Managing Volunteers

Go to the topic listed below and click to expand for more details. For more resources, visit our Volunteer Management Resouces section

Involving Volunteers

Volunteers can be of enormous value to your workplace. Their commitment and enthusiasm, wide range of skills, experiences and interests will make a worthwhile and positive contribution to any organisation.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics (2001) survey found 4.4 million people in Australia contributed 704.1 million hours of voluntary work. And you’ll find volunteers contributing in all areas of life.

In general, volunteers are committed and enthusiastic people with a great variety of skills who give their time, special talents and interests to work environments – mostly non-profit endeavours.

With different backgrounds, ages, life, work and education experiences, volunteers add positively to the diversity of organisations and the services being provided.

Volunteers can assist your organisation with tasks that support paid staff – on projects, events or special community drives. They may be able to offer their knowledge and skills for projects requiring special expertise.

Who can involve volunteers?

Volunteers contribute their time for no commercial gain. Only not-for-profit organisations and charities can engage volunteers in designated volunteer positions.

These organisations cover a wide range of activities and interests, such as community organisations, health (for example, hospital services and programs), welfare, sport and recreation, conservation, emergency services, environment, arts and education sectors as well as special public event involvement.

In addition to this, local government and councils run various community service programs that use volunteers such as day centres for the elderly, youth centres, children’s activities in libraries and bush regeneration activities.

Corporations and private companies (for-profit) cannot involve volunteers from outside their organisation. They can involve their own employees in volunteering projects or programs for community benefit. This is commonly referred to as ‘Corporate Volunteering’ or ‘Employee Volunteering’. Not-for-profit organisations willing, ready and able to engage with corporations can benefit greatly from this type of volunteer contribution. Volunteering NSW helps match corporate volunteers with not-for-profit organisations and volunteer opportunities. Find out more about Corporate Volunteering Programs

The Centre for Volunteering provides the following Volunteer Services:

  • Comprehensive information about organisations and volunteering
  • offers advice on setting up volunteer programs and dealing with volunteering issues
  • Assistance devising job descriptions and lodging them with the VNSW Referral Service to find volunteer/s matching the organisation’s needs
  • Peak body services such as advice to members on insurance and child protection matters
  • The ability to network with other not-for-profit members that involve volunteers.

For more information and assistance, please contact the Volunteer Referral Service on 02 9261 3600.

The School of Volunteer Management offers short and long accredited and non-accredited training in volunteer management and management of not-for profit organisations. Members receive special rates.

Rights and Responsibilities
Both volunteers and the organisations they work with have rights and responsibilities. Volunteers are engaged to perform a specific job and the organisation agrees to provide the volunteer with a worthwhile and rewarding experience. In return, each has the right to some basic expectations of the other.

Organisations have the right to:

  • Receive as much effort and service from a volunteer as a paid worker, even on a short-term basis.
  • To select the best volunteer for the job by interviewing and screening all applicants. This might include reference and police checks and, where appropriate, a prohibited employment declaration for roles that involve working directly with children.
  • Expect volunteers to adhere to their job descriptions/outlines and the organisation’s code of practice.
  • Expect volunteers to undertake training provided for them and observe safety rules.
  • Make the decision regarding the best placement of a volunteer.
  • Express opinions about poor volunteer effort in a diplomatic way.
  • Expect loyalty to the organisation and only accept constructive criticism.
  • Expect clear and open communication from the volunteer.
  • Negotiate work assignments.
  • Release volunteers under certain circumstances.

Volunteers have the right to:

  • Be treated as co-workers. This includes job descriptions, Equal Employment Opportunity, Occupational Health & Safety, anti-discrimination legislation and organisational grievance processes.
  • Be asked for their permission before any job-related reference, police or other checks are conducted.
  • A job or task worthwhile to them, for no more than 16 hours a week on a regular basis in one role.
  • Know the purpose and “ground rules” of the organisation.
  • Appropriate orientation and training for the job.
  • Be kept informed of organisational changes and the reasons for the changes.
  • A place to work and suitable tools for the job.
  • Reimbursement of agreed expenses.
  • Be heard and make suggestions.
  • Personal accident insurance (in place of workers compensation insurance).
  • A verbal reference or statement of service, if appropriate.

Statement of Principles

On 13 May 2013, Minister for Citizenship and Communities, The Hon. Victor Dominello MP, released the Statement of Principles for the Recognition of Volunteers. The statement outlines seven principles of best practice in volunteer management.

