The first priority for any new volunteer is to receive a full induction before they start their role or as soon as possible after they start. The aim of any induction should be to ensure that the volunteer understands their role, the contribution they will make to the organisation’s goals and to ensure that they can fulfil their tasks safely and effectively. 

Volunteers may be apprehensive about meeting new people, taking on responsibility and doing well. A good induction program will make the new volunteer feel welcome and give them the confidence they need. Other advantages of an effective induction process include:  

  • Improved staff and volunteer morale  
  • Increased productiveness 
  • Reduction in a volunteer’s anxiety levels 

Be careful about information overload, a handbook can be helpful, but they may not need copies of full policies and procedures, but an idea of where they can be accessed may be sufficient.  

What should the induction cover?  

Your induction program should suit the needs of your organisation and the role of your volunteers. Some induction programs will go for half a day, while others will last a week with continuous monitoring and supervision.  

Above all, volunteer inductions should be fun and valuable. This is your volunteer’s first insight into your organisation and you want it to be positive. Remember volunteers who enjoy their work are more likely to be committed to the organisation and encourage their friends to volunteer.  

Icebreakers are a great way to welcome new volunteers to an organisation and learn about their interests and experiences. As well as having fun, volunteers should also learn about the organisational chart, the organisation’s vision and its values and goals, both short and long term.  

Induction Checklist 

Suggestions for what to include in your induction checklist include: 

Aims and Purpose of the Organisation - information about the client group with whom the volunteer will be working, the organisation's mission statement, values and details of all the services offered. 

Policies - volunteers need to have a good understanding of all the organisational policies which could affect them. In addition to thevolunteer policy, a volunteer may also need to be familiar with other policies such as Equal Opportunities,Health & Safety, Confidentiality, the Protection of Vulnerable People.  

It’s important to take the time to answer any questions the volunteer may have and to ensure that they understand how policies are implemented in the organisation. 

Practical Information - this should cover how to use any equipment and resources, (e.g. computers, telephones, kitchen equipment, tools) and any necessary safety information. You should go over the risk assessment for the role. Volunteers should be introduced to any record keeping systems that they will need to use and told how and where information is kept.  

In addition, don’t forget to give basic information such as where the toilet is and where to get a cup of coffee! 

People - new volunteers should be introduced to all the staff and other volunteers with whom they will be working. It is also worth thinking about any other members of the organisation that it would be appropriate for the volunteer to meet, e.g., the project manager, members of the management committee, workers from other organisations with whom they will have contact. 

Volunteer Issues - volunteers should be given information about thesupport structuresthat are available to them within the organisation, the name of the person who is their first point of contact and information about how and whenexpensesare paid to volunteers. They should also be told about any furthertrainingthat is available to them and details of volunteer meetings and events. It is also important that volunteers are made aware of how to raise any issues, concerns or new ideas that they have and how their views are represented within the organisation as a whole. 

The induction should always include space for the volunteer and the organisation to review how they are settling in.You should encourage them to raise any concerns they have as soon as they come up. You should have a process to check whether anyone has any concerns or issues about the person’s ability or suitability early on and address them immediately. 

Top Tips 
  • Decide what you need to cover and split your time up to give space to each part 
  • Free up time for the volunteer or staff member leading the induction to give it their full attention, and have a backup plan for if they are not there 
  • Be clear and direct about how important the things you are covering are, do not make excuses or dismiss things as 'things we have to do' 
  • Include a code of conduct that takes equality, safeguarding, bullying and sexual harassment seriously 
  • Cover any key training that all volunteers must have (for example how to report a safeguarding concern)
  • Explain what other training volunteers will need before they get started and when they will get it 
  • Consider how to make sure everyone can participate fully in the induction - have you thought about accessibility, about languages and even about building people’s confidence to take part? 
  • For longer term volunteering roles, the induction may take place over weeks. Make sure you have checklists and schedules so that people know when they have covered everything

In summary, an effective induction process should:  

  • Welcome the new volunteer by providing personal and professional support and demonstrating commitment to them
  • Integrate the new volunteer into the workplace and explain how they fit into the organisation
  • Allow the new volunteer to assimilate information about the workplace and their role
  • Provide important information and resources that will assist the new volunteer
  • Enable the new volunteer to be independent and proficient in their role as soon as possible