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Volunteer Management Responsibilities
Volunteer Management is a unique and challenging role. While there are some similarities between management of volunteers and management of paid staff, it is important that you are aware of some specific responsibilities and strategies.
Volunteer managers should:
- plan volunteer involvement
- advertise for and recruit volunteers
- contact and meet with prospective volunteers
- induct and orientate new volunteers, introduce them to the team, show them around facilities, and outline their role and responsibilities
- ensure volunteers are aware of any policies, procedures and WHS guidelines relevant to their role
- schedule volunteer shifts and try to accommodate different availabilities
- regularly check-in with volunteers, how they’re finding their role and if anything could be improved
- recognise volunteer achievements, such as length of service, efforts and achievements
- seek feedback from the volunteer team to continuously improve the volunteer experience.
You may recruit volunteers through advertising, promoting volunteer opportunities and encouraging participation. There are many different approaches you can take, with most volunteer involving organisations employing multiple strategies to connect with different cohorts.
Retaining and rewarding volunteers
Volunteer retention can be one of the biggest challenges for volunteer leaders. While some volunteers may see their role as simply short term, there are strategies you can implement to ensure your more valued volunteers stay on longer.
- Make the experience positive from day one – the first volunteer shift is crucial for retention. Ensure volunteers feel welcome, know the team, are shown around, have a good understanding of their role, and know who to go to if they have questions.
- Check in regularly – see how each of your volunteers are faring and whether there are any changes or improvements to their role that could make them happier and more effective.
- Tailor roles to suit individual strengths, interests and goals – volunteers appreciate meaningful and satisfying work. Chat with your volunteers, see what they’re hoping to gain from their experience and find ways to help them get there.
- Recognise and reward volunteer achievements – make volunteers feel seen and appreciated and acknowledge the valuable role they play within your organisation. This may be in the form of certificates, special days or events, mentions on social media and in newsletters or sharing achievements with staff.
- Involve volunteers in decision-making – volunteers should be included in organisation-wide discussions, meetings, surveys, evaluations etc. to make sure their voices and experiences are heard and valued.
- Review and evaluate your volunteer program – create an opportunity for your volunteers to provide anonymous feedback – what they like about volunteering, what they gain from their experiences, and what could be improved.
- Measure the impact of your volunteer’s contributions – demonstrate the ways your volunteers benefit your organisation and its service provision, enabling you to achieve things you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
Most volunteer involving organisations require volunteers to obtain one or more screening checks before they commence. Deciding which check is needed depends on the nature of the services provided by the organisation, who the client’s volunteers will be interacting with and any potential risks associated with the role. If the volunteer will have access to money, personal data or equipment, it may be appropriate to conduct a police check. Alternatively, all that may be required could be a reference check.
- Common checks include:
- National Police Certificate (Police Check)
- Working With Children Check
- NDIS worker checks
- Aged care sector employment
- Vulnerable person-related employment
Many checks are free for volunteers to obtain. Let volunteers know what screening checks they will be required to have during the application and onboarding stage. You may wish to help volunteers to obtain these checks as the application processes can be complicated and may become a barrier to volunteering.
You may wish to sight or photocopy your volunteers’ completed screening checks. Volunteer involving organisations are never entitled to keep the original copies. Records of screenings and checks belong to the applicant, regardless of who lodged or paid for it.
Volunteering can take many different forms and involves a variety of tasks. The nature of these tasks will depend on the organisation, their services and their staff.
Volunteer roles should include:
- A defined role description with a clear outline of tasks and responsibilities
- Sufficient training, instruction and supervision to safely and confidently carry out tasks
- A designated person to go to with any questions, clarifications or concerns
- A safe working environment
Keep in mind that a volunteer should not:
- replace a paid worker or compensate for staff shortages
- be wholly responsible for delivering a public service
- have mandatory attendance
- generally speaking, not contribute more than 16 hours per week.
