Writing Great Role Descriptions (Part 1)

28 June 2021 | News

Writing Great Role Descriptions (Part 1)

One of the key steps in volunteer recruitment is having a good role description. They're the foundation of a number of important processes like recruitment, selection, setting expectations, training, performance assessment, and risk management.

So, grab yourself a clear wall and a big pile of stick notes!

Start with your mandate:

When writing role descriptions, start with your organisation's mandate. This means that this process should ideally be repeated after the board has renewed the strategic plan. If you already have volunteers working for you, then set those role descriptions aside for now. Start from your organisation's mandate, which will usually be your mission statement.

For example, the mandate of Volunteer Marlborough is: Supporting and connecting the people and organisations of Marlborough through volunteering.

Break it down:

During their strategic planning sessions, your board will likely have decided on 3 or 4 key functional areas. These are the main areas of undertaking through which your organisation achieves its mission statement. For example, Volunteer Marlborough works in 3 key functional areas:

  1. Capacity Building
  2. Community Engagement
  3. Organisational Sustainability

Break it down even further:

Each of those functional areas then needs to be broken down into pieces, and each piece needs to be broken into tasks. Documents that will help with this process of breaking everything down will include: strategic plan, budget, contracts, and promotional materials.

For example, some of the components of Volunteer Marlborough's capacity building function are:

  • Develop & grow relevant volunteer initiatives
  • Promote & support best practice in volunteer-involving organisations
  • Recruit, retain, and support volunteers

Each of those components then needs to be broken down further into tasks. In this case, we consider a task to be an action that can be completed in a set time period, by someone with a defined skill set. For example, the component of "Develop & grow relevant volunteer initiatives" could be divided into the following tasks:

  • Skill analysis
  • Instructional design
  • Skill training
  • Assessment

Identify necessary qualifications:

Once you've identified the tasks which need to be done, the next step is to decide what kind of person would be most likely to achieve the tasks successfully. Consider:

  1. qualifications - do they need a university degree or will NCEA Level 2/3 be enough?
  2. skills - have they gained abilities through education, work experience, or life experience?
  3. personal attributes - are they analytical, good with people, patient?

Compare with existing role descriptions:

As mentioned, this is the kind of exercise that should be repeated each time the board re-evaluates the strategic plan of your organisation. Once you've gone through the process and identified necessary qualifications, take some time to compare these to any existing role descriptions. It's likely that you will need to communicate these changes to any volunteers already working within the organisation so that they can continue to do the work that advances your mission.