Charity Volunteers huddles in a circle, looking down at you and smiling.

As a not-for-profit or social enterprise organisation, a substantial element of your workforce is likely comprised of volunteers. These individuals devote their time and energy to help the community through your organisation.

While they are offering their services without compensation, you still owe a duty of care to ensure that they are adequately trained and supported as if they were a paid employee.

As such, your charity must manage its volunteers to minimise the risk of harm to the community members you are attempting to serve and the charity volunteers themselves. This can be achieved by utilising a robust risk management framework alongside the effect of Community or Charity Insurance coverage.

As a not-for-profit, your organisation must develop a training programme for its volunteers.

The individual programme will depend heavily on the position the volunteer holds, the experience they bring to the role, the needs of the community member(s) they are serving and the policies put in place by your organisation.

While in the training programme, volunteers should be given a safety handbook outlining your organisation’s policies. Further, they should sign a waiver after reading through the organisation’s policies and procedures as a clear record of completed activity.

The training programme should also include the following:

  • An official welcome to the organisation and education on the history, mission statement and services provided. Outline the goals of the organisation and the specific needs of the community members serviced.
  • Provide an overview of the skills and responsibilities required for the position. If special equipment is being used, a supervisor should teach the volunteer how to use it until the volunteer feels comfortable.
  • Explain the organisation’s policies and procedures, such as reimbursement policies and sexual harassment training.
  • Conduct a safety briefing covering how the volunteer can protect him/herself and community members from danger and injury while representing the organisation.

After the volunteers have completed the training programme, your staff members must continue to monitor and manage them throughout their tenure at your organisation.

Assure that your staff members feel comfortable delegating responsibilities to the volunteers and correcting them if they make mistakes. Furthermore, if a volunteer is misbehaving, advise the staff members to dismiss the volunteer before they inflict harm onto another person or themselves.

Some of our Social Enterprise clients also motivate their volunteers to work hard for the community by creating a “Thank You” culture and delivering continued praise, thanks, and encouragement for all their efforts.  

This may sound obvious, but during a busy event, it’s easy to forget that these people have given their expertise, time and support for free and saying “thank you” will often go further than providing them with a small gift as gratitude for their hard work.

To ensure that your organisation is fully prepared for managing volunteers, determine if your not-for-profit does the following:

  • Compile a description of all volunteer positions describing the tasks and duties expected.
  • Maintain and distribute a volunteer safety handbook for use during training.
  • Establish a grievance policy if volunteers are dissatisfied while working for the organisation.
  • Assure that all volunteers sign a waiver acknowledging the organisation’s policies.
  • Establish disciplinary standards for volunteers.
  • Train all staff members and supervisors who come in contact with volunteers on how to interact with them.
  • Review your Charity or Community group insurance to ensure that you have adequate protection for volunteers under your Public and Employer’s Liability coverage.

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