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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Managing volunteers in your community organisation

Many community organisations rely on volunteers to help them with their work. The volunteers may be supervised by a volunteer manager whose duties include recruiting and managing other volunteers, in addition to their other responsibilities. Get tips on managing volunteers and find out about volunteer management training for your organisation.

Using volunteers in your community organisation

Community organisations are often led by volunteers who bring their skills and time to the organisation and wider community. Volunteers are not paid, although their expenses, like travel, should be repaid.

Before taking on volunteers, it is good practice to have a volunteer policy in place. The policy should cover things like training and expenses for volunteers.

The rights and responsibilities of volunteers are different from those of paid staff.

You can find out more about volunteers’ rights in ‘Your rights as a volunteer’.

Managing and supporting your volunteers

Volunteers give up their free time to work in voluntary organisations for many reasons, for example, because they want to contribute something to their community. People who manage volunteers can make the experience more rewarding for their volunteers by making sure they have a good volunteer programme in place. They can do this by:

  • making sure that each volunteer or volunteer group is supervised – this will make them feel like valued members of the organisation
  • developing good volunteer roles, matching the right volunteers with the right skills to those roles, and providing the right training and support
  • making sure that all new volunteers are introduced to the organisation, for example through an 'induction'

An induction is a way of welcoming new people to an organisation and telling them about its work, staff and policies.                                                    

Training your volunteers

In general, the training your volunteers receive should be linked to their roles and the needs of your organisation. For example, if you are running a gardening scheme you could train volunteers in gardening techniques. 

 You can train your volunteers to carry out their roles in many ways. These include:

  • learning in the role – the volunteer spends time with an experienced member of the organisation until they develop the skills they need
  • in-house training – the training is done by someone within the organisation, so they can match the organisation’s needs with the volunteer’s skills
  • training courses – your volunteer goes on a training course from outside the organisation

When your volunteer wants to leave

If your volunteer wants to leave your organisation, if you can, try and discuss their reasons for leaving before they leave. If they are unhappy with their role or with the organisation, find out what you can do to improve what they are unhappy about.

If they still want to leave after your discussion, reassure them that you have listened to what they have told you. You should also let them know that, where possible, you will put their suggestions into practice. If possible, you can also offer to give them a reference for future volunteering or job applications.

Letting your volunteers go

Usually volunteers leave because they want to. However, sometimes organisations will need to ask a volunteer to stop giving their time. This is usually when a volunteer has not followed organisational policies, for example, confidentiality.

Dismissing a volunteer can be stressful, which is why it is important that your volunteer policy has clear guidance on what to do in such a situation.

The guidance could include things like:

  • making sure the volunteer has a chance to put their case forward
  • making sure that all meetings with the volunteer always involve a third party and respects the volunteer’s confidentiality as far as possible
  • following up the meeting with a letter stating the decision to dismiss the volunteer and the reasons why

Getting volunteer management training and support

There are many training courses and development opportunities available for people who manage volunteers. These courses can help keep you updated on the latest developments on volunteer management. They are also a great way of learning new skills.

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