What is a Volunteer Policy
A Volunteer Policy is the foundation on which your organisation’s involvement with volunteers should be based. It forms the basis of your entire volunteer programme, giving cohesion and consistency to all elements in your organisation that affect volunteers (i.e. recruitment, expenses, health & safety etc.) Volunteer Policies are the key to involving a diverse group of volunteers, because they help to define the role of volunteers within the organisation, and how they can expect to be treated.
Why do we need one?
A Volunteer Policy demonstrates an organisation’s commitment both to its volunteer programme and to its individual volunteers. By having a policy in place, you are showing that care and thought has gone into the volunteer programme.
Volunteer Policies help to ensure fairness and consistency. Dealing with volunteers, means dealing with a diverse range of people, being able to refer to a written policy ensures that decisions are not made on an ad-hoc basis, and that all volunteers are treated equally and fairly.
A policy enables volunteers to know where they stand. It offers them some security, in that they know how they can expect to be treated, and where they can turn if they feel that things are going wrong.
Volunteer Policies also help to ensure that paid staff, senior management and trustees fully understand why volunteers are involved and what role they have within the organisation.
Drawing up a Volunteer Policy is the ideal starting point when considering how to involve volunteers. Once the Policy is written it should be reviewed annually in consultation with volunteers, staff and trustees, perhaps a representative steering committee.
for more info, please look at our: guidelines-on-managing-volunteers
Another important aspect of managing volunteers which is often overlooked, is how to retain your volunteers. You need to hang onto them once you’ve found them! The reasons for losing volunteers may be the result of external or internal factors:
External – factors over which you have no control:
· Your funding has changed, or come to an end
· Your project/organisation has to close
· They have been offered paid work
· Childcare responsibilities
· Long-term sickness
· Moving out of the area
Internal – factors which you may have control over:
- Lack of support
- Being taken for granted
- No training
- No opportunities for development
- Not feeling welcome and part of the team
- No opportunities to be involved in decision-making
- Lack of stimulation
- Under-utilised skills
- Feeling their efforts are wasted
- Lack of variety
- Not being given opportunity to express their views and make suggestions
What can I do to retain volunteers?
Ask them! There may be simple things you can do to stop the volunteer leaving.
The following are basic elements of volunteer management, which are all important for volunteer retention:
- Induction – make it informative and interesting – get off on the right foot
- Initial Development & Training Plan for the volunteer – if they wish to progress. (Not all volunteers will wish to do so, but it must be offered to those who do)
- Development & Training Plan review and regular supervision sessions at 3 months, 6 months and every 6 months thereafter
- Team/volunteer meetings on a regular basis (these may be social or work-focussed)
- Consultation and communication
- Ongoing support from the volunteer’s mentor/supervisor
Regular supervision and support are essential for ALL volunteers. Even if they only have supervision sessions every 3 or 6 months, they should be encouraged to contact their supervisor/manager if they have any problems or queries, rather than leaving them until the next supervision session. This can prevent minor issues developing into larger ones and the volunteer deciding to leave.
Below are some suggestions from local volunteer managers on what works for them!
- Feel included, valued
- Thank them! Pampering/events
- Pay expenses where possible
- Support them
- Opportunity to progress if wanted
- Group volunteer meetings
- Have just enough to do, not too much
- Include in Christmas meals
- Ask them for ideas
- Be aware of friction between volunteers
- Publicising achievements – newsletter
- Other support available if you’re not there!