Recruiting Volunteers

Planning recruitment

Only commence a recruitment drive after the program has been planned and has the support of all staff. Ensure that dates for advertising and interviews, for example, are agreed by all involved.

Some organisations are well known for their volunteer involvement and people wishing to volunteer contact the organisation with the expectation that jobs will be found for them. The advantage of this situation is that there is a steady stream of prospective volunteers willing to take on the work. The disadvantages are that there may not be suitable work or supervision available and that prospective volunteers may be unsuitable for any position.

Regardless of how your organisation currently attracts volunteers, having an open invitation for anyone to become a volunteer may well attract volunteers inappropriate for the work. Once you are clear about the need for volunteers, the work they will undertake and the advantages you can offer volunteers, you are in a good position to start attracting only the volunteers suited to your organisation and the work.

Organisations vary in the way they recruit volunteers. Some have specific recruitment drives conducted at regular intervals, while others take on new volunteers in a continuous fashion. Each method has its advantages. Choose the one that best suits your organisation, your resources and the sort of people you want to attract.

Why have written job descriptions?

The job description is a major recruitment tool. Clearly defined job descriptions can be devised and written for most volunteers. Job descriptions serve several purposes. They:

Assist the volunteer and others to understand the job in the same way.
Describe the volunteer’s responsibilities.
Describe the purposes of the job to the volunteer.
Describe the volunteer’s position in the organisation.
Provide information regarding the benefits of the job to the volunteer.
Provide an opportunity to discuss any special needs or requirements of the organisation and the volunteer.
Provide criteria for matching the volunteer and the job.
Provide information for planning volunteer recruitment.
Provide a basis for appraisal meetings between the volunteer and manager.
In general, the job description helps clarify how the needs of organisation will be met by the volunteer, indicates to the volunteer that a “real’ position exists (not just work for any hands) and becomes a basis of agreed commitment between the organisation and the volunteer.

Writing the job description

Job descriptions provide the organisation with a good guide of who they need to recruit, and give prospective volunteers a clear indication of what they are taking on. A well-defined job description should contain:

Organisation or service aim: a very brief description, in plain English, of the aim of that service, to provide a context for volunteering.
The purpose of the job: knowing why the job exists helps keep the volunteer focused and motivated.
The tasks to be performed: listing the actual work in simple language.
The name of the volunteer’s immediate supervisor: knowing who is responsible for guidance and support prevents the volunteer consulting inappropriate people.
Days and times of duty and amount of time the job requires per day / week / month: we recommend that volunteers do not work more than sixteen hours per week on a regular basis in the same organisation.
Qualifications, attributes and / or skills required to carry out the work effectively: provides a basis for discussion between the volunteer and the manager.
Any special conditions such as a code of confidentiality, special training or attendance at meetings, security checks: knowing the full requirements beforehand helps the volunteer to decide whether to take on the position.
Advantages of the job to the volunteer: useful in advertising the job and indicates to the volunteer some of the tangible and intangible benefits of the work.
A job title recognises the dignity of the job: the job title is often developed after all aspects of the job have been considered.
Job descriptions should be based on the requirements of the job. Difficulties may arise if a job description is written around a particular volunteer, as you run the risk of meeting the needs of the volunteer and not the needs of the organisation. If the job is not suitable, then an alternative job could be discussed.

A well-devised job description used as a recruitment tool should attract the appropriate people, thereby saving time and energy. It can be stressful being confronted with a stream of willing but unsuitable applicants. If you decide to place them (because you are desperate) you are likely to spend extra time closely supervising their efforts. Furthermore, their own motivations are not being met, so most will leave. If you don’t place them, you have to tell them why the job is unsuitable (never an easy task).

When to recruit

Only when specific jobs have been defined should the active recruitment of volunteers be initiated. Some points to consider about timing are:

Recruit when paid staff and regular volunteers are free to assist the new volunteers.
Don’t attempt to recruit when things are going badly – more new people only add to existing stress.
Recruit at the right time for your target group, for example, will the time of year, prevailing weather conditions or school holidays impact on their willingness to become volunteers?
Where to recruit

The job description should provide an indication of the needs, interests and motivations of the people you prefer to attract – your target group. This can help you locate where your target group may be found. For example, young people can found through schools, youth clubs, TAFE colleges and universities; unemployed people can be reached through the CES, and SkillShare programs; and a special interest group can be contacted through an appropriate newsletter.

