21 March 2021 | 2.5 min read


Letting someone go is never an easy process. It can feel even harder when you’re working with volunteers who aren’t officially staff members. 


Not everyone will be a good fit for your organization or in a specific volunteer role in your organization. If the writing is on the wall and you need to fire a volunteer, it’s best to get it done quickly. Below are tips on the best way to transition a volunteer out of their role. 


Make sure it’s what you need to do.

Before you decide to fire a volunteer, ask yourself a few questions. Is it possible they are in the wrong role? Would they fit better in a different department or area? Do they just need more training or coaching? Is it an attitude issue? Sometimes a volunteer is simply in the wrong role or would improve with the proper training. Review the reason behind your wanting to remove them. If it’s something that you can fix with a switch in roles, additional training, coaching, or even by giving them some time off, take alternative measures. 


People are human and naturally bring their issues, worries, and emotions into their work. Remember that as a leader, your role is to help support them as an entire person. You should be aware of their spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental states – not just the tasks they complete for your organization. 


Warn first. 

Just like in a work setting, it’s essential to establish a system of warnings before you up and fire someone. A team member might not even be aware they are missing the mark. Give them a chance to correct their mistakes. Be specific. Be kind. But most importantly, tell them WHY these behaviors are unacceptable to the team and why they need to make adjustments if they want to continue to serve. 


Document the process. 

When you start to notice an issue with a volunteer and give warnings – whether written, emailed, or in person – you should document everything. If you have a secure database or customer relationship management program for your organization, that’s an excellent place to keep notes. Be specific about the time and date you gave a warning. Explain your reasoning and even include the person’s reaction if applicable. Documentation is important for several reasons: it protects your organization, supplies a record for future reference, and safeguards your volunteers. 


Just do it. 

Letting a team member go is hard. It’s an awkward and uncomfortable process. There’s no way around it. When the time has come to fire a volunteer, it’s best just to get it over. Pick a time and place to meet with the team member and talk to them. A personal conversation is usually best. Although, it doesn’t always need to be face to face. Sometimes an email or phone call is also okay. Just make sure that you’re not using a less personal platform as an excuse to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Choose the medium that best fits the situation. Then, do it. 


Firing volunteers is hard, but what’s worse is keeping a toxic person in your organization. Protecting your team is a crucial task for a leader. Making tough choices and asking people to leave are part of that protection process. Keep your team healthy by staffing it with volunteers who will make your organization shine.