Why do I need volunteer role descriptions

Why do I need job descriptions for volunteers?

Managing volunteers is vital to the success of your non-profit organization. Both you - as a supervisor of volunteers - and volunteers themselves need to know what is expected of them. To do otherwise is like driving a car without a steering wheel - chaos is inevitable.

Writing job descriptions for volunteers may seem unnecessary and overly formal. After all, volunteers are not like employees who are paid for their time and expertise.

In reality, however, the differences are negligible. A non-profit organization - similar to a company or a government agency - exists for a reason. It has goals, and tasks must be competed in order to meet these goals.

To be effective, your organization must clearly identify its long-term and short-term objectives. It should then decide which tasks which must be completed in order to achieve these goals.

Once this is done, job descriptions should be written in order to clarify what skills you need from people who will volunteer their time.

Recruiting volunteers will be easier when you use job descriptions, because people are more likely to contribute their time when they know what they will be doing. To be satisfied, they want to see their work contributing to the goals of your organization.

How do I write a job description for volunteers?

Job descriptions of volunteers are usually similar to those of paid staff. The key difference in recruiting candidates lies in the motivation of those who apply. Staff people are paid to come to work, even when they might not want to. Volunteers are free to quit any time.

Some people volunteer to build their skills and experience, which may lead to improved employment prospects. Many others donate their time because it makes them feel good about themselves.

Job descriptions must therefore appeal to the motivations of volunteers. The reasons for needing volunteers must be clear and reflect the overall goals of the organization. Duties and responsibilities should reflect these goals, and clearly demonstrate how they will meet the organization's objectives.

People are more likely to volunteer when they can identify how their work will benefit the organization, while also enhancing their personal satisfaction.

In job descriptions, keep sentences short and use terms denoting action and achievement. Avoid clichés and keep wording simple. Before advertising a volunteer job, ask somebody who is not familiar with your organization to proof read it for clarity.

How do I evaluate volunteers and their jobs?

Like corporations and other agencies, non-profit organizations should regularly assess their performance, in order to determine how well they are meeting their objectives.

To measure performance you need a reference point, and job descriptions are essential when evaluating programs involving volunteers.

Your entire organization, through its board of directors, is responsible for ensuring regular evaluations are conducted. Evaluations of volunteers should involve supervisors who work most closely with them, and volunteers themselves must play a key role in assessing their own effectiveness.

Following an evaluation, organizations should be prepared to revise volunteer job descriptions.

Evaluating volunteers will be easier if job descriptions are results oriented and measurable.

For example:

Duties & Responsibilities Measurable Results
  • Answering phones at a crisis centre
  • Playing music for seniors 3 times per week
  • Completing monthly newsletter
  • Teaching children to read
  • Number of phone calls answered per month
  • Record of attendance at senior's centre
  • Newsletters mailed by first Tuesday each month
  • Average grade level improvement during program

Client Involvement

For many non-profit organizations clients should play an important role in evaluating volunteers and programs. Talking one-to-one with clients is the easiest way to obtain feedback, but organizations may also opt for focus groups or questionnaires


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