Once you have established an effective volunteer program, it is important to look at how you can provide ongoing development of the program for your organisation and the volunteers.  This section will consider four areas:

Providing feedback to the volunteer

Feedback provides volunteers with information as to whether they are on the right track with their work and how they interact within the organisation. It shows that the organisation considers their work important and it provides timely opportunities to redirect work that might not be on target. Feedback enables the volunteer to know where the work they are doing contributes to the organisation. It also provides opportunities for volunteers to give feedback to the organisation about their needs and concerns with regards to the work they are doing.

Appraisal is a periodic formalised process for evaluating the work of volunteers, providing feedback and planning corrective action. Many organisations now plan a formal appraisal system for their volunteers, which is agreed to and implemented at the time the volunteer takes on a new role. This is a two way process: volunteers know their work will be evaluated according to predetermined criteria identified in the job description, and the organisation commits to providing support and assistance to enable the volunteer to achieve their goals.

Regular appraisal formalises the organisation’s ongoing commitment to effectively supporting and supervising the volunteer.

Performance appraisal should not be the occasion where poor performance is brought to the attention of a volunteer. This should take place during feedback, provided on an ongoing basis. Performance appraisal provides an opportunity to consolidate and build on regular feedback. Depending on the program and the needs identified, volunteer performance appraisal may need to be scheduled every six or twelve months.

Questions to consider during a volunteer performance appraisal:

  • Does the job description really describe what the volunteer has been doing?
  • What has the volunteer’s performance been like in each area of their role? Evaluation should be conducted against specific and agreed objectives
  • What external factors could be limiting the volunteer’s performance in any of these areas?
  • How does the volunteer relate to those they work with?
  • Have the volunteer’s goals for the period been achieved? Achievements should be acknowledged
  • What areas of concern exist (may be related to volunteer performance or relate to organisational factors)?
  • If there are areas where goals were not met, how can these be improved?
  • What are the goals for the coming period?
  • What resources are needed to help the volunteer achieve these goals?

Areas to consider in a volunteer performance appraisal:

  • Fulfilment of the agreed job responsibilities
  • Achievement of volunteer’s development goals
  • Future goals
  • Job role
  • Personal development
  • Plan for achieving agreed goals

Personal and professional development

In any organisation, the primary aim of involving volunteers is for the volunteers to enable the organisation to achieve its identified objectives. Organisations also need to acknowledge their responsibility and to help volunteers identify and achieve personal goals as part of the mutual benefits achieved through volunteering. The performance appraisal and planning process provides an opportunity for organisations and volunteers to clarify their expectations and the resources available for further personal and professional development.

Strategies for enhancing personal and professional development include:

  • Enhancing job roles
  • Increasing volunteer’s level of responsibility
  • Changing volunteer role
  • Updating and upgrading training available to volunteers within the organisation
  • Linking volunteer into external training opportunities through partnerships with other organisations, sponsorships to attend development programs, or development opportunities within the community
  • Conducting workshops which focus on volunteer’s areas of interest
  • Sharing skills of staff and volunteers within the organisation through seminars and workshops

Program evaluation

It is important to regularly review the performance of the volunteer program as a whole. It provides a measure of performance, identifies areas for improvement and can be used to promote the benefits of working with volunteers in your organisation. Commentators suggest three approaches to evaluating a volunteer program.

Measuring outcomes of the program

This method is based on examining the outcomes of the program, such as volunteer hours provided, number of clients assisted or dollars raised by volunteers. This requires initial records as a comparison

Measuring customer service provided by the volunteer program

This method utilises client and staff surveys to determine how effective the program has been, the level of satisfaction, how the program might be improved, while capturing positive stories around volunteer involvement

Measuring the volunteer program against outside standards of operation

This can involve auditing the program against the National Standards for Involving Volunteers in Non-Profit Organisations. There are a range of tools available to assist you in this process. For more information, visit Volunteering Qld’s website

Enhancing volunteer involvement

There are a variety of ways to enhance volunteer involvement:

Encouraging self-direction

  • Informing volunteers of the wide variety of roles available in the organisation
  • Providing role descriptions which identify required outcomes but provide the opportunity for the volunteer to determine how to achieve those outcomes
  • Providing clear organisational standards for behaviour/action which all staff of the organisation are expected to abide by
  • Developing volunteer teams with responsibility for an identified task/role with support and assistance, but not direction from higher in the organisation
  • Involving volunteers in identifying their own development needs and organising programs for ongoing education throughout the year
  • Making it part of organisational culture to regularly spend time with volunteers to review where they are at and what their goals are

Building responsibility and authority

  • Entrusting volunteers with responsible roles within the organisation, rather than limiting them to simple or ancillary roles
  • Clarifying the limits of authority for each volunteer role
  • Providing support which enables volunteers to do their work without controlling their way of working
  • Ensuring the organisation is responsible in the way it works with the volunteers
  • Providing opportunities for volunteers to take on additional responsibilities as they are ready to. This may include supporting other volunteers, leading teams of volunteers or roles where they can utilise specialist skills
  • Acknowledging volunteers’ responsibilities in publications

Encouraging volunteers to have a say

  • Establishing project teams with the remit to work on particular issues
  • Suggestion books/boxes
  • Having regular team meetings with areas for improvement as an agenda item
  • Recognising when the organisation acts on volunteers’ suggestions
  • Providing feedback as to why a suggestion was or could not be implemented
  • Asking volunteers for their suggestions as issues arise, whether as part of a regular review or anytime
  • Informing volunteers of issues/changes effecting the organisation and asking them for their suggestions
  • Making feedback and input a priority, rather than leaving it to the end of meetings
  • Only asking for volunteer input in areas where their input will be considered
  • Involving volunteers in your organisation’s strategic planning processes 
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