sign the form?

Annually. There is no set time in which the volunteers must submit the form. If their volunteer role began in July and they are continuing their volunteer role with the same program the next year, they would be asked to renew the following July by resubmitting the signed agreement. Some programs have a recognized program year and it would make sense to follow that cycle. Other volunteers may begin partway during a program cycle. In this case, have them sign at the beginning of their volunteer role, then sign again when the full program cycle begins again.

What happens if a volunteer seems to be in violation of any of the items in the conduct policy?

Consult your PD or CED for the program policy that outlines the process for the program area in question.

Which MU faculty or staff member signs as “supervisor” for each volunteer form after the volunteer signs it?

In many cases, that would be the MU Extension specialist directly responsible for the program in which the volunteer is active. For other cases, final sign-off will be at the PD, CED or vice provost level. Check on the requirements and expectations for the programs in which you are working.

For volunteers that will be working with youth, what needs to be done in regard to having volunteers screened?

Consult your PD or CED for details. Remember that the volunteer screening requirement volunteers working with youth could mean a delay between completing the agreement and completing other documents to fulfill the screening and move forward. Volunteers should not begin working with youth until the local staff member has been notified that a successful CA/N screening has been completed.

What should happen if a volunteer refuses to sign, or will only sign with qualifications?

Signing with “exceptions” or “qualifications” on the part of the volunteer is unacceptable. If they are unwilling to sign or simply “don’t get around to it,” they may not serve as an MU Extension volunteer. It’s that simple.

Experience has taught that often resistance is a result of insufficient orientation as to why the policy is in effect in the first place. A positive attitude from faculty and staff regarding the importance of this policy is fundamental as well. Be sure to include open discussion and orientation for volunteers that includes an over-arching perspective of how the program for which they volunteer is a part of a broader extension program, and part of the educational mission of the University of Missouri system.

Professional development

Resources for enhancing your professional development:

Title: Addressing Challenging Volunteer Behaviors: The Firefighter Approach – Prevention, Early Detection and Rapid Response
Date: Live webinar held on May 19, 2017 (Watch the recording below for the full program)
Format: Viewable webinar recording (1.5 hours) 
Registration: n/a
Intended participants: Any University of Missouri Extension faculty or staff who work with volunteers
Guest instructor(s): University of Minnesota Extension Educators Patrick Jirik, Sharon Davis and Heidi Haugen
Facilitator: Tammy Gillespie, Volunteer Systems Coordinator

Description: When dealing with challenging volunteer behavior, we often hear the phase “putting out fires”. This webinar, presented by University of Minnesota Educators, focuses on the Firefighter Approach of prevention, early detection and rapid response to deal with negative volunteer behavior issues. An organizational fire hazard checkup is shared along with the critical role of early detection, intervention and techniques to handle “hot situations” without getting burned. In this webinar we instructors shared prevention techniques; specifically, conduct policies and other volunteer systems structures that help prevent fires. Guest speakers from MU Extension shared perspective on their respective “fire season”. Instructors discussed the necessity of a rapid response and the risks involved with letting inappropriate volunteer behavior burn out of control. The rapid response also highlighted “crucial conversations” with volunteers to effectively put out fires and limit water and smoke damage to the rest of the program. Listen to this 1.5 hour webinar as you plan practical ways you can address challenging volunteer behaviors.

Title: Achieving the Extension Mission through Volunteers 2020 Online Course. For an course overview, visit YouTube video.
Date: Check the website for upcoming sessions. The 2020 dates for the training are January 27 – March 16, 2020.(Once a week from mid-January to mid-March)
Format: Cohort-based, online six-week course with three webinars
Registration: Registration begins September 1. The cost is $100/participant. 
Intended participants: Any University of Missouri Extension faculty or staff who work with volunteers
Guest instructor(s): Jim Rutledge, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor and Executive Director 4-H Foundation, Inc. 4-H Foundation; Nancy Franz, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, School of Education at Iowa State University
Facilitator: Facilitator teams from the 12 state North Central Extension Region, including trained practitioners from several program areas.

