Employers: Volunteering Best Practice

Posted by | June 15, 2017 | Employers, Volunteer management

Volunteering best practice

Guest blog by Laura Allen at Volunteer New Zealand on best practice in volunteering.

Annually, over one million New Zealand volunteers contribute more than 270 million hours of unpaid work to non-profit organisations. While this sounds like a huge number, the reality is that there has been a 42% reduction in hours volunteered in the past decade!  

Ensuring you are ready to engage and manage volunteers can sometimes mean the difference between being able to achieve your organisation’s mission and objectives and being much, much less effective.

Regardless of the size of your organisation, we believe that there are five domains to becoming more effective in how volunteers are involved in your organisation:

#1. Your overall strategy

Regularly think about and plan for how the efforts of your volunteers can best enable your organisation to achieve its goals.

A few examples that can illustrate a need for thinking about the connection between your strategy and the work of your volunteers:

  • Is there a person who wants to volunteer but you don’t have a possible role organised?
  • Are there people in your community that you represent but that aren’t represented in your volunteer mix?

Working with volunteers requires paying attention to their needs and motivations in exchange for their contributions to your mission. Ideally, you are helping them feel they are a part of your mission.

All programmes change over time, and you can always improve things as you go. Having a framework of best practices in place makes it easier to plan for changes.


#2. Your culture

Your culture includes the shared assumptions, values, and beliefs that govern how people behave in your organisation. Your culture will also affect the feeling of belonging that your volunteers can have.

While you may feel that you don’t have much influence over these things, ask yourself  “Does the culture reflect who we want to be?”

Examples include considering how volunteers are oriented and trained, providing someone they can go to for help and supervision, making volunteers feel that they belong by asking them for feedback in surveys and including them when you make big changes that affect them.


#3. Tools and resources

Another important factor is ensuring your volunteer team have the appropriate type of tools and resources available to do their job. This includes your organisational policies and procedures which provide a framework for how you will support and manage your volunteers. Standard operating procedures reduce the risks and liabilities, while resources support volunteers and the people who manage volunteers to most effectively do their work.

  • Do you have a way to keep track of everyone’s time and efforts?
  • Have you provided tools for your manager to communicate widely and provide updates?


#4. Communication

How well do your communications fit the profile of your volunteers? For example, if you work with younger volunteers, are you utilising the full range of electronic communication options available, including instant messaging and Skype?

Planning how information is sent, received and shared to connect and engage people with the work of the organisation is just one aspect of communication. Another extremely important factor is how you’ll recognise the contribution of volunteers.

For example, informal recognition such as small, everyday expressions of gratitude that is initiated by a supervisor or staff at the organisation is as much a part of the ‘culture of appreciation’ within your organisation as the more formal recognition, such as events or certificates presented during National Volunteer Week this June.

And finally, regularly review your goals for volunteer involvement in your organisation.


#5. Setting goals

No organisation gets it perfect right from the start. Regularly evaluating your goals for volunteer involvement can help.

These might change from year to year – for example, you might first decide to get volunteer policies and procedures in place. After that, you might want to re-assess the process for training and orienting your team.

Volunteering New Zealand’s website Involveme (www.involveme.nz )  is an online self-assessment for members of volunteer-involving organisations – for anyone who will influence your volunteer programme, from the board members, manager of volunteers, senior leadership, and the volunteers themselves.  It’s designed to help you reflect and show growth opportunities along the way while taking a best practice approach to volunteering.

In addition, we encourage you to take advantage of the resources available from the volunteer centre nearest you – they have likely worked with organisations just like yours. Find out more at: https://www.volunteeringnz.org.nz/volunteers/finding-volunteer-roles/



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