Managing Volunteers

The Volunteer Induction Process

Posted in Managing Volunteers

The Volunteer Induction is your opportunity to officially welcome and introduce the new volunteer to your organisation. The induction takes place on the volunteers first official day with the organisation. During the induction you should: 
  • Introduce the new volunteer to staff and existing volunteers
  • Give a tour of the facility
  • Prepare an induction pack
  • Provide an overview of your organisation, its mission and history, give an outline of the services you provide, cover your day-to-day work and how the volunteer and their role benefits the organisation and its service users
  • Review the volunteer role description and clarify the work they will be doing
  • Read and sign off on the Volunteer Agreement which may outline the following:
  • The expectations of the organisation e.g. confidentiality, aims and ethos of the organisation, time keeping, training, code of conduct, dress code etc.
  • The expectations of the volunteer e.g support and supervision, reimbursement of expenses, access to grievance procedure etc.
  • Agrees the start and end date of the volunteer role
  • States the name of the volunteer supervisor
  • Agree a trial period e.g. 6 weeks
  • Introduce the volunteer to your organisation’s Volunteer Policy.

Once the volunteer has attended their induction day they may still need to attend formal or informal training. Training is the process of equipping volunteers with the necessary skills needed to fulfill their role. The most successful volunteer programmes take the time to train their volunteers. But you might wonder what are the benefits to your organisation in training your volunteers.
Induction and training may benefit your organisation in the following ways:
  • Provides volunteers with the skills to do their role
  • Builds trust in your volunteers and therefore your organisation with service users
  • Helps with volunteer recruitment as volunteers may want to learn the skills you have to offer
  • Training can be used as a volunteer selection tool
  • Gives you an opportunity to identify and deal with any problems or difficulties before they arise

Induction and training may benefit your volunteers in the following ways:
  • Builds the volunteers skills and increases confidence
  • Highlights difficulties a volunteer might encounter at an early stage and gives them tools to overcome these difficulties
  • Improves the volunteers job performance
  • Makes the volunteer feel more valued by the organisation and allows them to feel a part of the team
  • Training, in particular accredited training can enhance the volunteers’ CV

The Selection Process

Posted in Managing Volunteers

The Volunteer Selection Process

When selecting volunteers it is important to try and meet your volunteer in a face-to-face interview before they start volunteering with your organisation. The interview as an opportunity for a two-way dialogue. Just as you are interviewing the volunteer to ensure their suitability for your organisation, the volunteer is interviewing you and assessing your organisation.

When preparing for the interview set aside a block of time e.g. 30 minutes. Be prepared with a list of questions. In addition, be ready to share information about your organisation and your volunteer opportunities. If the staff member who will be working with the volunteer is available you can invite them to sit in on the interview. If possible, conduct the interview in a private setting so the volunteer feels free to ask questions and share information with you. At the same time try to create a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
When the volunteer arrives:
  • Offer them some refreshments.
  • Have them fill out the volunteer registration form.
  • Ask open-ended questions about their interests, the skills they will bring to the organisation and past work and volunteer experiences.
  • Share the volunteer role description and discuss any expectations or commitments related to the volunteer role.
  • Ask for the commitment you need e.g. 4 hours a week for a minimum of 6 months. If the volunteer cannot commit to your needs then they may not be right for this role. It is important to find this out before the volunteer begins working with you. If appropriate you might try to find something more suitable to their skills and availability.
Conclude the interview by:
  • Making an offer of a volunteer position.
  • Alternatively you might suggest the volunteer go home and think about the commitment you are asking them to make. This gives both you and the volunteer an opportunity to review the interview and decide on their suitability
  • Explain what will happen next: garda checks, reference checks, induction, general training and/or role specific training.
  • If you cannot conduct a garda check for every volunteer role, conducting a reference check is the next best thing. It is surprising what you can learn from past employers, volunteer experiences and personal referees.
  • Let the volunteer know when they will hear from you next.
  • Consider giving the volunteer a brief tour of your facility so they can see your staff and volunteers in action.
Always allow the volunteer to say ‘no’ if they do not feel the volunteer role is suitable. It is important to note, just because a volunteer has contacted you does not mean they are ready to volunteer with you. Many volunteers will enquire at several organisations to find out which one best suits their needs and interests.

