UK Charity Volunteer Policy Template And Agreement - How To Recruit, Manage And Retain Your Volunteers

This short, practical guide and template enable you to create your volunteer policy and agreement to find, recruit, manage and retain your charity volunteers

UK Charity Volunteer Policy Template

This resource gives you a template for your volunteer policy and another for your charity volunteer agreement and explains how to recruit, retain and manage your volunteers well. 

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Charity Facts & Stats To Help You Create Your Policy To Manage Your Volunteers

Nearly 20m people have volunteered at some point, with many charities entirely volunteer run.  In one sense, they don't support the charity sector - they are the charity sector.  Here are some ideas to use in writing your policy and recruiting and retaining your volunteeers. 

There are many reasons why people volunteer their time and skills, and each person has her of his own reasons, but here are some of the most common ones. 

  1. Enjoy helping people
  2. Believe the cause is worthwhile.
  3. Have time to spare.
  4. Want to make friends.
  5. Want to use skills.
  6. Would like to learn new skills

However, there are also barriers:

  1. Lack of time.
  2. Put off by bureaucracy.
  3. Worry about risk/liability.
  4. The way things are organised (or not).

Benefits reported by volunteers:

  1. Satisfaction from seeing results.
  2. Personal achievement.
  3. Opportunity to do something they are good at.
  4. Broaden horizons.
  5. Meet people.

Recruitment - How To Find Volunteers

Finding and recruiting volunteers is a bit like staff recruitment.  We need to be clear on how many people we need, what skills and experience they might need, what we can offer that will make them want to volunteer, minimise any barriers that may make that less likely and then get that message to them.  

Larger charities may have volunteer job descriptions, but even for the smaller ones, it can be useful to have a list of volunteer roles, any useful skills/experience and the time/flexibility required.  That’s more admin, but you can download a template from Charity Excellence that has this, with a range of example roles and requirements already included.

Think about what it is you offer and do that will appeal to potential volunteers and what barriers they think may be preventing them from volunteering.   Turn that into simple messages that you can use.   You can also use these in wider communications, such as social media posts, or your newsletter, to encourage people to come forward.  Seven in 10 volunteers say they have already or would recommend their volunteering to a friend or family member.  Among those who have never volunteered, one of the most frequently cited reasons for not volunteering is that they have never thought about it.  

Then think about who your volunteers might be, where to find them and how to reach them.  About 80% of people volunteer in their local areas, with about 10% volunteering through employer supported schemes. Formal volunteers are more likely to be older, well-educated and from higher socio-economic groups.  Having flexibility and being asked directly are most likely to encourage those who have not volunteered recently.

For example, people who volunteer for roles such as:

  1. Helping out at events or at a day club for an hour or 2 are most likely to come from the local community. Posters in local shops etc or posts in local social media groups might work well.
  2. Whereas someone drafting funding bids or social media volunteers, may be home based and could be drawn from a wide geographical area. You could use social media platforms or groups they may be members of, or one of the volunteer recruitment websites.  

For social media, think about which platforms they might use.  There are no absolutes, but business and professional people may be more likely to use LinkedIn, whereas teenagers are more likely to be on Instagram/Snap Chat.   

For those hard to fill roles, using your trustees and business supporters to access corporates and business networks can be very useful.  However, there are also a significant number of organisations that will help you for free.  Here are some of the 100s of charity support organisations from the Charity Excellence resource base:

  1. Getting on Board – trustee recruitment.
  2. ICAEW- finance and business.
  3. Media Trust - communications.
  4. Pimp My Cause – marketing, including websites, digital and branding.
  5. Carter Murray - commercial, marketing & digital.
  6. Donate Code - designer & developer volunteer network.
  7. HR Net – professional HR volunteers.
  8. CITA- IT support.

Retention - Motivating & Engaging Volunteers

More than one in 5 people volunteer at least once a month for a group, club or organisation, but only 7% are both consistently and heavily involved.  This suggests that keeping volunteers engaged and retaining them is a real opportunity.