Many different volunteers will benefit from a flexible or adjusted volunteer role. This may be to better suit their availability, to accommodate a volunteer’s specific interests, strengths, goals or support needs, or to make a role generally more fulfilling.
This approach can be beneficial for:
- Individuals with limited, inconsistent or short-term availability
- Young people or students
- Individuals with limited English abilities
- Individuals with physical, mental, cognitive, psychosocial, or mobility-related support needs.
Being more flexible in your approach to volunteer roles can help your volunteers have a more meaningful and enjoyable experience. If you’d like to learn more about creating flexible/adjusted volunteer positions, check out this resource created by Southern Volunteering SA.
Organisations that involve volunteers must ensure that their volunteer workforce is appropriately covered by insurance. Volunteer involving organisations may be legally responsible for accidents or injury involving volunteers, or caused by your volunteers, in the course of their participation.
Some forms of insurance to consider are:
- Public Liability Insurance: covers injuries or damage caused by staff or volunteers while carrying out work on behalf of your organisation.
- Volunteer Personal Accident Insurance: cover designed to provide compensation to volunteers following accidental injury, disability or death while carrying out voluntary work on behalf of your organisation (Volunteers are not typically covered under your organisation’s Workers Compensation Insurance Policy – Work Cover).
- Associations/Directors and Officers Liability Insurance: insures committee members and officers of an incorporated organisation for legal liability, including legal costs, where in the process of operating the organisation, they have committed a wrongful or negligent act.
Check out this resource from Volunteering Victoria for more information about insurance related to volunteers.
It’s crucial that your volunteers enjoy a safe and healthy workplace environment. By taking proactive steps, you can help to prevent incidents from occurring, and promote healthy, safe practices within your team.
You may also wish to visit the Healthy Workplaces website, an initiative of the Government of South Australia. This free service provides information, resources and support to help you create a healthy, safe and thriving workplace.
Your volunteers are your most valuable resource. If one of your volunteers raises an issue or grievance with you (e.g. conflict with another volunteer or staff member, an issue with a role and its tasks, or an issue with the organisation’s operations) the first step is to try and resolve the issue internally.
Utilise your grievance/disputes resolution procedures to treat the complaint in the same manner you would manage a staff complaint.
The response may be in the form of:
- intervention by senior management
- mediation by an independent person where both parties have the opportunity to discuss the problem
- a more formal review that will include an investigation of the claims of both parties.
If you feel unable to resolve this matter within your organisation, there are several organisations that may be able to assist you.
Fair Work Ombudsman
visit their website or phone 13 13 94
Office of the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity
visit their website or phone 7322 7070
visit their website or phone 1300 365 255
Legal Services Commission
visit their website or phone 1300 366 424
visit their website
Any complaints of harassment or discrimination you receive from volunteers should be treated with the utmost seriousness and priority.
Make sure volunteers know who they can speak to if they wish, ideally providing multiple options in case a volunteer is uncomfortable speaking to a particular staff member.
If one of your volunteers tells you that they have experienced mistreatment or discrimination, give them space to share, take their comments seriously, keep a confidential record of what they tell you, and assure them that you will follow the issue up promptly.
Check in with volunteers who have experienced mistreatment. Offer support – talk it out with volunteer, give them space to process the issue or call a trusted friend. Or offer the volunteer the ability to return home for family support.
Ask them how they would like the situation to be remedied. Some people appreciate direct apologies, others may want some time away from the perpetrator. Let them be involved in the remediation to the level they feel comfortable with.
When speaking with someone who has behaved inappropriately, let them know that their behaviour is not acceptable. Explain the effects of their actions, tell them what they must do to remedy their behaviour and to improve in future, and inform them of the consequences if they don’t change their actions. Notifying volunteers of your Code of Conduct can help to minimise this type of situation arising.
In South Australia, discrimination law protects volunteers as well as paid workers. If volunteers are treated unfairly while volunteering due to any personal characteristics, it could be unlawful discrimination and volunteers have the right to lodge a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission.
For more information check out this resource from Justice Connect.