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Should I really evaluate my tutors? They’re volunteers.


Tutors are not “just volunteers”– they are the unpaid instructional staff you have recruited and they are an integral part of your programming.  Tutors are often out in the community, serving as agency representatives.   

When you train and evaluate volunteer tutors, you:

  • ensure that your learners receive effective and high quality instruction.
  • make sure your agency has positive representation in the community.
  • strengthen bonds with tutors who meet learners off-site and may feel disconnected. 
  • maximize the potential of your volunteers.  When you talk more with volunteers, you may find that they have interests, skills or connections that can benefit your agency.

Won’t some tutors be upset about being evaluated for a volunteer opportunity?

How often have you had a newly trained tutor ask, “But how will I know if I am doing it right?”  

Generally, volunteer tutors are committed to doing well, so they can see their learner’s progress.  Talk about the evaluation process during your volunteer interview, and present it as a way the agency can support tutors who are often working independently, off-site.  

Remember that, ultimately, you have a responsibility to your learners and stakeholders to provide quality programming.  If a volunteer is adamantly opposed to being evaluated, tutoring with your agency may not be the best fit.  

What should we include in a volunteer evaluation?

A volunteer evaluation starts with the volunteer position description.  Together, go through the duties listed on the position description. 

Start by asking how things are going in each of the required activity areas.  Ask about challenges, successes and what support you can provide. 

Next, share your comments or feedback.  

Finally, ask about desired professional development.  Would your volunteer like to:

  • talk with a specific staff member?  
  • shadow a group class or veteran tutor? 
  • attend an in-service on a specific topic? 
  • network with other volunteers?

Remember, this should be an interactive conversation.  It’s a great time for you to learn how you can better support your volunteers.   

How often should we evaluate volunteers?

Evaluate new tutors at the 3-month and 6-month marks, and then once a year.

What if a tutor has a poor evaluation? I can’t fire a volunteer.

Yes, you can. 

You have an obligation to your learners to provide a safe, supportive and effective learning environment. You also have a responsibility to your stakeholders to ensure a positive reputation in the community. You should fire any tutor who does not follow your agency’s guidelines or who demonstrates poor performance.

Firing a volunteer is difficult.  You might worry that a fired volunteer will say negative things about your agency.  Remember, though, that it can be just as harmful, if not more so, to have a volunteer with poor performance representing your organization.  A volunteer who does not follow agency guidelines could expose you to liability or negatively impact your reputation with clients, supporters or funders.   


“How to Fire a Volunteer and Live to Tell About It” by Steve McCurly