Most community groups would not exist without the work of volunteers. Often the day-to-day work of the organisation and fundraising depends entirely or in part on volunteers. In not-for-profit organisations, this includes the volunteer members of the management committee who are not paid for accepting their roles.
Finding the best volunteers for your organisation and making sure that you support your volunteers to do their job will benefit both your organisation and its volunteers.
Before your organisation begins working with volunteers, you will need to decide:
- what jobs might be suitable,
- who will help your volunteers with their work, and,
- what resources are needed such as a desk, phone or computer.
You should also consider whether you would be able to pay reimbursements for travel expenses and if you have appropriate insurance cover including volunteer personal accident and/or public liability insurance.
Some volunteers will approach an organisation directly because they know about what you do and are interested. You could also decide to advertise to find someone with particular skills. There are many places that you can advertise for free including newsletters that are published by your organisation or another group or the internet.
It is essential that your volunteers are a good match for the work that your organisation does and the particular work they are doing. This is important for your organisation because volunteers will be working with paid staff to provide a service to your clients and/or the community. It is also important for the volunteer because they may leave quickly if they cannot use their skills or learn something new.
To ensure that the applicant understands your expectations, it is a good idea to give them information about your organisation, the work they might be doing, any necessary qualifications as well as what you can offer them. Many organisations develop a position description to make sure that the role is clearly defined.
To ensure that your organisation selects applicants who can meet your needs, you might develop an application form that asks about previous experience and any other relevant information. You might also ask applicants to provide personal and/or previous work referees that you can contact to verify this information.
After they have completed their application form, you might select some of the applicants for an interview where you can discuss the information in more detail. Before accepting an applicant as a volunteer, it is a good idea to talk to their referees. If you decide that someone is not suitable, you should thank them for applying and let them know in writing why they are not being accepted this time.
There are certain requirements described in your rules and the Associations Incorporation Act that you will need to follow when selecting and electing members of the management committee.
Before a new volunteer begins in their role, you should ensure that they feel welcome and help them to develop an understanding of the whole organisation. This process is known as orientation and can include introducing the volunteer to the other staff, letting them know who they will be working with, showing them through the office, and providing more information about the organisation and their role.
In the first few weeks or so after the new volunteer has started work, one or more staff members can help them develop the skills they will need to do their job. Depending on their role, the new volunteer will probably need to work closely with someone until they are confident in what they are doing. Written policies and procedures are also helpful, especially later when they may be working alone.
Once your volunteers feel comfortable in their work, there are still ways that you can continue to support them so they know that their efforts are appreciated. Finding good volunteers can take a lot of time so you will want to encourage them to stay.
If possible, you might want to include them in staff meetings, ask for their suggestions when planning projects they that will be involved with and seek their feedback. Wherever possible, you might want to continue to offer volunteers the opportunity to learn new skills through training or by taking on other roles that they might find more interesting or challenging.
Many organisations also show their appreciation to volunteers by rewarding them in other ways. This might include something as simple as thanking them for the work, buying them a coffee or providing them with a letter or certificate of appreciation.
If your volunteer decides to apply for paid work elsewhere, you might also be able to show your support by providing a written reference or agreeing to be a referee.