The mass media is often best used to promote the services you offer and this can be effective in recruiting volunteers in a general way. Take care when dealing with the media as often the information you submit may be severely edited and the context of the story altered by the time it goes to press. In terms of recruitment information, if the article ends with a non-specific “volunteers wanted” statement, you run the risk of attracting and disappointing some inappropriate volunteers.

Local newspapers are usually helpful with publicity if they can use a human interest story involving a local resident. Popular magazines can also be persuaded to write human interest articles for publicity purposes.

Radio and television stations often provide short community service announcements and are encouraged to provide community access.

Local publicity can be gained from local shop windows, libraries, school noticeboards, supermarket boards, doctors, dentists, banks, community health centres, etc. A small poster with an eye-catching message in simple appealing language will attract prospective volunteers to take a closer look and follow up.

Word of mouth is still one of the best methods of attracting people, therefore the best recruiters are enthusiastic staff and happy  volunteers, as well as satisfied service users.

Volunteer Referral Agencies in your locality or your State Volunteer Centre can assist your recruitment drive. You can also refer applicants you cannot employ to volunteer referral agencies for placement in another organisation.

The Advertised Message

Your message to attract volunteers has to compete with the array of information that we are all subjected to every day. Getting the message across has become an art form. Commercial enterprises and government services spend a great deal of money developing messages that will gain our attention.  We tend to notice messages that have specific interest to us at the time. Only when we have young children do we notice the quality of children’s television, advertisements for toys or baby clothes. Likewise, prospective volunteers will tend to notice messages that have a particular interest to them.

For example, if they are interested in oral history, the may be attracted to visiting elderly people; or if an individual is interested in being involved with the medical profession, they may be attracted to providing patient support and information.

Your advertising message needs to:

Have a short catchy headline to attract attention.
Speak directly to the target group.
Be very specific, stating exactly what is required.
Describe benefits to the volunteer.
Avoid “Help!” and “Desperate” tones in the message. Don’t ride on guilt; use a light touch.
Provide a contact name, address and telephone number.
Preparing for the response

All the very best planning and advertising can go awry if the first person the prospective volunteer speaks to in your organisation knows nothing of your recruitment drive, or is unable to provide the information required.

Ensure that you have information ready for those who are likely to answer the telephone or receive callers. A recruitment kit complete with information relating to the organisation, an application form and job description can be posted out to applicants.

Any special requirements, such as agreement to undergo a security check, can be accessed by volunteers at this point so they are not confronted with the request later. Based on the information provided in the kit, individuals may decide against pursuing the job, thereby preventing both parties from wasting time in a personal interview. In this way you have already begun the selection process.

The selection process

The ideal is that every volunteer applicant should be given a personal interview with a qualified person in an appropriate setting with sufficient time. Each volunteer should complete an application form that provides basic information such as name, address, interests and skills, etc. When requesting personal data, take care to fall within legislative requirements relating to Equal Employment Opportunity, Anti-Discrimination Act and Ethnic Affairs Policy Statement where appropriate.

The interview

The purpose of the interview is to determine the suitability of the applicant, and to ensure that the needs of both the program and the volunteer will be satisfied.

An interview is an opportunity to find out about the applicant’s motives, goals, qualifications, interests, experiences, and willingness to work with others. It is also an opportunity to give the volunteer detailed information about the job and the service.

The job description is useful in assisting the interview process. It can help you frame your questions during the interview and assess the interest of the volunteer.

Some jobs may require very specific skills or sensitivity to special needs, in which case you may prefer to prepare “searching” questions before the interview commences rather than totally trust intuition during the interview.

The interview process should reveal to both parties whether the job suits the person. However, if prospective volunteers are not convinced of their unsuitability, you will have to be honest with them.

While no one enjoys being rejected, few people appreciate lack of honesty. If the job is not suitable and you are unable to find other opportunities within your organisation, refer the volunteer to your state volunteer centre or local volunteer referral agency, or to your local community centre. Also, from the volunteer’s point of view, the prospective volunteer needs to be given every opportunity to refuse or accept the job.