If you find the volunteer is unsuitable you should notify them as soon as possible. Be as honest as possible regarding why they were not accepted. Remember, this is not a time for negotiation (don’t get talked into giving the volunteer another chance) but a time to let them know why they have not been accepted e.g. references were unacceptable, garda vetting showed some time of offense, limited number of volunteer spaces which were filled by more suitable candidates. If needed you can offer to provide more detail in writing. It is important to keep notes on these meetings/phone calls.

Assuming you have now offered the volunteer a position and they have accepted, it is now time for the Volunteer Induction.

Recruiting Volunteers

Posted in Managing Volunteers

The Volunteer Recruitment Campaign

By now you have defined your volunteer roles and are ready to recruit your first volunteers. Start your recruitment campaign by developing a volunteer recruitment message. Try to recruit for specific volunteer roles rather than recruiting for the organisation in general. This makes it easier for you to target specific groups of people who may have the interest and talents you are looking for in a volunteer. It also allows you to tailor your message to your target group. Indeed, the more specific or informative you can be, the greater likelihood of an individual responding to your vacancy. When creating your message be sure to provide a simple way for people to respond to your request for volunteers. Lastly, always remember to include the benefits of volunteering in your message. If you can’t find any benefits for the volunteer then you should consider if you should ask someone to fill this role.

Once you have developed your recruitment message it is time to get the word out. Here are some methods and locations you might use: 

Your local volunteer centre

  • Your organisation’s website and/or newsletter

  • Word of mouth – staff, volunteers and clients

  •  Parish newsletter

  •  Flyers, posters

  •  Volunteer fairs and stands at other events

  • Schools, colleges and universities – clubs and students unions

  • Public service announcements on radio and in local newspapers

  • Host an information day where potential volunteers can visit your organisation and learn how they might contribute as a volunteer

  • Give a presentation to community groups such as resident’s associations, churches, scouts etc.

  • Outreach at shopping centres

  •  Website such as

Now that the word is out there you should be prepared for volunteers to respond to your message. Set a target to contact volunteers who have responded to your recruitment ad within a given timeframe e.g. 1-2 days. This will show the volunteer that you value their time and are serious about recruiting volunteers. If volunteers are responding by phone be sure the person answering the phone is expecting enquiries from potential volunteers. If at all possible, identify one individual in your organisation who is responsible for responding to volunteers within the timeframe you have set.

Once you contact the volunteer, establish that they are indeed interested in your organisation and the volunteer roles you have available. Once you have established this, it is time to invite the potential volunteer for an interview. If there is a large response to your ad you might consider scheduling volunteer interviews in a block (just as you would for paid positions). This will help you manage your own time more effectively. Consider scheduling a time for evening interviews if many of your volunteers work 9-5 jobs.

Now we are ready to select our new volunteers!


