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Home / Questions / The Case of the Vanishing VolunteersHal G. RaineyIn a suburban county outside a large city, the...

The Case of the Vanishing VolunteersHal G. RaineyIn a suburban county outside a large city, the...

The Case of the Vanishing VolunteersHal G. RaineyIn a suburban county outside a large city, the Parks and Recreation Department has beenrun for decades by a friendly, popular director who has run the volunteer program for thedepartment by himself. He had a network of friends throughout the county that served asvolunteer coaches, as teachers in recreational programs (art, music, dance, exercise), andin other roles. In turn, these volunteers drew in other volunteers to serve as timers,scorers, and assistants, and in the other necessary roles. The director loved working withthis network of friends that he had developed over the years, and the volunteer programvirtually ran itself, with the director’s administrative assistant simply filling a roster with thenames of people who called in, chatted with the director, and then chose a role.The director has now retired, after a large banquet with numerous warm testimonials andexpressions of appreciation. The new director is younger and new to the county. Thecounty commissioners and county administrator hired her in part out of respect for heradministrative training (a master’s degree and various training programs) andadministrative skills that she displayed in her previous position as assistant director in theParks and Recreation department of a medium-sized city. They have asked her to work onshaping up the department’s budgeting and financial procedures, its communications andaccountability to the commission and the county administrator’s office, and its internalorganization. Several of them have quietly mentioned to her that as much as they lovedthe former director, “Old Ed” was wonderful but wanted to do things his way, and “it washard to know what was going on over there sometimes.” The county was under increasingfinancial pressure, and it would be harder and harder to grant the budget increases thatOld Ed asked for, especially without the popular support he could always bring to help thecommissioners justify the increase. In addition, auditors were becoming increasinglycritical of the budgets and accounts of the department. No one suspected any wrongdoing,but organization and management clearly needed improvement.The new director feels concerned about the loose organization of the volunteer program.Drawing on some of the policies at her previous organization, she initiates the requirementthat volunteers will need to sign a waiver of liability, and to sign statements that they willfollow a drug-free policy and avoid sexual harassment. She also begins considering settingup a training program for volunteers, through the National Youth Sports CoachesAssociation, and may ask the coaches to pay for their training. The word of these changesand possible changes spreads rapidly among the volunteers.In getting to work on her various priorities, the new director finds the constant phone callsfrom volunteers to be too disruptive to her other work. Knowing that it is not a satisfactorylong-term solution, she asks her administrative assistant to handle the conversations andassignments of the volunteers himself, as best he can. Within two weeks, problems arise.Soccer season is starting, and there is a shortage of coaches for the first time ever. Thenew director asks the administrative assistant to find more volunteers to serve as coaches.The assistant finds a few. He also reports back that some former coaches are refusing,saying they get the sense that their contributions are not really valued, and without Old Edas center of the activity, it is just not the same any more. Some comment that the newrequirements imply distrust and are demeaning, and involve too much red tape. The newdirector has to stop all other activity, get on the phone, and talk some of these reluctantvolunteers into continuing. She shores up the soccer program for the time being. Some ofthese old-timers tell her that the problem will get worse when t-ball and baseball seasonstarts. She also hears that the exercise and dance instructors have told the administrativeassistant that they may not continue.The new director has called in your group to assist her in improving the volunteer program.She asks that you advise her on what to do about the volunteers. She can only offer you asmall consulting fee and lunch, but you have agreed to try to help because you are sogood-hearted and professional.Source: This case was written by Hal G. Rainey, Alumni Foundation DistinguishedProfessor, Department of Public Administration and Policy, University of GeorgiaDiscussion Questions1. Where does the new director stand now? What are the first questions you wouldask about her current situation, or the first key observations, that are pertinent toassessing her volunteer program and what should be done with it? Please list at least fivekey points or questions. Be able to discuss how these points relate to concepts andframeworks covered in the course.2. What should the new director do? What are key points and priorities for a wellmanagedvolunteer program? What conditions, arrangements, policies, and proceduresshould she definitely try to establish? Please list at least five key points or priorities.Discuss how these relate to concepts and frameworks covered in the course.3. How does the case reflect the challenges of managing in a public sector context?4. What should other authorities do to help her? What could other levels ofadministration and government do to support her volunteer efforts?


May 21 2020 View more View Less

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