What is a volunteer policy 

A volunteer policy provides a firm foundation on which to involve volunteers within your organisation. It brings consistency and purpose to how volunteers will help you achieve your objectives. It will help you involve a diverse range of volunteers, because it defines the roles of volunteers clearly. 

Why you should have a volunteer policy 

A volunteer policy will: 

  • Ensure that everyone involved in the organisation including Board Members, funders, staff and volunteers understands the role volunteers play in the organisation and why.  
  • demonstrates your commitment to involving volunteers and shows care and thought have gone into developing a volunteering programme  
  • Make sure the organisation treats all volunteers with fairness and makes consistent decisions  
  • ensures that any decisions about volunteering are not made on an ad hoc basis and that all volunteers are treated equally and fairly  
  • it enables volunteers to know where they stand, how they can expect to be treated and where to turn if they are unhappy
  • Show volunteers what to expect from the organisation 
  • Show volunteers where they can turn if they feel things are going wrong 

If your organisation has not yet started to work with volunteers, creating a policy is the ideal starting point to consider exactly how you will involve them in your work, as it encompasses everything from recruitment to supervision and dealing with any problems that may arise. You should consult as widely as possible with volunteers and staff at all levels of the organisation when developing your policy. 

What should be in a volunteering policy?  

Headings could include: 

  • Introduction - containing your organisation's objectives and principles, including why your organisation involves volunteers 
  • Responsibilities of the organisation towards volunteers. General statements covering induction, training, support and supervision, etc. ensure that there is a common understanding, common standards of practice across the organisation and that volunteers are effectively included as active participants in your organisation. 
  • Responsibilities of volunteers. The standards of professionalism you require from volunteers, for example in relation to behaviour, dress code, time-keeping, reporting requirements, honesty, confidentiality etc. 
  • Recruitment and Screening - the steps involved in your recruitment and selection process, including developing role profiles, interviewing, considering if references are or DBS are required and saying, “no thank you”. Include what happens if volunteers are considered unsuitable for a particular role at both interview stage, and if they need to be asked to leave later on in their time with you. 
  • Support and supervision - clarity on who will provide this and how 
  • Volunteers’ voice and recognition - how volunteers can make their views known, or feed in to decision-making
  • Other relevant information List your organisation’s policies that include volunteers; for example, equal opportunities, health and safety, confidentiality, data protection, policy/ procedures for reclaiming expenses, and details of insurance cover (including any limitations or conditions on the cover provided)
  • Problem Solving - an outline of how the organisation deals with complaints by or about volunteers
  • Endings- This section should mention any procedures such as exit interviews or questionnaires, and whether a reference is offered after a certain period or number of hours of volunteering. 

It can also link to other documents for more information. For example, it could link to the organisation's health and safety policy. 

Your policy should reflect the size and nature of your organisation. It should cover all the important information, but not be so formal that it puts off new volunteers. 

Next steps  

Once you have agreed a draft policy statement you should circulate for discussion with Management Committee or Board of Directors, paid staff, volunteers, members/clients and unions and once accepted, put in place. 

Someone should be assigned responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the policy so that any issues highlighted are recorded. Any associated policies and procedures should also be rolled out across the organisation.  

The policy should be made available to everyone and form part of your recruitment of volunteers. You may want to post it on your website for potential volunteers to look at prior to joining the organisation. 

The policy should be reviewed regularly and at least annually to see if any revisions need to be made based on feedback or to reflect any organisation changes.