What is Good Volunteer Practice?

19 November 2019

This is a question we’ve probably all asked ourselves if we’re involved in managing, supporting or working alongside volunteers. 

Allana BlogInvolving volunteers has great benefits to individuals, organisations, groups and communities, but how do we know if we’re doing it right?

To help solve that question and improve volunteer practice across Scotland, Volunteer Scotland, Volunteer Dundee and Quality Scotland have joined forces. OurInvesting in Volunteers AwardandVolunteer Friendly Award offer two different routes to develop and support volunteering depending on the size and needs of your organisation.

The Investing in Volunteers quality standard is made up of nine indictors covering all aspects of volunteer practice. So, here’s a few tips on good practice to consider: 

  1. Volunteer Policies: Make sure you have all the correct policies in place to involve volunteers, for example a volunteer policy, and share these polices with all volunteers and staff, so they understand and can explain why your organisation involves volunteers.

  2. Resources: Plan for volunteering by ensuring you have the correct resources in place before engaging with volunteers; have a key person/team to support and manage volunteering, include volunteering responsibility in job roles. Also ensure staff have the right skills and experience to support and manage volunteers. A common misconception is that volunteering is free. You should secure adequate funding and set objectives for involving volunteers.

  3. Inclusion: Be open and able to offer volunteering to a wide range of individuals. Staff and volunteers should be encouraged to embrace inclusion through training or policies. Monitor how inclusive your organisation is and take steps to increase this, ensuring your description and images reflect how inclusive your organisation is.

  4. Roles: Create a role description for your volunteers, include the necessary skills, experience and availability required for the role. Offer several volunteer roles to attract a wide range of volunteers, be flexible and adaptable to suit the volunteer’s needs.

  5. Safety: Keep your volunteers safe by carrying out risk assessments, provide out of pocket expenses, ensure volunteers are covered by insurance and data protection.

  6. Engagement: You can engage volunteers in a number of ways for example, through Volunteer Scotland (search.volunteerscotland.net) and volunteer centres, on social media, or via your website. Whichever way you engage, try to provide clear information about the role, location, commitment and benefits. Have a matching process to fit the right volunteer to the right role; explore the individual’s reason for volunteering, give them the opportunity to find out more or offer shadowing or taster sessions. Carry out the correct checks; consider disclosure requirements or request references if appropriate.

  7. Induction: Have a volunteer induction plan. Think about how, when and who is delivering this. Can you involve volunteers and staff in the induction? Can you spread the induction over a period and provide the information through different methods? Provide the volunteer with the correct information and/or training for the role to make them feel ready to start. Make sure volunteers are clear about the boundaries of the role and the procedure for dealing with complaints.

  8. Support: Provide the right support for the right roles; make sure volunteers have a point of contact they can go to for support. Keep volunteers up to date with what’s going on in your organisation and provide opportunities for feedback (this should be two-way).

  9. Recognition: Recognise and show value to your volunteers with a simple thank you or why not join in the Volunteers’ Week celebrations by holding an event? Ask volunteers to be involved in decision making, request feedback from volunteers leaving the organisation and offer a reference.

If you feel that your organisation could improve its volunteer practice, why not consider either the Volunteer Friendly Award (which is a good start in this area) or the Investing in Volunteers Award (which is a bit more in-depth but higher impact). Volunteer Scotland would be happy to guide you to the award that best suits your needs.  

Blog originally published for 'Third Force News Guide to running a charity or social enterspise' view here.