Coronavirus (Covid-19) advice for voluntary organisations

9 August 2021

We've provided practical guidance and advice for organisations preparing to restart their volunteer programmes post Covid-19 restrictions.

From Monday 9th August, Scotland will move beyond level 0 out of the level systems. Everyone should continue to act carefully and remain cautious.

To stay safe you should:


As we know, volunteering happens in a wide range of settings from traditional office spaces to community centres, so as programmes begin to reopen it is important that everyone continues to follow the Scottish Government guidance. This compliance self-assessment tool from the Scottish Government will help you assess the effectiveness of COVID-19 control measures within your workplace.

Read more about ‘Safer Premises’ including information on ‘Risk assessments and control’, ‘Physical distancing, hygiene and PPE’, ‘Charity Shops’ plus more here in the SCVO Coronavirus Info Hub.

Scottish Government have also provided sector specific covid-19 guidance (including business, health, education, and housing), view here

Training available to you:

Our Volunteer Practice Training Courses will help prepare you for reopening your volunteer programme. From our free Online Learning Courses, delivered via the Open University, to our Interactive Learning Bites cover a range of topics (including Developing Volunteer Roles, Planning for Volunteering, Volunteers Mental Wellbeing, plus more), there is something for everyone, covering all aspects of volunteering management to help you fully prepare.

Online Learning Courses:

  • Keeping Volunteers Safe - Restarting your Volunteer Programme: This free online course covers the essential things you need to consider ensuring a positive experience for individuals returning to volunteering post covid restrictions. It will help you judge if it is appropriate to scale up/fully restart your volunteer programme; consider what needs to happen before and when you restart; draw on the core values and guidance around volunteer practice to keep volunteers safe, plus much more.  The course is accessed via the Open University and allows you to learn in your own time.

View all Online Learning Courses here

Interactive Learning Bites:

These learning bites are 2-hour live sessions delivered by one of Volunteer Scotland Practice Team via zoom. The cost of each session is determined by your organisation’s annual income. Cost per delegate and session is detailed here. Various dates for each session are available:

  • Developing a Volunteer Culture
  • Developing Volunteer Roles
  • Developing Volunteer Strategy
  • Involving and matching volunteers to roles/tasks
  • Managing Difficult Situations
  • Planning for Volunteering
  • Supporting Volunteers
  • Volunteer Change Management
  • Volunteer Induction
  • Volunteers Mental Wellbeing

View all Interactive Learning Bites here

Things to consider:

1. Provide clear guidance to volunteers around health-related matters. 

This includes when to self-isolate, what do I do if they become unwell whilst volunteering and otherwise following best practice to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus. Follow the latest advice provided by NHS inform in this regard.

2. Do you have a Business Continuity Plan or a Covid-19 policy?

This should be the main source of practical advice for the organisation (including volunteering). If volunteering is not included, relevant information should be added, asap. 

3. Consider if and how volunteers can work remotely. 

Volunteers may still need to work from home at this time. As well as thinking about the work volunteers can complete for your organisation remotely you should determine what considerations have been made around infrastructure, equipment and processes required to allow volunteers to work remotely and the ongoing support they need. 

4. Involve volunteers in planning around volunteering. 

Include volunteers in decision-making around plans and policies affecting them. Having volunteers at the table will ensure that their concerns are heard and addressed. Ask volunteers about their availability to continue volunteering. For volunteers who have high availability, ask if they would be willing to increase their volunteering temporarily to help fill gaps. Track responses and keep a database/spreadsheet of volunteers who anticipate availability in certain situations. Work with other community stakeholders and TSIs to prioritize programming / services delivered by volunteers and determine where volunteering services should be focused (especially if there is a significant decrease in availability).

5. Can your volunteers still clearly communicate their needs? 

Check that there is a clear system in place for getting in touch with volunteers / the organisation (e.g. when cancelling a shift). Also, make sure that your emergency contact details are up-to-date. Be open to discuss honestly the situation with volunteers and exercise your duty of care towards them. At a minimum, this should be about encouraging volunteers to be cautious and to take care of themselves.

Volunteers just as for other members of society may be experiencing heightened anxiety - understand that COVID-19 and the response needed, affects each of us differently. Volunteers who are elderly or immunocompromised are at increased threat for serious complications. Volunteers living in poverty are less equipped financially to prepare for self-isolation. Those who have limited sick time or can't afford a period off work, may be afraid of missing work through volunteering etc.

6. Remember volunteering is a choice, freely made. 

If your volunteer decides for any reason not to volunteer support their decision, including and up to a decision to temporarily suspend their volunteering during this uncertain time. Please advise they take all necessary precautions if they're immunocompromised or live with/care for someone who is immunocompromised. 

7. Ensure your volunteering roles meet the tests set by the Volunteer Charter. 

Specifically, the Volunteer Charter states that 'Volunteers and paid workers should be able to carry out their duties in safe, secure and healthy environments'. Whilst the charter helps safeguard jobs (making clear the distinction between volunteering and paid work) it should not be interpreted as preventing a volunteering effort which is clearly welcomed by all parties, at this time.