Description: Achieving the Extension Mission Through Volunteers is an online, cohort-based course for novice and experienCES professionals working with volunteers. This course is designed to highlight best practices in volunteer development and management and to help build staff and organizational capacity around volunteer management and development, regardless of the program area. It is designed to help you:

  • Build staff and organizational capacity around volunteer management and development;
  • Increase volunteer management competencies;
  • Build knowledge and skills to identify, recruit, select and support volunteers;
  • Learn current volunteer trends and how they may impact programming;
  • Understand the organization’s philosophy related to volunteerism and develop your own philosophy.

Title: Building an Effective Board of Directors
Date: Live webinar held on June 27, 2017
Format:  Viewable webinar recording (1.5 hours)
Resource: Building an Effective Board of Directors Toolkit (128 pages, PDF)
Registration: None.
Intended participants: Any University of Missouri faculty or staff who work with boards, committees and/or councils

Description: Skills in organizational development are essential for Extension professionals who work with non-profit and other volunteer boards, committees and/or councils. TheBuilding and Effective Board of Directors Toolkit addresses Organizational Effectiveness with tools to focus volunteers on the mission, vision and core values of the organization. The book was developed in consultation with Frank Martinelli. Martinelli specializes in working with nonprofit groups through The Center for Public Skills Training and is the contributing author of YOU and Your Nonprofit Board: Advice and Practical Tips from the Field's Top Practitioners.

The Building an Effective Board material will enhance learners’ abilities to:

  • Conduct an organizational assessment to diagnose need
  • Develop an organizational structure in which volunteers work toward a common mission, vision and core values
  • Develop a volunteer pipeline and succession plan for their organization.
  • Help volunteers understand their board roles.
  • Energize and enhance board meeting with the three modes of governance
  • Evaluate the success of their efforts in organizational management.

Title: Civil Rights and Title IX at the University of Missouri: Creating Inclusive Experiences
Date: Live webinar held on June 15, 2017
Format: Viewable webinar recording (1.5 hours)
Facilitator: Brittani Fults, Education, Prevention & Outreach Coordinator
For more information: Contact the MU Office for Civil Rights and Title IX
Description: Participants will learn about the university’s anti-discrimination policies and how they apply beyond the campus into the local and state community. Topics covered in the training include, but are not limited to- diversity, inclusion, setting boundaries, and more. Finally, participants will learn how to create diverse and inclusive environments for better community engagement and outreach.

Title: Cultural Adaptation Navigator Seminars from Kansas State (K-State) – overviewseminar descriptions (PDF) and recorded seminars 
Date: Varies
Format: Webinar
Registration: Visit the website for more details.
Intended participants: Participants may include but are not limited to K-State Extension professionals, students, community members and volunteers.
Facilitator: Various presenters will serve as guest speakers, subject matter experts and/or cultural advocates.
For more information: Contact Aliah Mestrovich Seay at aliah@ksu.edu.

Description: These webinar opportunities are geared toward learning about different cultural communities and will occur over several months. There is no charge to participants for any of the webinars, but registration is necessary because each webinar is limited to 15 participants. The Cultural Adaptation Navigator webinars are designed to provide participants with a “snapshot” of different cultural communities they may live, work with, or serve through their educational programming. They are customizable and easy to fit into a busy workday, as they last only 1.5 hours. A certificate of completion for professional development will be distributed upon the completion of each webinar. Based on the subject matter, some webinars will be recorded.

Title: Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Education and Professional Development from the University of Missouri (MU)
Date: Varies
Format: Some in person and some online
Registration: Go to https://diversity.missouri.edu/education/
Intended participants: MU faculty, staff and students
Facilitator: Varies
For more information: Contact the Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity at diversity@missouri.edu.

Description: The office of Civil Rights and Title IX has a mission to support members of the Mizzou community who experience discrimination, investigate reports of discrimination, educate the Mizzou community about equal opportunity policies and connect people with resources. As such, the OCRT9 office provides a variety of educational opportunities such as The African-American Experience in Missouri Lecture Series; Civility, You and Mizzou; Constructive Communication Across Differences Series; Diversity 101; Diversity and Inclusion Core Concepts Series; Diversity, Difference and Conflict; Diversity Peer Educators Programs; LGBTQ Outreach Panel; Not Anymore (Relationship Violence); Safe Space Training and the Workplace Diversity Series.

