Traditional routes to volunteering are changing and groups are competing for volunteers. Those who donate time want to know it is well spent, that work is well organised and their contribution is valued.
It is important volunteers are clear about their roles and the support they can expect from a group. It is recommended that groups have simple systems and procedures in place to ensure their volunteers have a great experience.
Provide written outlines, or descriptions, of volunteer roles to:
- give more information to the volunteer than is possible to convey at an initial meeting
- allow you to show where the volunteer’s work fits in with the work of the group
- offer a list of tasks/activities so the volunteer can compare these with their skills and expectations
- describe the intended outcome of the work
- help others understand how the voluntary role applies to their own
- could include:title of role; objective(s) of role; a broad outline of tasks and activities to be undertaken; targets or measurements of performance; the name of the person who the volunteer reports to; location and work hours; how the role fits in with the work of the group; any skills and qualifications – essential and desirable
- Your Website, Facebook Page, Twitter, Instagram account
- Local Press
- Through local Volunteer Centres
- Other specialist volunteer recruitment “services” – Do-It.org, Team London etc
A volunteering policy is a framework for a volunteer programme. It helps define the role of volunteers within the group, and how they can expect to be treated. It can help to:
- demonstrate your group’s commitment to its volunteer programme and its individual volunteers. By having such a document in place you are showing that care and thought have gone into the volunteer programme.
- ensure consistency and that all volunteers are treated equally and fairly. Being able to refer to a written policy ensures that decisions do not have to be made on an ad hoc basis.
- allow volunteers to know where they stand; it offers some security, in that they know how they can expect to be treated, and where they can turn to if they feel that things are going wrong.
It might cover:
- Recruitment of volunteers, including equality and diversity
- Induction and training
- Supervision and support
- Health and safety
- Confidentiality and data protection
- Problem solving and complaint procedures for volunteers.
Volunteer agreements can be used to set out both a group’s commitment to its volunteers and what it hopes for from its volunteers. They act as a reference point for volunteers and a reminder to the group that it should meet the standards of good practice that it has set. Typically an agreement might commit:
- to provide a full induction and any training necessary for the volunteer role
- to provide regular support to the volunteer in their role and a named contact for the volunteer who will support them in the role
- to treat volunteers in line with its equal opportunities policy
- to reimburse out-of-pocket expenses
- to provide insurance cover for the volunteers
- to implement good health and safety practice.
- follow policies and procedures relevant to volunteers and the role the volunteer is undertaking, eg equal opportunities, health and safety, and confidentiality
- meet mutually agreed expectations around the role, such as the amount of time the role is expected to take.
About the group
- its objectives and aims
- the kind of work done and why
- structure of the group
- importance of volunteers to the group
- site layout, toilets. Parking etc
- site health and safety guidelines
- outline the volunteer role, tasks involved, confirm agreed commitment day/time
- Boundaries of role and expected conduct
- The process to follow if difficult situations arise
- Insurance cover
- Health and safety
Managing and retention
Managing your volunteers effectively and providing them with adequate support will help you retain them, so it is important to really get to know your volunteers. This means taking time for engagement, to understand what they find satisfying about volunteering and any concerns they may have about the role or the group. Volunteers do get bored; they have other things going on in their lives
Ensuring volunteers are given opportunities for engagement, giving and receiving feedback on their work is essential. Effective engagement ensures:
- Volunteers are committed to the project goals/process and are clear on what is required of them.
- Volunteers are genuinely representative of the target group.
- The activity is managed at, or very close to, full capacity.
- Increased value for money
- Builds a virtuous cycle that will enable future engagement.
Exit interviews are particularly helpful in this respect.
Getting feedback from volunteers can be either formal or informal the decision on which would depend on the volunteer and the environment in which they feel comfortable.
Examples could include:
- Structured supervision meetings
- Informal chats over tea and biscuits
- Telephone meeting
If you follow the structures highlighted above you will significantly improve the likelihood that volunteers would feel valued, understand the importance of their contribution and feel satisfied in their roles. Therefore they are more likely to stay.