Coronavirus (Covid-19) advice for voluntary organisations

20 March 2020

We've provided practical guidance for organisations managing volunteers during Coronavirus (Covid-19).

This article has a specific volunteering management focus. If you're looking for information about how volunteering will impact your organisation more directly, please refer to the Coronavirus Third Sector Information Hub

Updated: 11/01/21 The latest Scottish Government guidance came into effect on 5 January 2021 with 'Stay at home' regulations in place in most local authority areas. Please review the Coronavirus local protection levels in your area before restarting your volunteering activities.


advice vio covid

What does this mean for volunteering?

Regardless of protection level, services which are essential are still being provided in communities. There has been a resumption of some additional volunteering, permitted under the measures outlined above. Volunteers are encouraged to look out for their neighbours and volunteer from home if possible. Please ensure you heed all relevant advice around staying safe and keeping others around you safe. Check out the guidance from Ready Scotland.  

If you manage volunteers within an essential service or are planning on resuming activity, please also review the following advice:

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. Assess the ongoing impact on your volunteering programme. The nature of volunteering has changed and and for many this has meant suspending your existing volunteering programme. For others this has meant changing from volunteering that relies largely on social connection and face-to-face, to volunteering that operates remotely and uses virtual technology (see Befriending Networks).

3. 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. 

4. Resume your volunteering programme safely. As lockdown eases, consider the steps you need to take in order to resume your volunteering programme safely. You should undertake a risk assessment. Most sector associations and governing bodies are issuing their own advice in this regard. A typical risk assessment can be viewed here.

5. Carefully consider when large-scale events or training can resume. Social distancing should be maintained (amongst other measures) and events that draw large crowds or smaller gatherings indoors are still tightly controlled. The advice is changing and so it is best to regularly review the Coronavirus local protection levels from the Scottish Government.  

6. 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. 

7. 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).

8. 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 of time off work, may be afraid of missing work through volunteering etc.

9. 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. 

10. 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.   

Please get in touch if you have any other questions or comments via