5.4 Before You Recruit
Recruiting volunteers can appear to be a very simple process; you need help to deliver your services so you ask around and people agree to help you. They come along and you tell them what needs to be done, they do it, you thank them and the process continues. In many instances this is the informal way many organisations start to engage volunteers and build their capacity. However, a little forward planning can ensure that the process of engaging volunteers, effectively managing your volunteers and the volunteering experience is really positive and productive for staff, volunteers and service users.
5.4.1 Why volunteers?
If you are thinking of involving volunteers for the first time or if you are looking to increase your capacity it is worth spending a little time reflecting on why you might involve volunteers. Do you have a role for them to fulfil? What benefits will they bring to your organisation and what will a potential volunteer get out of it themselves? It is also important to consider the impact it may have on your organisation.
Understanding why you engage volunteers will enable you to clearly explain (to your Board, staff, service users, funder’s, supporter’s, stakeholders and community) the benefits that volunteers bring and help everyone to view volunteering in a positive and productive way.
5.4.2 What will volunteers do?
Establishing the roles volunteers will play within the organisation is a crucial part of planning for volunteers. It is important to consult as widely as possible with staff, volunteers and service users to identify what roles and tasks are needed and where. These could include enhancing your existing service or tasks requiring specialist skills to develop your organisation. Volunteers do not replace paid staff and should never be asked to take on tasks that should be the responsibility of paid staff.
5.4.3 Describing the Role
Once you have a definitive list of roles and tasks for volunteers you can create role descriptions. Role descriptions outline what volunteers will do and what they will get out of it. They are a great way of being able to give additional information to potential volunteers who can then decide if the role is right for them. If they are interested in pursuing the role then a good role description also gives them an idea of the work when they start volunteering and gives you a foundation on which you can base future volunteer review meetings.
Volunteer roles should allow for a degree of personalisation (within reason) for each volunteer. It is good practice to regularly review volunteers’ roles and make any changes you feel are appropriate to ensure they continue to meet the needs of the organisation and the volunteer.
Examples of what you may want to include in your role description are:
5.4.4 How will you recruit volunteers?
One of the first things to consider when recruiting volunteers is when to recruit. You may need volunteers at certain times of the year or for certain key events or you may need a continuous supply of volunteers. Your recruitment method may be driven by your requirements and your time limitations. For instance, you may need volunteers continuously but decide it would be more time effective to recruit on mass at regular intervals during the year so you can provide blocks of training. Or you may have the capacity to be more flexible, recruiting and training continuously on a more one to one basis as and when volunteers come forward.
Another consideration is how you will recruit and where you will advertise your available roles. A big national campaign for volunteer recruitment will require much more planning than a small local recruitment drive but the method of recruitment may be similar. Some organisations may only recruit through word of mouth others may want to consider local or national newspapers, posters in libraries and notice boards, talks or presentations in schools and colleges, community fairs and events, social media and internet or you may take referrals and of course, VSGWL can advertise your volunteering roles as opportunities on our own website and the Volunteer Scotland website.
A recruitment plan may be beneficial if you are looking for a lot of volunteers or are trying to recruit for several roles and could help you to set out:
5.4.5 Who will support volunteers?
Support is an informal process which identifies the encouragement and help that a volunteer can expect when volunteering. Support can take many forms but all volunteers need some kind of support. The way in which your organisation offers support to volunteers will be determined by a variety of factors, such as the type of organisation, the nature of the volunteer task, the needs of individual volunteers and the resources available. Different tasks will require different levels of support and a diverse volunteer base will have diverse needs and differing individual support requirements. The need for support may change as the roles change or reduce as the volunteer gains confidence. In order to provide support to volunteers, someone in the organisation needs to have the skills, time, resources and support to carry it out. People who manage volunteers need training and support and it should be part their role profile. Volunteers who have been well supported can get on with their role without as much input from staff or volunteer coordinators. Please note supporting volunteers is not the same as volunteer supervision or training.
There are various approaches you can take to implement a good support system such as:
5.4.6 Additional Information
Some additional areas that may be worth taking into consideration before recruiting volunteers include recent DWP guidance on volunteering while on benefits and volunteering and the Law.
Some more detailed guidance and example policies can be found in our Resource Library
1.0 Getting Started
2.0 Developing and Growing
3.0 Taking on an Asset
4.0 What is Social Enterprise?
5.1 A Good Volunteer Policy
5.2 Essential Policies
5.3 Best Practice Guidance
5.4 Before You Recruit
5.5 Recruiting Volunteers
5.6 Supporting Volunteers
5.7 Recognising and Valuing Volunteers
5.8 Volunteer Friendly
5.9 Managing Saltire Awards for Young People
7.0 Dissolving an Organisation