Posted in Managing Volunteers

Welcome to the Volunteer Management Training page. Westmeath Volunteer Centre staff have been trained - accredited through Open College Network Northern Ireland (OCNNI) - to deliver the VCI National Volunteer Management Training Programme.
The programme consists of four half-day modules delivered in a hands-on, participative style and is designed to provide you with a Best Practice Volunteer Management Framework for involving volunteers in your organisation. 
Topics include:
• Module 1:  Planning for Volunteer Involvement and Developing Volunteer Role Descriptions
• Module 2:  Volunteer Recruitment, Selection and Induction
• Module 3:  Volunteer Support and Supervision
• Module 4:  Designing and Implementing a Volunteer Policy
The training is offered at a low cost to participants. It is expected that participants will attend all four modules as they are designed as part of a continuum. Please check the calendar below to find a schedule of training offered.
If you find a suitable date and location please contact the Volunteer Centre and we will give you further information.
Quote: " We would love to have training in this field for two other members of staff, the training was so beneficial and practical I feel every organisation working with volunteers would benefit greatly from this training."
2010 Training Dates 
Module1: 13th May
Module 2: 20th May
Module 3: 27th May
Module 4: 3rd June
Time: 2pm-5pm
Venue: Westmeath Volunteer Centre, Enterprise Technology and Inovation Centre, Clonmore Industrial Estate, Mullingar
Bernadette O’Shea at Westmeath Volunteer Centre at 044 934 8571 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Module 1: 11th May
Module 2: 18th May
Module 3: 25th May
Module 4: 1st June
Time: 10am-1pm
Venue: Business Development Centre, Ball Alley Lane, Athlone
Bernadette O’Shea at Westmeath Volunteer Centre at 044 934 8571 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Before you Recruit Your First Volunteer

Posted in Managing Volunteers

Before you recruit your first volunteers you will need to understand some standards which should be met to ensure you can hold onto them.

Once you have the support of the board, management, or committee you will need to develop a Volunteer Policy (see our ‘Step By Step Guide to Developing a Volunteer Policy.’) The Volunteer Policy will help you develop clear guidelines on why your organisation is involving volunteers, and how volunteers will be involved, recruited, supported, recognised and evaluated in your organisation.

The next step is to develop the volunteer role descriptions. In order to gain staff  confidence it is important they are involved in developing the volunteer role description. After all, the volunteer will be working for them and the staff person knows exactly what needs to be done. When starting out, try to recruit your first volunteers for staff who have a positive attitude towards working with volunteers. A positive experience will encourage other staff members to work with volunteers. The volunteer role description should include:

  • Name of volunteer role
  • Brief description of volunteer role
  • Location
  • Supervised by
  • Days and times needed
  • Minimum length of volunteer commitment required
  • List of tasks or duties
  • Qualifications, qualities and/or skills needed
  • Training provided

When developing the list of tasks/duties for the volunteer role description you might consider the following:

  • Volunteers are there to help so start with duties that actually need to be done. This will help the volunteer feel effective and the staff will feel that volunteers are helpful.
  • Include duties that need to be completed on a regular basis.
  • Include projects that the staff member would like to see completed but because of time constraints never gets around to doing.
  • Include projects that the staff member does not have the skills to complete.

Volunteer roles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The roles you develop will be based on your organisational mission, your clients, the goals you need to achieve and your resource capacity for involving volunteers. To get you started here are some examples of volunteer roles:

  • Board of Directors
  • Data entry, filing, collating, receptionist and other types of administrative work
  • Pro bono legal work
  • Visiting/befriending the elderly
  • Planting trees
  • Coaching a sports team
  • Picking up litter
  • Web designer/manager
  • Youth mentor
  • PR campaign specialist
  • Delivering meals on wheels
  • Special Interest
  • Teaching English to foreign nationals
  • Walking or caring for animals
  • Special Events
  • Day care, youth group, summer camp volunteers
  • Speakers bureau – train volunteers to give talks about your organization or issue or distribute information on your behalf at events
  • Driver
  • Painting a wall mural
  • Phone line help
  • Gardening
  • Working with people with disabilities
  • Fundraising

The list is endless so be sure to put your thinking cap on and be creative. Have a brainstorming session with your staff and toss around all the possibilities. You can then whittle these down to several role descriptions.

Remember too that some volunteers want to change the world and make a dramatic difference but most people are content to take on unassuming roles and help in less dramatic ways. So, answering phones, picking up litter, entering data, or cleaning out cat litter boxes may be just what the volunteer wants to do.

One last word of advice, be sure your volunteer roles do not duplicate or replace paid staff roles.

Now you are ready to recruit your first volunteers.