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It is universally acknowledged that most not-for-profit organisations need volunteers to operate, as it could be impossible to deliver the services you aspire to deliver as a church or a charity without a reliable team of people. If you generate finances by applying for grants and receiving donations, they are often focused on the recipients and not on the administration (although without administration it’s also impossible to deliver – we know!).

Thus, volunteers are necessary and you need to ensure you are getting the best from them so that your organisation performs well. This brings us to the question of recruiting volunteers: how do we make the process more efficient and less time-consuming?

It is essential to set expectations for your volunteers. This covers a variety of points:

Is there a job to be done?

Make your needs known. Unless you tell your members that you have a need, they won’t know and possibly won’t ask. If you need a person to hand out food parcels then say so. If you need someone to help you with your website, then ask. People in general assume that because the organisation is up and running, everything is being handled. It may be handled by you wearing 50 hats at the same time, but is this the most effective way to go? Make an announcement at the next meeting with your stakeholders. There’s likely someone there with the skills that you require, as well as some free time to give.

What is the job you are asking them to do?

This should be similar to a job brief. Be very clear about what the task is. Don’t say, “Just come along and we’ll find you something to do”. For the most part, that’s a turn off. This communicates that you are doing them a favour rather than them doing you one. Be appreciative of their time. Be specific and cover all the tasks that fit into this role. If it’s a reception job, then explain whether you would like them to open the office or building (or lick it up), answer phones, take messages or make the coffee. Emphasize the importance of finding replacement people if they are off. This level of clarity also shows that their input is valued and important to your organisation. Leaving it loose means their commitment can also be loose.

Who will they report to?

They need to know they are part of a team and won’t be left in the lurch. They will need a go-to person. They also need to know how to get a hold of that person if they are not around when the volunteer is doing their task.

What training will be given and when?

It’s unlikely that they will know everything they need to know before they start, so it’s a good idea to invite someone to get them started. Make it clear who that person is, how long they will be around for and how much training time will be given. This, of course, can be adjusted in the process depending on the volunteer, their skills and knowledge, and their availability.

How much time will the job take?

Is this a 10 minute job or does it take a few hours a week? Many people plan ahead, so let them know in advance. Also, make it clear when those hours can be performed: whether it’s strictly office hours or they can be flexible. Consider when their team leader is available, too.

When does it need doing by?

Is this a time critical project or an event for which the flyers need handing out within the next 7 days or it is a ‘whenever you get to it’ project? Communicate this well, because it can happen that your ‘whenever’ is not their ‘whenever’ and before long you have to change the goal posts.


What are the benefits of good volunteer management?

These few tips are a way of bringing on board amazing volunteers who will add value to your organisation. First, they will have a clear task to do with clear timings, and will be able to reap the benefits of doing volunteer work.

On the other hand, you will be able to manage the health and safety of your organisation better because of the proper training. This will help you bring people on in an orderly fashion accompanied by correct paperwork and not swamp your staff with processing volunteers at random times. In addition, you will be able to reduce your interruption times because the person will know who to take their questions to.

Some organisations might fear being so upfront with this type of information because it may turn people away because it makes visible the demands your organisation is placing on them. However, these terms can certainly be discussed when you interview volunteers, and their role descriptions can be modified accordingly.

Overall, most volunteers who sign up will appreciate this clarity of information, will be better organised, and ultimately, will become better volunteers who find their roles to be worthwhile and fulfilling.