Find the Right Volunteer for Your Organization

Finding the right Volunteer for your organization

1. Identify Your Needs

An initial step when considering involving volunteers in your organisation is to identify the needs and goals of your organisation and establish where volunteers will fit. In spending time doing this you should be able to:

  • Develop a job description with clearly defined roles/positions for your volunteers.
  • Consider how their roles will be different yet complement those of your paid staff.
  • Consider the types of skills and attributes that your roles/postions will require of a volunteer.

2. Develop an Agency Policy in relation to Volunteer Involvement

This is the time to consider what your organization feels is fair and reasonable to ask of volunteers. It can be useful to involve paid staff in the development of the policy as this may help allay any fears that volunteers will be putting paid positions in jeopardy.
Issues to consider could include:

  • How volunteers are to be included as members of your team.
  • Procedures for ensuring volunteers’ ideas and requests are heard.
  • Procedures for ensuring client and staff confidentiality is maintained.
  • Minimum skills and standards required.
  • Ways in which the effort of volunteers will be formally recognized and rewarded.
  • Dispute resolution and disciplinary procedures.

3. Appoint a Coordinator of Volunteers (paid or unpaid)

Whether you appoint a new employee to coordinate your volunteers or if you add this responsibility to an existing job description/position be realistic in the time you allow for this job. Remember, it can be extremely important to the feelings of job satisfaction and therefore retention rates of your volunteers to have a properly managed program.

It is also important to consider what skills you will be expecting from your coordinator. They will probably find that they are dealing with issues such as:

  • Ongoing policy development and job descriptions in regards to volunteers.
  • Rostering and availability of volunteers.
  • Some ‘pastoral care’ issues of volunteers.
  • Recruitment and screening.
  • Training.
  • Supervision.
  • Reimbursement to volunteers of money spent in the course of their voluntary work.
  • Be the first in line to resolve dispute and disciplinary matters between staff (paid or unpaid).

Therefore you will need to give the position some authority for your coordinator to be effective in their job.

4. Attracting Volunteers

The Australian Bureau of Statistic’s survey result clearly show that ‘word of mouth’ will be your most important recruitment tool. The best way to achieve good word of mouth is to have happy, satisfied volunteers. Here are some additional ideas for attracting volunteers:

  • Involve the ‘networkers’ in your community.
  • Periodically check with the ‘old’ volunteers to see if they would like to become re-involved.
  • If using the media, try to do the research for them and develop a media kit.
  • Include four elements in your recruitment message: the job’s importance, a job description, location and time commitment, and the benefits of joining your organization.
  • Focus on the fun and benefits side of volunteering to attract youth.
  • Offer short-term voluntary alternatives.

(Source: Esmond, Judy 2001 “Count Me In! 501 Ideas on Recruiting Volunteers”)

5. Screening of Volunteers

Screening of volunteers can take many forms but ultimately will also involve a “leap of judgement”. With all methods it is important to be impartial and consistent. Here are some methods that can be used:

  • Have a clear job description and outline of minimum qualifications needed.
  • Design your own application form and interview questions (see the floppy disk included in this package for an example).
  • Information requested could include: identification, qualifications, equipment/vehicle specifications, medical condition, availability, preferred working conditions, reason/motivation for volunteering, how heard of voluntary work, work history, other relevant skills, references, police checks, qualification checks (including driver’s license), performance assessments, medical tests and driver’s record checks.
  • Use of trail period. This allows an opportunity to spend more time with the volunteer to determine what skills they have or could acquire. Remember a trail period works both ways.
  • Use of training sessions that include role-plays, values activities, exercises and relating/relationship experience.

A few cautions:

  • Remember to get written permission to obtain reference checks.
  • During your selection/screening process be sure to indicate to your potential volunteer that acceptance in your program is not automatic and that the screening process can be used to mutual assessment.
  • Be aware of the possibility of wandering into anti-discrimination prohibition grounds through informal small talk during interviews.
  • Remember that police checks have their limitations and do not use them to the exclusion of other checks.

(Source: Graff, Linda L. 1999 Beyond Police Checks: The Definitive Volunteer & Employee Screening Guidebook)

6. Training Volunteers

As a minimum volunteers should be provided with job orientation so that they know exactly what is expected of them, the chain of command, and where everything is. It’s form could be very similar or the same as the induction of new paid staff and should be interesting and relevant. Consider spacing the delivery of this information over a period of time so that the volunteers are not overloaded with too much information at any one time. Where possible also put information in written form so that volunteers can refer to it at a later date.
Issues that may be of relevance are:

  • Agency policies, philosophy, procedures and objectives.
  • A tour of the premises that the agency occupies or operates out of.
  • Minimum standards and requirements.
  • Confidentiality of staff and clients.
  • Specific job requirements.
  • Procedures for participating in agency decisions and providing mutual feedback.
  • Dispute resolution and disciplinary procedures.

Training can be viewed as a volunteer retention strategy and part of a risk management strategy used by your organization that could keep overall costs down. To ascertain what training is needed the Coordinator of Volunteers could:

  • Keep a register of current skills and qualifications of volunteers.
  • Ask new and continuing volunteers about their perceived training needs and then prioritise these taking into account your agency’s needs.
  • Search for and gather information about available training courses that your agency could access.
  • Consider what ‘in house’ and ‘on the job’ training could be provided.

(Source: Active Australia Volunteer Management Program, IYV Resource Kit)

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