Interviewing is an art and a skill. When interviewing:

Keep cultural differences in mind.
Have available the application form and job description.
Ensure privacy and a congenial atmosphere.
Ensure you will not be interrupted.
Provide a welcome that will put the applicant at ease.
Clarify the purpose of the interview.
Clarify your expectations and those of the applicant.
Listen carefully and avoid making assumptions.
Ask questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.
Give the applicant time to consider and answer questions at their own pace.
Summarise any decisions reached to ensure you are both in agreement.
Always express appreciation for the applicant’s interest in applying.
Placement

Success in matching volunteers to jobs (or in some cases to people) does not depend solely on techniques and practices. Understanding the needs of both the volunteer and the job go hand in hand with intuition and good human relations skills.

If the preceding steps in analysing the job and selecting the volunteer have been planned well and implemented successfully, the decision for suitable placement should be easily reached.

Retaining Volunteers
The key to retaining volunteers is to have a volunteer management program in place and to apply its principles to your daily volunteer management.

Orientation

In some organisations, volunteers are told little more than to come in when they can, and something will be found for them to do. Consequently, volunteers can have no sense of belonging to the organisation or of the purpose of their role. Orienting volunteers to the organisation, regardless of how much time they commit, is essential to creating the first feelings of belonging and purpose.

Some organisations provide group orientation sessions prior to a personal interview as a method of pre-selection, so that the volunteer may self-select. However, most organisations prefer to conduct the interview first, followed closely by an orientation session.

Example of topics to include in orientation:

  • History: When and why the service began
  • Aims: The aims of the organisation
  • Funding: How the organisation is funded
  • Staffing: How many people, what they do
  • Service Users: The client group
  • Structure: Where volunteers fit into the organisation
  • Service: Services that are offered

While much of the above information may be provided in written form, an opportunity to discuss issues and instructions and to meet other volunteers is essential. Inviting key personnel to meet volunteers is also a good method of providing a welcome and effective communication.

Training

Volunteers have the right to expect training and support. Pre-placement and on-the-job training will depend upon the type of job and the level of ability of the volunteer. Training should be flexible and relevant. Ongoing training serves as a means of support, helping build skills, interest and confidence. In addition, training should provide opportunities for growth and development of individual volunteers.

Training, like other aspects of the volunteer program, needs to be carefully planned in consultation with volunteers, paid staff, service users and their representatives, and appropriate specialists.

Apart from providing specific skills, techniques and knowledge, a good training program enables the volunteer to:

  • Ask questions
  • Express personal opinions, needs or worries
  • Learn and grow on the job, developing confidence
  • Appreciate the responsibilities of the job and what is expected
  • Appreciate how the volunteer role contributes to the success of the service or program.

Choosing the best techniques for presenting new skills and information is essential. For various reasons, some volunteers are reluctant to participate in formal training while others are enthusiastic. A range of approaches can cater to the varying needs of volunteers. Training can be formal or informal, practical or theoretical, on-the-job or off-the-job. Training methods to consider are:

  • Formal talks by specialists.
  • Informal discussions.
  • Workshops.
  • Guest speakers.
  • Demonstrations.
  • Role plays.
  • Group exercises.
  • Audio-visual material.

If volunteers appear reluctant to attend training sessions, you can encourage their interest by informal information sessions during morning or afternoon tea, or with a special guest speaker. If particular volunteers remain reluctant to attend training, you may need to reconsider their suitability.

Supervision

Supporting volunteers

Supervising people includes a range of functions, usually falling into the following categories:

Planning and rostering Meetings and telephone contact
Checking work Supporting, coaching and training
Handling problems Observing and improving
Assigning jobs Record keeping

All supervisors need to create an encouraging environment. However, this is especially important for managers and co-ordinators of volunteers. They need to be sympathetic and understanding of the volunteer’s needs, easily approachable and readily available for information, support and complaints.

Technical aspect of supervision

In addition to providing personal support to volunteers, managers and co-ordinators need to meet some of the technical and legislative responsibilities of the role. Some factors to consider are:

  • Safety and Protection  –  Volunteers have a right to a safe place to work, the right materials and equipment to do the job and to be covered by appropriate volunteer insurance.
  • Reimbursement – volunteers should be able to claim out-of-pocket expenses and be informed of the procedure for making claims. Volunteers should not be paid on a “fee for service” basis.
  • EEO and Anti-Discrimination – The organisation needs to have policy statements on Equal Employment, Anti-Discrimination and, where appropriate, an Ethnic Affairs Policy Statement. These policy statements apply to volunteers as well as paid staff and clients.
  • Conflict Management – Develop procedures for managing conflict, grievances and for dismissing volunteers. Where possible, policies and procedures should be consistent for both paid and volunteer staff.
  • Providing good supervision takes time and should be adequately allowed for in the budget. Volunteers are entitled to good supervision to ensure they receive a quality volunteer experience in return for their commitment and efforts.

