Volunteers and Your Partnership - Volunteer Management

If volunteers play an important part in your community business partnership, then you need to have procedures in place to look after them and manage them.

Concepts such as a "volunteer management policy" may seem like hard work and not worth worrying about, but this sort of planning is beneficial – especially if your partnership is based primarily around volunteer programs like working bees, or employee or workplace volunteering.

This Help Sheet is meant to provide a starting point and some guidance on preparing and implementing a set of workable volunteer management guidelines. But depending on the scope of volunteering in your partnership, you may need to adapt or modify some of the details listed below.

Volunteering Australia also has some excellent material on volunteering and volunteer management.

Steps Towards Good Volunteer Management

Appoint a Volunteer Coordinator

Your partnership's volunteer coordinator is the person who organises everything to do with volunteer tasks and resources in the partnership.

Those in your partnership need to decide whether the position is a "full-time" one for a designated person, or an "event-by-event" position filled by the most appropriate partnership member.

If appropriate the position could also be split, with a community group member co-ordinating one half of the volunteer program, with a member of the business partner's staff looking after the other half.

The volunteer co-ordinator needs to be aware of the capabilities of the partnership's volunteer force, as well as any requirements they may need.

Managing volunteers can demand a wide range of skills with a high level of complexity. Whatever the size of the volunteer event, the individuals responsible for volunteers must have the necessary skills, experience and support to do the job well.


Prepare a Volunteer Management Plan

Your partnership's volunteer co-ordinator is likely to be responsible for laying out some ground rules for volunteering in the partnership. Those rules will form the basis of a volunteer management plan.

Among the aspects that could be included in that plan are:
  • Volunteer roles.
  • Possible volunteer numbers, as well as numbers needed on the day to complete certain tasks.
  • Resource needs, be they uniforms, accreditation, training and orientation, transport, tools and food and drink.
  • Policies or guidelines on:
    • Volunteer behaviour.
    • Volunteer responsibilities and rights.
  • Other items, which could include health and safety issues, training issues, responsibilities, grievance process and dispute resolution, emergency procedures, etc.
  • Any insurance coverage needs. More information on public liability insurance can be found at Our Community's Insurance and Risk Management Centre: www.ourcommunity.com.au/insurance/insurance_main.jsp

Resources

When it comes to resources, your partnership's volunteer coordinator needs to take into account:
  • Tools and equipment
  • Uniforms (if required).
  • Transport to and from an activity.
  • Appropriate insurance coverage
  • Refreshments.
  • Any money needed to pay for things like:
    • Training or development costs, including payment of professionals who may be offering that training.
    • Tools.
    • Uniforms.

Prepare Job Descriptions

As the day or event draws closer, your volunteer coordinator will need to ensure volunteers have a specific task to perform.

This is made easier if they have an approximate idea of volunteer numbers beforehand so they can accurately allocate tasks to people. These will take in:
  • A list of jobs that need to be done.
  • How many people, and how long, it will take to do each job.
  • Assigning volunteers to tasks, taking into account:
    • Their availability.
    • Any special skills or qualifications they have.
    • Any equipment they are able to use.
  • Any skills or training needed for volunteers to perform their tasks.

Training/Orientation

If you carefully select the best volunteer to undertake each task,  formal training may not be necessary. However, in many cases - and depending on the community group involved - training may well be necessary and can give volunteers from a business a real insight into their community partner's goals and activities

Alternatively, some solid orientation may be needed, and can be organised either in the days before the volunteers "get to work" or first thing on the day itself.

Orientation should include information that:
  • Explains what volunteers will be doing on the day, and how their work fits into longer-term aims.
  • Explains what is expected from each volunteer, including tasks, who they report to, health and safety procedures (if necessary), and other responsibilities.
  • Motivates them a little.

Supervision

Your partnership's volunteer coordinator needs to make sure there is proper supervision on the day of the event. Volunteers should receive levels of supervision appropriate to their task.

Many volunteer assignments require minimal supervision, but some that are more complex (or involve higher risks) require a higher degree of supervision.

It is possible supervisors could be appointed to oversee some of the tasks. Deciding on levels of supervision should be completed early in the organising process for the volunteer event.


On the Day

On the day ensure:
  • Volunteers have the resources to be able to do the job you have asked of them.
  • They have easy access to refreshments and have regular rest breaks.
  • There is a space where volunteers can relax on their breaks.
  • The boring jobs are shared around a bit.
  • You ask if volunteers have any concerns/problems/needs.
  • Are not working too hard without taking a break, or there is an unfair division of the workload.

After the Event
  • Celebrate! It doesn't have to be elaborate but provide some time for all your volunteers to come together to talk about the event and be recognised for their efforts.
  • Say thanks in one form or another - a certificate ofthanks for each volunteer, for example.
  • Debrief volunteers. Maybe summarise what has been achieved during the day and ask them to fill in a survey to see what can be improved for next time around.
  • Keep records of the whole process so that you only have to update and refine your volunteer management plan - and not start from scratch.

Evaluation

Volunteer involvement should be evaluated regularly. An evaluation of volunteer involvement includes:
  • Rreviewing goals and objectives
  • Identifying results achieved
  • Obtaining feedback from volunteers.
  • Collecting and reviewing both quantitative and qualitative data about volunteer involvement
  • Assessing the performance of volunteers.
  • Volunteers themselves gaining feedback from the group they volunteered with - making it a more valuable and enriching experience for them.