With a bit of luck, you will be in a position where you have volunteers in the parish. Along with the benefits a volunteer brings there are obligations as well. These guidance notes detail both expectations and obligations around recruiting, inducting and managing volunteers.
We have volunteers spending unpaid time undertaking a range of roles that benefit the Church. For both parties to get the most out of this relationship, it is helpful to have some structure and documentation which is outlined below.
It is important to be clear that someone is a volunteer and not an employee. To help strengthen clarity between the two statuses, we talk about a ‘volunteer agreement’ rather than a ‘contract’, a ‘role description’ rather than a ‘job description’ and ‘reimbursement of expenses’ rather than ‘payment’.
In the event of a problem arising within the volunteer relationship we resolve matters without use of a disciplinary or grievance procedure.
What steps should we follow when recruiting volunteers?
Create a Role Description – the process of creating a Role Description can help a parish to establish what they are expecting from a volunteer post. It can form the basis for advertising an opportunity and then interviewing for it. In turn the provision of a Role Description can help a volunteer to establish whether an opportunity is for them.
Advertise – advertising your volunteer opportunity helps to ensure that we are encouraging a range of people to apply. When advertising you might like to think through what makes the volunteer opportunity attractive, what is the parish offering the volunteer; is it experience, training, the opportunity to create something new, being part of a team, expenses? What would ‘sell’ it to a new volunteer?
Apply – when we are struggling to find volunteers, we are tempted to grab anyone that comes forward with both hands. However, it is important that there is some kind of application process. It can be as simple as a one page application form.
Select – if you are fortunate and have several volunteers coming forward you may need to use a shortlisting process. You could use a Shortlisting Criteria. The criteria you use to select will usually be taken from the Role Description. If an individual is unsuitable for the volunteering opportunity that you have, you can provide honest feedback to them which explains your decision and then focuses on the positive attributes they have which could be used in other ways.
Interview – Telling a volunteer that they need to be interviewed for a voluntary role can put them off. However, you do need to establish that they are suitable for the role. Instead of ‘interview’, you might like to position it as a two way conversation to cover:
- Why they have put themselves forward as a volunteer
- What have they been doing in the last couple of years
- What they would like to gain from volunteering
- Practicalities such as the skills that they have to share, relevant experiences, availability, training needs.
The interview/conversation should follow the 12 steps of safer recruitment.
Reference – We should ask a volunteer to provide two references. References can come from a variety of sources such as employer, previous employer or teacher. You might like to provide the referee with the role description so that they can comment on the person in relation to the role.
DBS (formerly CRB) checks – A volunteer role that comes into regular contact with children, young people or vulnerable adults may need a DBS check. If you are unsure about whether this applied to your volunteer, you can contact email@example.com for advice.
Getting a volunteer started
Once a volunteer has been attracted to a role, it is vital that we do all we can to retain them. This starts with induction; providing the volunteer with all they need to be successful. An induction might cover the following:
- Introduction to the team and the building/environment
- Overview of the mission/aims of the organisation
- Explanation of how things work e.g. equipment/expenses/breaks
- Where to find key documents e.g. policies
- Discussion around the role and your expectations of the volunteer. Your expectations will vary depending on the role. Sample task lists or more formal role descriptions and volunteer agreements can be found in the ‘Managing Formalities’ section on the CUF website. The documents may set out the following expectations:
- To help us fulfil our mission
- To perform your volunteering role to the best of your ability
- To follow the organisation’s procedures and standards, including health and safety and equal opportunities, in relation to its staff, volunteers and clients
- To maintain the confidential information of the organisation and of its clients
- To meet the time commitments and standards which have been mutually agreed to and to give reasonable notice so other arrangements can be made when this is not possible
- To provide referees as agreed who may be contacted, and to agree to a DBS check being carried out where necessary.
- Confirmation of our obligations towards them including:
- Provide regular meetings with a main point of contact
- Respect your skills, dignity and individual wishes and to do our best to meet them
- Reimburse your travel and meal costs up to our current maximum
- Consult with you and keep you informed of possible changes
- Insure you against injury you suffer or cause due to negligence
- Provide a safe workplace
- Apply our equal opportunities policy
- Apply our complaints procedure if there is any problem.
Support to volunteers when they have started
For a volunteer to be successful, the parish will need to be able to offer volunteer support, feedback and encouragement. The amount of support required will vary depending on the role being carried out by the volunteer. Depending on how many volunteers you have and what roles they are carrying out, you might like to consider the following:
- Informal support – conversations that take place during a volunteering session or at social events
- Supervision – a regular planned meeting that has the express purpose of checking in with a volunteer
- Volunteer meetings – an opportunity for peers to support each other and for information to be shared.
Health and safety for volunteers
A parish that is working with volunteers has a duty of care to its volunteers. There is a responsibility to ensure that volunteers are not exposed to risks and that risk assessments are carried out.
Volunteers should have an insurance policy that explicitly mentions volunteers, the following should be considered; employers liability, public liability, professional liability and personal accident.
Expenses for volunteers
Offering to reimburse expenses help to attract a diverse team of volunteers. Expenses policies may vary from parish to parish but might include; travel, meals, equipment necessary to volunteer and care for dependents. It is usual to put some limits around expense e.g. up to £5 for reimbursing lunch costs.
We cannot use grievance, capability or disciplinary process for volunteers. These policies apply to employees only. The ‘Tackling Difficulties’ guidance note from CUF offers some useful guidance in this regard.
Saying thank you
There are a number of ways that parishes can say thank you to volunteers; volunteers that feel appreciated tend to keep volunteering. Some ideas that you might like to consider are; saying thank you, volunteer events, certificates of appreciation, training, inclusion in social events.
Volunteers that stop volunteering
These volunteers are an opportunity to learn more. It can be useful to take the time to delve into the reasons why someone is stopping the volunteering. It could be as simple as time constraints but it can be worth asking:
- What have you most enjoyed about volunteering?
- What have you found most challenging/difficult?
- Is there anything you feel we could be doing differently?
- Is there anything that we are not doing?
- If you could change anything about the volunteering experience, what would it be?
The answers might be helpful as you try to recruit the next volunteer!
Church Urban Fund: working with volunteers