Involving Volunteers

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Key Points

If you are planning on involving volunteers in your organisation then there are some absolute essentials that you need to have in place before you start recruiting. Following these simple steps will help you involve volunteers in a successful way.

Why involve volunteers?

It may seem obvious, but it’s important to consider why your organisation wants to involve volunteers. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have appropriate roles for volunteers to do?
  • Do you have the resources to offer support and supervision to volunteers and, if possible, volunteer expenses?
  • What are the benefits to the volunteers of volunteering with you?
  • What are the benefits to your organisation – short and long term?

Involve as many stakeholders as possible in your planning

When considering involving volunteers, it is important to consult with staff and any existing volunteers (if you have them) to help identify roles and tasks that need doing. Charity trustees/committee members should know you are starting up (or extending) a volunteering programme, too. The answers to the following questions will help all your stakeholders consider how you are going to involve volunteers.

  • The reasons why and benefits of involving volunteers?
  • What are the resource and cost implications – staff time to support volunteers, volunteer expenses?
  • What support structures will need to be in place?
  • What will be the impact and benefits on your customers, your service delivery and paid staff?

Read Defining Volunteering and Internships to ensure everyone understands that volunteers are being involved in an appropriate way.

What and by whom

The success of your volunteering programme is dependent on a supportive and well-structured volunteer involvement plan. You need to consider:

  • Who will recruit the volunteers?
  • Who will manage the volunteers when they are working for you?
  • How will you resource this? Do you have or will you need to find funding for a dedicated, paid Volunteer Coordinator?

Of course many volunteer involving organisations include responsibility for management of volunteers within other roles. While this may be pragmatic, it is very important to make sure that staff have enough time to dedicate to this task and clear guidelines of how to do it.

Whoever is coordinating the volunteers should be responsible for:

  • Being the named person for planning the volunteer recruitment process: for example, finalising the volunteer role description, etc.
  • Being the named person for initial contact with volunteers.
  • Making sure that, when they are unavailable, there is another member of staff who will take over the role of ‘’named person’’.
  • Ensuring that volunteers are prepared and trained for their role.
  • Ensuring there is adequate support and supervision of volunteers (although they do not have to be directly responsible for the support and supervision of all the organisation’s volunteers).
  • Ensure that the volunteer’s voice is heard within the organisation.

Plan for success

  • Plan for your volunteer involvement and consult relevant stakeholders within your organisation.
  • Create a specific Volunteer Policy.
  • Assign key responsibilities for volunteer coordination (including a named contact for volunteers).
  • Make sure your volunteers are insured.
  • Address relevant policies; for example, Child Protection, Health and Safety.
  • Ensure you have the resources needed; for example, staff time, money to pay volunteer expenses.
  • Establish the roles volunteers will play within the organisation.
  • Plan recruitment and training processes.
  • Address how support and supervision for volunteers will take place.

What next?

When you have your plan together, developing a Volunteering Policy will help you pull everything you need together. Look at other articles on Volunteerwiki to get help you build your resources. Then start planning for recruitment.

More help?

If you would like more help or advice please contact Volunteer Edinburgh on 0131 225 0630 or email: hello@volunteeredinburgh.org.uk

Or you can drop in and see us:

Volunteer Edinburgh

222 Leith Walk, EH6 5EQ