Volunteer Handbooks (Part 3): What else should you include?

14 June 2021 | News

Volunteer Handbooks (Part 3): What else should you include?

We have now established that a volunteer handbook is an essential part of the productivity of your organisation and of risk management. The people who are volunteering for you need to know what is expected of them, how to keep themselves and others safe, and how to react in different situations.

In Part 2 of this series, we shared a partial list of important things that should be in your handbooks, so here's a few more:

Organisational Procedures:

Every one of our organisations has procedures which are pretty general, such as:

  • arranging for time off
  • complaint procedures
  • equipment sign-outs
  • tracking hours
  • reimbursements for expenses

This is also a great section for including things like codes for the photocopier and toilet, how to dial out of the internal phone system, how to access voicemail, and any other seemingly odd information about the organisation like which microwave heats your lunch better.

A general volunteer handbook isn't really the place to include procedures that are job-specific, unless they're going to impact people who are performing multiple role functions.

Supervision and Support:

This is something that can be touched on in the organisational overview which could also tie into reporting relationships. As for support, if the role the volunteer will be performing is likely to a be a stressful one, it is worth including any information relating to self-care and resources that people can access if they need any extra support to be able to do their job effectively and long-term.

Orientation & Training:

Don't forget - there's a difference between orientation and training.

Orientation is very general to the organisation and will be much the same for all incoming staff, paid or volunteer.

Training is role-specific. Do you have a training course list? Do you offer peer mentoring? Are there training or certification requirements before people can take on certain roles? All of this information should be listed here.

Volunteer Discipline & Dismissal:

Let's be honest, no one really wants to discipline a volunteer, let alone dismiss them...but the situation does arise from time to time. By thinking ahead and putting processes and guidelines in place not, you and the volunteers will know what to expect. Everyone has the right to progressive discipline, including honest and impartial feedback that outlines exactly what a specific volunteer can improve on and how, as well as any supports they can access in their efforts to improve.

This is also a section where you could discuss the process for a volunteer that might want to resign from their role. Perhaps you require a certain amount of notice? It's also a good idea to conduct an exit interview, so that you can learn what was a positive experience and what could be improved upon. If you include these exit interview questions in the handbook, people will have a chance to think about them ahead of time.

Reporting:

If there are any forms required for reporting for various roles, include them here with instructions on how they should be completed. This is also a really good place to talk about data integrity and confidentiality. Are there deadlines for reporting? Should volunteers be using specific materials for reporting purposes? Let them know here.

This may all seem like a long list of things to include and, if you're starting from scratch, you won't get it all done in a day. So start with the most important information - the things that represent the highest risk for your organisation or where, historically, your volunteers have had the most questions. Don't forget that your volunteers can be an excellent resource themselves for making sure everything that is needed in the handbook is there and relevant.

Don't be afraid to have the handbook reviewed by someone else - the team at Volunteer Marlborough or even Community Law. Just because your volunteers are unpaid, doesn't mean they don't have rights. Make sure your handbook is in line with your organisation's HR policies.