It is important that you prepare your organisation for volunteers. Here are some initial questions, which can help you plan your volunteer program:
Reasons for involving volunteers and the mutual benefits
- What is the key reason(s) for having a volunteer program?
- What do volunteers offer?
- What does the organisation offer volunteers?
By asking these fundamental questions, you can ensure you engage and work with volunteers in accordance with your mission and in the most effective way possible.
The organisational culture
- What are the attitudes, beliefs and traditions that are fundamental to who you are as an organisation?
- What impression and impact will your current staff and culture have on new volunteers?
- What are your attitudes and beliefs in regards to volunteers?
- How welcoming is your organisation?
These attitudes and beliefs inform the way you work with volunteers. If the program is to be successful, it is critical that the organisational culture is welcoming and valuing of volunteers.
Roles and responsibilities
- Where are the areas of potential jobs for volunteers?
- Have these roles been clearly articulated and communicated?
- Who will supervise and support volunteers?
- What jobs are appropriate for volunteers who may only work for one or two days a week?
- How much flexibility can you allow around roles and responsibility?
These questions will help you develop volunteer job roles and ensure that they have adequate supervision. It will also assist you in being realistic about how many volunteers you can supervise and support.
Resources for community involvement in your program
- What resources (physical, financial and human) will you need within your organisation to sustain a healthy volunteer program?
- Are you able to get ongoing funding to continue the program?
- Have you identified leaders with adequate time to coordinate and support volunteers?
Volunteer programs require substantial resources to be effective. You will need to consider resources such as physical space and resources to do the job, as well as financial resources for everything from insurance to recognition events. Perhaps the least recognised resource requirement is that of time.
Barriers to community involvement
- What obstacles do volunteers face that might prevent them from joining or working within your organisation?
- If you have attempted to develop a volunteer program before and it has not been successful, why has this been so?
- Can you develop strategies to overcome these issues?
By examining barriers, we can develop strategies to overcome or address the most significant ones.
Once you have considered these questions, you will need to decide how your program will work. The volunteer management system should provide a planned approach to how the volunteer program is to be managed and a means of determining whether the program is achieving what it was established to do. One model for developing your program can be seen in the National Standards for Involving Volunteers in Non-Profit Organisations.
Factors to be included in a volunteer management system:
Policy and procedure
These should establish a commitment to the importance of volunteer participation. Most organisation policies will apply equally to volunteers. Additional policies may include: reimbursement of expenses such as travel; volunteer recognition; definition of a volunteer; insurance; scope of volunteer involvement; plus minimum and maximum time commitment.
It is essential that all volunteer programs have available an efficient way to collect, store and retrieve essential data and information about the program. It is essential that personal data about individual volunteers be maintained confidentially in whatever form it is stored.
Appropriate risk management processes
For more information on volunteer risk management please refer to the Risk Managment and Insurance section of the Community Door website.
There are also a range of risk management resources and information for those working with volunteers available on the Volunteering Queensland website in the resource section for nonprofits.