Evaluation

Appraising the program

Evaluation provides a time for making revisions and improvements. It is an ongoing process to ensure the program’s viability and vitality. Results are measured against the goals and objectives of the program and appropriate changes made to suit the changing conditions of the community and client group.

Both qualitative and quantitative information can be used to judge whether the goals and objectives of the program have been met. Qualitative information, for example, can be gained through questionnaires to service users, volunteers and paid staff.

Questions such as “Has a better service been provided?” will help provide information regarding service quality and standards.

Quantitative information is based on statistical records. This information should help answer questions such as “Have we expanded our service in the last year?”.

Appraising volunteers

The performance of the volunteers may also be considered in qualitative and quantitative terms. Number of hours of services and of clients receiving service can easily be measured through the keeping of records. However, questions such as “How much have volunteers enjoyed being part of the program?” can only be measured by asking the volunteers themselves. An appraisal interview is an appropriate time to ask such questions.

The appraisal process

Appraising the work of volunteers is just as essential as appraising the work of paid staff. This provides an opportunity for managers / co-ordinators to receive feedback regarding their own skills in supervising and supporting volunteers. Appraisals are also a time for volunteers to express their needs and set new goals. Volunteers’ appraisals should be conducted in a similar way to those of paid staff. In general, the function of an appraisal is to:

  • Value the contribution of the volunteer.
  • Monitor the volunteer’s satisfaction levels and whether current motivation is being met.
  • Assess the manager / co-ordinator’s support for the volunteer.
  • Plan for the future needs and aspirations of the volunteer.
  • Discuss the work currently being performed by the volunteer.

Motivating volunteers

Motivating volunteers relies on satisfying the individual’s reasons for volunteering. In addition, the reason an individual begins volunteering may change over time. For example, a newcomer in town may desire to meet people. Once friendships have formed, a new reason will replace the original, for example, meeting new challenges.

Motivation is a driving force that comes from within the individual. Finding out what drives particular individuals is the key to keeping them motivated. Do not overlook human curiosity and learning as powerful motivators.

Some practical ways of maintaining volunteer motivation and enthusiasm are to:

  • Understand each volunteer’s reasons for volunteering and ensure that some of those reasons will be met through the program.
  • Be enthusiastic yourself and encourage achievement.
  • Ensure volunteers know the job and why it is important
  • Accept the individual’s potential and limitations.
  • Provide an orientation to the organisation.
  • Provide training to do the task and ongoing education.
Acknowledging volunteers

Part of ongoing motivation for volunteers is providing informal personal acknowledgment as well as formal recognition of their contribution to the organisation. You can:

  • Ensure volunteers always feel respected in your program.
  • Express appreciation and compliment volunteers on work well done and goals achieved.
  • Ensure volunteers are treated as equal members of the team.
  • Structure official recognition in the form of pins, certificates, thank you notes, parties and social events.

Individuals differ in the way they prefer to be recognised. Some are given a great boost by a personal telephone call thanking them for a job well done; others prefer public recognition. Try to find out the preferences of your volunteers.

Due Diligence

Due diligence in civil litigation (also known as due care) is the effort made by an ordinarily prudent or reasonable party to avoid harm to another party. Failure to make this effort may be considered negligence. (Source: Wikipedia)

How can your organisation provide a service that minimises risk?

Your organisation’s Board and its members must ensure that the risks associated with the provision of services, advice or goods are fully addressed. There must be in place the requisite number of policies and procedures regarding the organisation’s services and how it manages those services.

The Board or Management Committee is more likely to be protected from prosecution by ensuring the following:

  1. Undertaking all possible strategies to protect their clients.
  2. Fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities.
  3. Directors’ and Officers’ insurance.

Always seek professional advice. If you require more training and information about due diligence, please phone the School of Volunteer Management regarding the School’s range of training programs on 02 9261 3600.

Volunteer Insurance
Not-for-profit organisations that engage volunteers must carry valid public liability insurance and volunteer personal accident insurance.

The Centre strongly recommends that volunteer organisations seek professional advice to understand the types of insurance that are available and appropriate for their needs. Below are four types of insurance that your organisation may wish to consider:

1. Volunteers Workers Personal Accident

This covers accidental injury or death, resulting from involvement in authorised volunteer activity and may cover the payment of weekly benefits while engaged in various voluntary activities.

