By Kat Shepherdson
When I speak to organisations, the one thing they always say is ‘We need volunteers, can you get us some?’ I always follow up by asking if they have a volunteer policy and role description in place. You get two answers to this question either– Yes, which comes with a proud smile or you get blank faces, following by the reasons why they don’t.
The issue is, that these are two important tools in any volunteer manger’s pocket, with the role description being the one which is thought to be not utilised enough to be worth the time and resources you really need to spend on it. While many organisations need volunteers, they also need to recruit suitable individuals and to keep them in place for as long as is appropriate.
Without this tool many organisations end up in this awful circle of needing volunteers, getting the odd unsuitable volunteer, losing volunteers and needing more - with the volunteer manager losing the will to live in the meantime. Alternatively an organisation finds itself in a sticky situation, with a disruptive volunteer who is feeling restless because they don’t know what they are meant to be doing. All these issues can be supported with a good effective role description.
A role description is such a useful tool. Not only does it help you as an organisation to understand why you need a volunteer in the first place, it allows you to measure those volunteer applicants against your organisational needs to ultimately work out who would support your organisation in the most meaningful way. Let’s face it, if this was a paid role you wouldn’t hire someone without a job description!
While role descriptions are vital in recruitment, they are also useful in the retention of volunteers.
Something we all can be guilty of with volunteers is using them to do the ‘other jobs’ which you find and give to your volunteer because they don’t come under the remit of paid staff and they need doing, last week. While having a volunteer do these jobs can be helpful in the short term, in the long run, if a volunteer does this too much it tends to end two ways, either the volunteer never returns, or they start to play up and cause you a headache.
A role description keeps everyone focused on the tasks which are suitable and beneficial for a volunteer to be doing. Therefore, each role description must be reviewed regularly to make sure it is current. This can be a lot of work. However, it can be included in any supervision or catch-ups you have with the volunteer. An annual review of the roles that volunteers play within your organisation, can then look at all of them, including the volunteering policy and strategy.
Role descriptions can also be used to show what the difference is between your volunteers’ roles and paid staff jobs within the organisation. As its states on the Charity Commission’s website:
"Your charity could get into legal problems if you don’t clearly distinguish between its paid staff and volunteers. It’s possible for volunteers to claim they have the same rights as employees, including claiming unfair dismissal for example."
So many organisations are scared of being taken to court or doing something wrong and the law crashing down around them. However, it’s not that scary if you make it very clear what the volunteer’s role is within the organisation. This is where you can highlight that there are no expectations nor commitment and no monetary reward for their support to your organisation. This can be included in a role description and if it is kept updated will stop any issues arising and protect you from any nasty come backs.
Generally, a good role description allows you to state what you’re looking for, what your organisation needs and allows you to keep those who benefit your organisation engaged while also protecting yourself. For more support on role descriptions come to ‘Develop your winning role description training’ on the 7th November, Stevenage. Booking can be done via HCF’s website
by Jack Leggetter
During my last year of university, I had the privilege of taking on a management research project. When deciding on a research subject, I decided to focus on creating a meaningful piece of work that can be used practically in the real world. Therefore, I focused my research on a major talking point in the charity sector, Trustee recruitment. I decided to base my research on small organisations within North and East Hertfordshire. The main things I wanted to discover were:
- The current state of Trustee recruitment
- How Trustees feel about current recruitment practices
- What changes should be made
Through the study, I found that organisations in North and East Hertfordshire are very similar to the rest of the country in how they recruit trustees. The similarity is that word-of-mouth is still the most prominent method of finding and recruiting Trustees to charity boards.
A lot is said about the negative effects word-of-mouth recruitment can have on Trustee boards, however, very little is ever mentioned about the positives of having a board of Trustees formed through existing connections. Often boards built through existing relationships have the benefit of having previous chemistry and experiences together, making them more productive and able to better understand one another’s motivations and ability to bring unique skills to the board. However, word-of-mouth recruitment is still one of the root causes to why so many Trustee boards lack diversity in the UK.
When I asked Trustees about how they felt about their organisation’s current recruitment practices, there was a clear correlation between them being more satisfied when their organisation had a more detailed recruitment process with more stages. This was because it gave them a sense that everyone else on the board was put through the same process and were of the necessary skill/experience to competently conduct their role. They also noted how when their organisation advertised for their Trustee roles, they were able to create a board with far more diversity.
Finally, it came time to decide how charities should recruit Trustees, it was clear that it was dependent on a variety of factors. For example, smaller charities with limited budgets won’t be able to do the level of marketing to attract and reach potential trustees from outside of their existing circles. Therefore, word-of-mouth is a good way of ensuring that these organisations can maintain boards with strong links and experience without long waits and recruitment processes.
Larger organisations who work on a wider scale should use more elaborate and complex recruitment processes in order to make sure those joining the boards are of the necessary skill and experience to ensure organisation is in a strong place to grow and be sustainable.
If you’re interested in becoming a Trustee and would like to know about the requirements of the role and how to find your perfect opportunity, why not sign up to one of our Trustee workshops?
If you’re already a Trustee and would like to learn more about tactics in building and growing your Trustee board, have a look at our” Building Effective Boards” guide for useful information, tips and resources for Trustees.