Volunteer Management - Definition

The term “volunteer” has historically been applied to a wide variety of individuals who are connected with Extension. To limit confusion over liability coverage, only individuals who fall within the scope of agency, as identified by the definition’s three-part test, should be identified as Extension volunteers. 

Individuals who meet the definition of an Extension volunteer must complete the onboarding requirements contained in the Volunteer Onboarding section of the Extension Handbook.


A University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension volunteer is defined as a person who is:

  1. Trained, mentored, or supported to perform duties related to the Division of Extension’s mission;
  2. Without compensation or remuneration; and 
  3. Under the request and direction of the Division of Extension in programs directed by university employees.

The Division of Extension and its employees authorize the action of the volunteer by, for example, selecting, appointing, evaluating, dismissing, scheduling, and/or otherwise directing the activities of the volunteer.


The Division of Extension leverages the services offered by volunteers to support the mission of the institution. The Division of Extension, counties, tribal nations, and local communities are the primary beneficiaries of the work performed by a Division of Extension volunteer. The Division of Extension and its volunteer network strengthens personal, organizational, and public value across the State of Wisconsin through educational programming. Volunteers can also benefit from engagement with the Division of Extension through professional development, networking, giving back to community, and supporting causes that are important to them as individuals.

Scope of Authority

A volunteer acts with authority within the scope of his or her responsibilities as explicitly defined by Extension employees through the position description. Additionally, a volunteer acts with authority in instances where the conduct or words of a Division of Extension employee would lead a reasonable person to believe that the volunteer was authorized to act on behalf of the university when serving in the volunteer role. All volunteers are expected to abide by behavior expectations and other policies and procedures as determined by the Division of Extension. A volunteer is serving in a “position of trust” when tasked with one or more of the following responsibilities: access to vulnerable populations, property access, financial/fiduciary duties, or executive duties.

Support Structure

As part of a statewide institution, Division of Extension employees will support volunteers through a structure that is based on elements of the ISOTURE model of volunteer management. The ISOTURE model is outlined below:   

  • Identification: Finding people who have the competence and attitudes essential to fill specific positions. This includes the identification of program needs and the volunteer roles to meet those needs.  
  • Selection: Studying the backgrounds of prospective volunteers identified and motivating them to fill selected positions. This includes screening potential volunteers, reference checks, interviews, and/or matching volunteers to needed roles.
  • Orientation: Orienting volunteers to the expectations of the program and their volunteer role. This includes new volunteer training and support.
  • Training: Stimulating and preparing volunteers to acquire knowledge and to develop attitudes and skills necessary to enable them to be successful in their volunteer roles. This includes ongoing training through a variety of delivery methods.
  • Utilization: Providing the opportunity for volunteers to put acquired knowledge and skills into action. This includes support for volunteers to actively carry out responsibilities and to provide opportunities for mentoring from other volunteers and paid employees.
  • Recognition: Recognizing and rewarding volunteers for their contribution and performance. This includes ongoing recognition through formal and non-formal methods.
  • Evaluation: Determining how well a volunteer is doing in their role, providing useful feedback, assisting volunteers in achieving personal goals, and learning from the volunteer strategies to improve their role and the organization. This includes evaluation to create, adapt, and expand organizational volunteer delivery systems.

Dodd, C., & Boleman, C. (2007).  Volunteer administration in the 21st century: ISOTURE: A model for volunteer management.

Get Help

For assistance, contact Kim Nawyn at kim.nawyn@wisc.edu or (608) 262-5864.