Why are policies and agreements important?
If you are working with volunteers, there are things you should have in place in order to protect and support both them and your organisation. These things are often referred to as policies and agreements, and might be referred to in your volunteer handbook, role descriptions, induction and training materials.
Your policies and procedures help to build and manage a positive relationship between volunteers and your organisation. Put another way, the purpose of policies and agreements is to help communicate your preferred ‘ways of working’ so that you and your volunteers can work together effectively.
Below you will find more in-depth information about volunteer policies and agreements. You’ll also find further links to useful information at the bottom of this page.
Creating a volunteer policy
A volunteer policy is a written document that helps define the role of volunteers within your organisation. It is important as it ensures fairness and consistency in managing volunteers and helps them know where they stand and how they can expect to be treated.
Find out how to create a volunteer policy for your organisation here.
Creating a volunteer agreement
Volunteer agreements can be used to set out both your organisation's commitment to its volunteers and what your expectations are. They act as a reference point for volunteers and are a useful good practice tool for your organisation.
Find out how to create a volunteer agreement for your organisation here.
If you would like support in developing any aspect of your volunteer management, such as volunteer policies, agreements, handbooks or role descriptions, please get in touch. We can provide examples for you to use as a starting point for reviewing or producing your own policies.
Frequently asked questions
We employ staff as well – should our policies be the same for all?
If your organisation also employs staff you may want to use a number of your employment policies with your volunteers as well. It’s often a good idea to have the same or very similar arrangements for both groups so that they have a similar experience as part of your organisation. But remember – volunteers are not employees and you should avoid the language of employment, and anything which could be regarded as creating contractual obligations.
How do we ensure our policy is followed?
An individual volunteer agreement – in writing – is commonly used to communicate your policy so that both of you have clear expectations from the start. The agreement should also explain what to do if problems arise down the line. You can also include details of your policy and agreements in any training or induction you carry out, in ongoing meetings and through newsletters or other means you use to communicate with volunteers. Be open to feedback and ask for input when you review and revise your ways of working.
Where do we start?
Creating your first volunteer policy or draft agreement to share with your volunteers needn't be daunting, although it will take some thought and a little time. Perhaps you could bring a small group together to share ideas - and the workload.
It is important that you design your policies (for everyone) and your agreements (with individuals) in partnership with your volunteers and keep communicating throughout your time together!
Can we just use someone else’s policies?
You will be able to find some samples and templates on the Internet – and other organisations similar to yours may be happy to share their versions. Remember these are yours to own. Your policies should be endorsed by your group as a whole, for example the leader of your organisation and/or trustees or management committee.
It’s important that you put your own stamp on your volunteering policy and agreement – and communicate what it covers in lots of different ways (not just by sending out a document for signature).
Keep your policy and agreement alive, not just documents gathering dust on the virtual shelf. Make sure you regularly review your policies and agreements with your volunteers – and be ready to adapt it in the light of feedback.
Guidance from Heritage England (a good overview which applies to more than just heritage projects)
Advertise your volunteering opportunities for free on our volunteering website, Spark a Change (www.sparkachange.org.uk)
If you need further support you can contact our volunteer team, access our low-cost training programme, or come along to our regular Volunteer Coordinator Forums - visit our Events Page to see what’s coming up.
This information and guidance has been produced by Spark Somerset for you to use according to your needs. We do not accept any liability for how it is used. Our guidance is based on our knowledge of current good practice from the world of volunteering and the voluntary sector. If you are concerned about specific issues which may have legal or financial implications, then you should always seek professional advice, but please contact us in the first instance as we may be able to help.