Cover can also be provided for weekly benefits to volunteers who earn an income elsewhere and that income is lost, due to their volunteering. These benefits are usually for 104 weeks (please confirm with your insurance provider).

Other benefits that may be provided in the Volunteer Workers Personal Accident Policy are Home Help, Student Tutorials, some out-of-pocket expenses, medical, pharmaceutical and funeral expenses, etc. (please confirm with your insurance provider)

Benefits are paid on approval.

2. Public Liability

This policy protects the named organisation, paid workers and volunteers for their legal liability to third party property damage or personal injury. Coverage should be organised to protect the paid workers and volunteers, and to include legal action against them from clients and other third parties.

Some Public Liability policies do not provide cover for injured volunteers even where coverage is available. An injured volunteer could sue the organisation for negligence which can take years of litigation (please confirm with your insurance provider).

3. Directors and Officers/Professional Indemnity Liability and Voluntary Boards of Management

This policy can cover:

  • Action for alleged negligence or breach of duty
  • Any negligent advice given by a volunteer
  • Defamation and slander
  • Sexual harassment
  • Misleading advertising
  • Cover can be extended to cover fidelity guarantee, etc.

Please note: Directors and officers cannot be relieved of their legal responsibility by any Articles of Association or Contract.

4. Motor Vehicle Insurance

Please consult with your insurance provider.

Tips on Insurance

  • Check that your policy specifically covers your volunteer staff for their normal work practices and has an up-to-date age range.
  • Assume anything not stated in your policy is NOT covered.
  • Disclose all relevant facts to the insurer, even planned activities or events requiring insurance in the future.
  • Assume risk management practices are a basis for insurance.

Insurance Checklist

  • Does your organisation have volunteer support?
  • Do your volunteers work “in house”?
  • Do your volunteers work externally?
  • Do your volunteers drive an organisational vehicle or their own vehicle?
  • Does your organisation have a Board or Management Committee?

If you answer “Yes” to any one option, you need to be covered by Personal Accident Insurance for Volunteers.

Why?

Your volunteers, your organisation and your Directors can be seriously disadvantaged if you are not adequately covered. In the eyes of the law, voluntary status is no different to paid staff status where a charge of negligence is concerned.

Disclaimer

This summary is designed to help ensure that you have some knowledge of Volunteer Insurance. It is based on information that to the best of our knowledge is correct. Agencies should seek independent advice from their Insurance Provider and discuss fully their needs. However, The Centre for Volunteering is not responsible for any damages incurred by agencies acting on the information provided.

Volunteer Recognition

Volunteer Recognition – Why?

When volunteers join your organisation it makes good sense to make every effort to retain them. It is a costly proposition to recruit and train replacement volunteers. Moreover, the time lost in recruiting replacement volunteers can result in lengthy periods where an organisation may not be able to deliver the additional quality of service that a volunteer may bring to the organisation.

One useful way of encouraging your volunteers to remain with your organisation is to give them adequate recognition. For recognition to be effective, it should be consistent and ongoing. Volunteers can quickly lose motivation if they feel that their work is not being valued.

It is important that volunteer managers are aware of the different ways in which volunteer efforts can be recognised. This is because one volunteer may regard one type of recognition as valuable, while another may feel it has little worth. If a Volunteer Manager is aware of the volunteer’s motivation in working for the organisation, then this will provide a good indication for the type of recognition that the volunteer is seeking. For example, if a volunteer is hoping to obtain paid employment, he/she will value opportunities to receive training, obtain a certificate of training recognition and/or a referee for their résumé.

In many cases, volunteers who are motivated by helping the community will see their work as reward and will only require support from their volunteer organisation. The support given by paid staff and the Volunteer Manager can be shown in many ways. The enthusiasm of paid staff for the aims of the volunteer program is very important because it will naturally engender within the organisation the recognition that volunteers are important.

Some ways that volunteer organisations may give recognition to their volunteers include:

  • Adequately orientate volunteers.
  • Have volunteer coordinators readily accessible to volunteers.
  • Encourage volunteer participation in team planning.
  • Encourage volunteer participation in planning that affects their work.
  • Provide training.
  • Give additional responsibility.
  • Enable volunteers to ‘grow’ on the job.
  • Include volunteers in special events.
  • Include volunteers in coffee breaks.
  • Recommend volunteers to prospective employers.
  • Maintain Occupational Health and Safety standards.
  • Take the time to explain and listen to volunteer’s ideas and concerns.
  • Recognise and accommodate personal needs and problems.
  • Celebrate achievements and efforts.
  • Keep volunteers informed via newsletter.
  • Provide letters of reference.
  • Send birthday and Christmas cards.
  • Allocate notice board space to applaud volunteer achievement.
  • Organise awards with certificates, plaques or medals.

