Developing a Volunteer Policy

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A Volunteering Policy sets out a clear framework for the involvement of volunteers. It is based on the recognition that volunteering is a two-way process benefitting both the volunteer and the organisation. As you build the way in which you will work with your volunteers – you organically build your Volunteer Policy, for example procedures for recruiting, supporting and protecting volunteers, paying expenses, etc. It should be based on equality of opportunity and good practice. As with all policy documents, your governing body (for example, your committee or trustees) needs to approve this document.

Why Have a Volunteering Policy?

Having a volunteering policy is part of a clear framework laying out expectations and procedures for the volunteer and the organisation. It aims to prevent misunderstandings developing. Think of it as a “user manual” for involving volunteers. Developing it will help you think through how you involve volunteers. To be worth the paper it's written on, it should be reviewed and updated annually.

What should be in a Volunteering Policy?

Headings could include:

  • Introduction - containing your organisation's objectives and principles, including why your organisation involves volunteers,
  • Recruitment - explaining how volunteers are recruited and a brief note of what roles are typically available,
  • Volunteer Agreements, Induction and Training and Support - how volunteers are offered support appropriate to their roles,
  • The Volunteer's Voice - how volunteers can make their views known, or feed in to decision-making,
  • Records - explaining how volunteers' records are stored, which should comply with Data Protection legislation,
  • Confidentiality - general statement; might also refer to a separate Policy or Signed Agreement, depending on the nature of the volunteering,
  • Expenses, Insurance, Health and Safety, Equal Opportunities,
  • Problems - an outline of how the organisation deals with complaints by or about volunteers,
  • Endings - This section should mention any procedures such as exit interviews or questionnaires, and whether a reference is offered after a certain period or number of hours of volunteering.

What Next

Once the policy is written, it should be approved by your trustees. If it is to be properly implemented, people need to know the policy exists and to understand its purpose. It’s often useful to call a meeting to introduce the policy, which gives people a chance to talk through the policy and understand its importance. Give a copy of the policy to all staff and volunteers, including those staff who will not be supervising or directly working alongside volunteers. Display a copy of the policy on notice boards. Remember, you will need to set aside time regularly to review the policy, to ensure it remains up to date.

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