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 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 Jan. 1, 2016, all extension volunteers must read and agree to the policy for MU Extension Volunteer Conduct (PDF). Steps for policy implementation will be determined by each extension program director (PD), continuing education director (CED) 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.

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.