Recognition Days

National Volunteer Week: 2nd week of May

National Volunteer Week provides a national focus for organisations wanting to recruit volunteers and promote the value of volunteering to the community. Each year, Volunteering Australia adopts a different theme that is launched during the week and used for the following 12 months. This year the theme is: Celebrate the Power of Volunteering

Any organisation involving volunteers is welcome to participate in the week and use the theme to promote volunteering in their local area.

Volunteering Australia inherited the coordination of National Volunteer Week from one of its predecessor organisations. Since this transition in the early 90s, Volunteering Australia has continued to set both the dates and the theme each year, as well as providing support and resources.

In Australia, National Volunteer Week is celebrated in May, from the Monday immediately after Mother’s Day to the following Sunday.

International Volunteer Manager Day: 5 November

International Volunteer Manager (IVM) Day is celebrated throughout the world on 5 November. The annual event recognises the efforts of the dedicated group of volunteer resources managers who are responsible for the coordination, support, training, administration, leadership and recruitment of the world’s volunteers – skilled individuals who are adept at taking singular passion and turning it into effective action. For more information, visit www.volunteermanagersday.org

International Volunteer Day: 5 December

December 5 was declared as International Volunteer Day (IVD) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985. The first International Volunteer Day was celebrated in l986 by dozens of countries. Activities ranged from clean-up campaigns, round- table conferences, competitions and exhibitions.

In Australia, International Volunteer Day has been designated as a day for the recognition of volunteer involvement; a day in which organisations can thank their volunteer staff.

The Centre for Volunteering holds the NSW Volunteer of the Year State Awards annually on IVD to further recognise volunteers.

There are many ways to recognise and thank volunteers. Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

  • Send cards or thank you letters to your volunteers.
  • Give your volunteers a small present or certificate.
  • Organise a special lunch or dinner.

Volunteer Awards

A number awards are given each year to volunteers who’ve made an outstanding contribution to the community. Here is a list of awards you can nominate someone for or be nominated for:

NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards

The NSW Volunteer of the Year Award is an annual awards program launched in 2007 by The Centre for Volunteering to recognise the outstanding efforts of the 2.4 million volunteers in NSW, and to promote the importance of volunteering to the community and to companies. Prior to 2007 there was no state-wide recognition program for volunteers. The NSW Volunteer of the Year Award are traditionally open for nominations between May–July and the State winners will be announced in early December.

Australian of the Year Awards

Each year our nation celebrates the achievement and contribution of eminent Australians through the Australian of the Year Awards by profiling leading citizens who are role models for us all. They inspire us through their achievements and challenge us to make our own contribution to creating a better Australia.

Volunteers and CentreLink
The Volunteer Work Initiative (VWI) program, which was administered by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations through Volunteering Australia, is no longer in operation. However, Centrelink clients can still elect to volunteer as part of their activity requirements – if that is in their contract.

The implications of this for not-for profit organisations are as follows:

  • Centrelink clients can choose to volunteer at a particular not-for-profit organisation, as part of their activity requirement, as long as that organisation is on Centrelink’s ‘approved list’.
  • Historically, there have been two ways an organisation could be on the approved list – either by being a member of The Centre for Volunteering, or by registering directly with Centrelink, and completing the appropriate paperwork.
  • Now that the VWI program no longer exists, being a member of our Centre will no longer give an organisation ‘approval’ status, and therefore every organisation wishing to have Centrelink volunteers, must register with Centrelink.
  • To find out if your organisation is already on Centrelink’s approved list, call Centrelink on 132 850 and ask them to check the list on their Local Activities Database (LAD), which they can find by looking under ‘L’ on their Centrenet home page.
  • If your organisation is not on that list, you can start the approval process by completing what is known as an SU461 form. You can also find this form by logging on to Centrelink’s website, and typing ‘SU461’ in the search facility: www.humanservices.gov.au

For more information visit www.humanservices.gov.au or phone Centrelink on 132 850.