Title: Missouri Mandated Child Abuse and Neglect  http://www.protectmokids.com/
Date: Ongoing
Format: Online
Registration: Set up a free account at faculty and staff need to enroll for this In-Service in the myExtension system.
Intended participants: Any person who has care, control or custody of a child. This includes staff and volunteers who work with children.
Facilitator: This free course is made available to the public through a collaborative effort lead by Missouri Kids First. MU Extension is also a partner.
Description: Mandated reporters are the voice for children who may be experiencing abuse and/or neglect. This training is designed to empower Missouri’s mandated reporters in their responsibility to protect children. Complete this interactive training in about 1.5 hours, starting and stopping as you need to. Individuals who complete the training can print a certificate of completion.

Title: MU Master Gardeners State Conference - http://mg.missouri.edu/conference/ 
Date: Check Events on the Missouri Master Gardener website for dates.
Format: In-person
Registration: Visit the website for registration details
Intended participants: Extension specialists and Master Gardeners


  • Learn from a Wide Array of Excellent Speakers
  • Join Growers and Gardens Horticulture Tours
  • Experience Dorm Life (if you want)
  • Mingle with Master Gardeners, MU Faculty and Research Staff
  • Enjoy the College Experience

Title: Workshops hosted by the Metropolitan Volunteer Management Association (MVMA, Greater St Louis area)
Date: Varies
Format: In-person
Registration: Go to http://www.mvma-stl.org/ to learn more.
Intended participants: Any University of Missouri faculty or staff who manages volunteers

Description: The Metropolitan Volunteer Management Association (MVMA) is a professional organization comprised of professionals who are employed in the field of volunteer management in the greater St Louis metro area. Their membership is diverse and rich in information regarding all aspects volunteer program administration. They meet monthly to discuss topics pertinent to volunteer management. They offer reasonably priCES workshops on a quarterly basis; discounts apply to MVMA members.


View the 2017 Staff Volunteer Management Survey results (PDF). Click on the infographic below for full-size.

More research resources


I - Identify

Have you identified your personal volunteer philosophy? Have you identified specific program needs?

Knowing the answers to these questions is essential in helping you develop specific volunteer position descriptions needed for recruitment.

Downloadable resources:

S - Select

Remember, staff's final volunteer selections should be well-informed and carefully considered. It should not be based simply on whether or not someone passes a background check or completely fills in a form. (Current Background Screening Form, LG639, updated 2018)

Although not required in University of Missouri Extension programs, many solid volunteer systems also include an interview process.

Downloadable resources:

O - Orientation

Ideally, the person's orientation to the overall MU Extension organization is done locally, by county staff and experienCES volunteers. Helping new volunteers make connections with staff and seasoned leaders is an important part of joining the extension family!

Downloadable resources:

T - Training

Training is different from orientation in that it should be specific to the volunteer's role. Each year staff provide club leader training and project leader training. There are also other curricula to further develop volunteers' skills.

Ages and Stages: Working with youth via Illinois 4-H

Age 8 to 11
Age 12 to 14
Age 15 to 18

U- Utilize

This part of the ISOTURE model is where the "doing" takes place. With staff and peer volunteer support, volunteers add great value to Extension programs. Supporting volunteers in their roles helps them utilize their skills and interests in meeting our program needs. 

Your support of volunteers will frequently involve coaching and facilitating a variety of interpersonal relationships. Be prepared to spend a lot of time in this part of the ISOTURE model. There are resources to help you be successful. Talk with more experienCES volunteer managers, seek help from your state  staff and review these downloadable resources:

R - Recognize

Volunteer recognition can be one of the most satisfying parts of a staff member's job. Extending gratitude through formal and informal recognition activities should be done year round. National Volunteer Week is also another great time to recognize Extension volunteers.

E - Evaluate