Make sure that volunteers are welcomed into your charity and given some form of induction and, if necessary, training to make them feel welcome and to enable them to give and get the most from being a volunteer. 

And make sure that you continue to engage and support them, on an ongoing basis.  It doesn't have to be a formal system and it doesn't have to be a lot of work, but it does have to be done well, to work well. Here are some ideas of the kinds of ways in which you could do that:

  1. A letter of welcome signed by the chair/CEO.
  2. Volunteer thank you events, thanks in the Board minutes (as long as they get told, obviously), or a card at Christmas and badges can work well.
  3. Good news stories can be posted on social media or in newsletters, or even as a press release, and help generate useful PR as well.
  4. There are national and often local volunteer awards, or you could create your own.
  5. Long service recognition can work well – for example a gold, platinum badge, or a hand written thank you from the Chair/CEO.  

And don’t overlook the power of simply saying thank you when you meet people who give their unpaid time to your charity.

Volunteer Management - Policy Template

Over a third of volunteers have said that things could be better organised.  Getting that right is not only important in helping them achieve the most that they can, but also for retaining them.  

I'm not a fan of pages of policies, mainly because they tend not to get read.  However, you should have at least a simple policy and someone who takes responsibility for it and ensures it is applied consistently. 

Use this short checklist as a policy template to check that you've covered all the issues that matter to you.

  1. We know how many volunteers we need, the roles they will fill and which ones are most important/difficult.
  2. We recruit people by talking to them about what matters to them, using methods/communication channels that will reach them.
  3. We are aware of the legal issues and ensure that we comply with these.
    1. That includes any right to work checks, safeguarding both them and others, volunteering whilst on benefits and ensuring our insurance covers volunteers.  
  4. We ensure they are welcomed into the organisations and given any guidance and training they may need to carry out their role.    
  5. We engage and retain volunteers by ensuring that we provide them with feedback, support and thank them.
  6. We have carried out at least a basic risk assessment and made provision for the resources they need.

For formal volunteers, having a volunteer agreement is recommended.  This is not a contract, but helps volunteers to understand their and the charity's obligations and how these will work in practice. Volunteers offer their time and skills to help us and are under no obligation to do so, but having an agreement helps volunteers and charities work better together and reduces the risk of problems ocurring.  Complying with procedures, such as data protection, health and safety and, if applicable, safeguarding keeps everyone safe and cannot be optional. 

There is also volunteer management software available - here's a guide

Volunteer Agreement Template - Laws, Rules & Procedures

For informal volunteers, such as one-off help at an event, make sure they are briefed on what they need to know.  For example, health & safety and action in the event of a fire.  

For formal volunteers, having a volunteer agreement is recommended.  This is not a contract, but helps volunteers to understand their and the charity's obligations and how these will work in practice. Volunteers offer their time and skills to help us and are under no obligation to do so, but having an agreement helps volunteers and charities work better together and reduces the risk of problems occurring.  Complying with procedures, such as data protection, health and safety and, if applicable, safeguarding keeps everyone safe and cannot be optional. 

Things you should include:

  1. This is not a legally binding contract between the charity and the volunteer, and that neither intends any employment or other worker relationship to be created.
  2. Any relevant policies and procedures the volunteer must follow and any training requirements, such as safeguarding.
  3. Confidentiality - the volunteer may not use or disclose any confidential information they have access to either whilst volunteering, or afterwards.
  4. Payment - is limited to reasonable pocket expenses, details of those expenses and how they may be re-claimed.
  5. Copyright - usually doesn't apply, but would if sh/e will be writing articles for you, taking photographs or producing any other material.  The volunteer will need
    to sign an assignment of intellectual property rights to ensure that you retain ownership of the material produced.
  6. Data protection - consent to the processing of personal data including sensitive personal data and, if they will be processing sensitive data of others, compliance with your data protection procedures. 
  7. Safety & Support - identify who will be their point of contact, if they need help, or have a problem, particularly relating to safety issues. 

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