Volunteers, Finance and Tax
Understand how honorariums and reimbursements apply  for volunteers and the organisations employing them.

Honorariums, reimbursements and allowances

This page sets out the views of the Commissioner of Taxation on how honorariums and reimbursements apply to PAYG withholdings for volunteers and the organisations employing them.

Disclaimer

The advice given is not legally binding on the Commissioner of Taxation. Although this opinion is not legally binding on the Commissioner, it is Tax Office policy to stand by the advice given unless there is a change in the law, the factual situation changes, or the opinion is shown to be incorrect following a decision of a court or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The advice is given subject to this necessary qualification.

Honorariums

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) guidelines on honorariums are as follows.

What is an honorarium?

An honorarium can describe:

  • an honorary reward for voluntary services
  • a fee for professional services voluntarily rendered.

An honorarium may be paid in money or as property.

Is an honorarium assessable income?Whether an honorarium is assessable income in the hands of a volunteer depends on the nature of the payment and the recipient’s circumstances. Honorary rewards for voluntary services are not assessable as income and related expenses are not deductible.

How much is too much for an honorarium?

The amount of an honorarium is not a conclusive factor in deciding whether it is assessable income. To determine how a particular honorarium is treated for income tax purposes, the full facts surrounding both the payment and the recipient must be considered.

Reimbursements

What is a reimbursement?

A payment is a reimbursement for tax purposes where it is a precise compensation, in part or full, for an expense already incurred, even if the expense has not yet been paid. A payment is more likely to be a reimbursement where the recipient is required to substantiate expenses and/or refund unexpended amounts.

In general, the payer considers the expense to be their own and the recipient incurs the expenditure on behalf of the payer. The recipient may be reimbursed for all or part of the expense.

Is a reimbursement assessable income?

If an organisation reimburses a volunteer for using a personal asset or incurring expenses on its behalf, the reimbursement will not be assessable income of the volunteer, provided:

  • the payment does no more than reimburse the volunteer for expenses actually incurred
  • the payment is not for a supply made in the course of an enterprise of the volunteer.

Allowances

What is an allowance?A payment is an allowance when it is a definite, predetermined amount to cover an estimated expense. It is paid even if the recipient does not spend the full amount.

Is an allowance assessable income?Whether an allowance is assessable income of the volunteer depends on the facts surrounding the payment and the relationship between the individual and the organisation.

If a volunteer receives an allowance with no regard to actual expenses and there is no requirement to repay unspent monies, the allowance may be treated as assessable income.

For more information please visit the Australian Taxation Office Website

Volunteering & Working with Children Checks
Further updates on this topic can be found in blog Be aware of changes to working with children check.

For the latest on Working with Children Check you can visit the official site

A Working With Children Check is a prerequisite for anyone in child-related work.  It involves a national criminal history check and review of findings of workplace misconduct.

Do you need a check?

If you are in child-related work you are required to have a Working With Children Check. To find out whether your work qualifies as child-related, see Who needs the Check?

Please note that a student over 18 on a professional placement in the course of a student clinical placement in a hospital or other health service is not considered to be in child-related work and does not require a Check.

Some volunteers in child-related work may be exempt from the requirement to obtain a Working With Children Check. See Exemptions.

When to apply

Volunteers and students over 18 on a professional placement will be phased in over a five year period, according to industry sector. To find out when your industry sector is being phased in, see Fact Sheet: Phase In Schedule (PDF 68 KB)

Cost

Volunteers do not pay for the Working With Children Check.The Check is also free for students over 18 on a professional placement. Once you receive your first pay cheque, you will have a maximum of 30 days to upgrade to a Check for paid workers.

Getting the results

See FACT SHEET: When will I receive my results? FACT SHEET: When will I receive my results? (PDF 109 KB)

Starting work

Once you have completed the proof of identity requirement, your application number may be used by your employer for online verification (unless your employer requires you to present a Working With Children Check number). You will also need to give your surname and date of birth. PLEASE NOTE! You cannot use your email or letter confirmation as proof of clearance.

Your information

During verification, your employer can only see your Check status. No information regarding your criminal or work history will be shared. For more infromation regarding how results are distributed

Check Results

Source: NSW Commission for Children and Young People

Child-Safe Child-Friendly Resources

Respect and safety of children and young people is everyone’s responsibility. Find out more information about best practices that help to create a child-safe child-friendly organisation check out the Child-Safe Child-Friendly Resources from the NSW Commission for Children and Young People.