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Help Sheet

Designing job descriptions for volunteers

Volunteers are the lifeblood of community groups. Most of these organisations would cease to exist without their volunteers' regular committed services.

When it comes to volunteering, job satisfaction is important. It is important that prospective volunteers know that they will fulfill a real and vital purpose in your group or organisation.

For this reason it is extremely important that every staff member knows this and every volunteer in your organisation has a real and meaningful role.

To ensure that your volunteer workforce remains motivated and continues achieving, your organisation needs to have the following in place:

  1. A clearly identified set of essential and varied tasks for volunteers.
  2. Well-defined job descriptions for these tasks.
  3. A system to match volunteers' needs and skills with each task.
  4. A process of review and reward for volunteers.

This help sheet aims to assist community groups to develop appropriate job descriptions for their volunteer workforce.

How can volunteers benefit my organisation?

There are two ways in which volunteers may be used in your organisation:

1. To relieve paid staff of administrative tasks.

The results of a support task audit will highlight the type and amount of work that needs to be done to enable paid staff to concentrate on other core activities. It is preferable that paid staff members play an active role in the volunteer employment process. This will ensure that all volunteer work complements rather than duplicates the work of paid staff.

First, develop a simple form to identify some specific ways in which volunteers might assist paid staff.

Depending on the size of your organisation, this form may be completed by individual members of staff or by their team leaders.

The pro forma you design will include categories specific to the needs of your organisation, and may include the following:

Type of Task Duration (No. of Hours) Weekly Monthly Biannually Annually Could this work be undertaken outside the office environment?
Database Maintenance            
Photo Library Maintenance            
Library and Stationery Acquisition            
Photo Library Maintenance            
Basic Equipment & Grounds Maintenance            
Basic Fundraising            
Food Distribution            

2. To develop and extend your organisation's vision and goals.

Increasingly, people are prepared to lend their professional expertise to community and non-profit organisations for which they have a passion. Skilled volunteers may be sought in many areas including:

Hold a brainstorming session to find out the sort of professional skills your group could use and use these to inform your recruitment drive.

Is my organisation equipped to accommodate volunteers?

In order to take on volunteers your organisation should have the following in place:

1. A Volunteer Coordinator

Volunteers, like paid staff, require ongoing support and direction. A key factor in maintaining volunteer job satisfaction is the appointment of a volunteer coordinator for your organisation.

Duties may include:

2. Flexible working conditions

Unlike paid staff, volunteers usually have a preference for part-time and/or flexible working schedules. This may include weekend or after-hours work. An group with greater flexibility will attract a larger number of potential applicants.

3. Security

Many community organisations deal with highly sensitive issues and information. Security checks and confidentiality agreements are commonplace requirements for many volunteer positions.

How do I find the right volunteers for my organisation?

Volunteer staff, just like paid staff, need clear, accurate and current descriptions of the work that they are expected to do. All volunteer positions should have their own position descriptions, which need to be reviewed at least annually, or whenever the nature of the work changes substantially.

A good job-description would include the following:


Have we:

  1. Established a true need for volunteers within our group?
  2. Clearly defined the nature of the volunteer task/s?
  3. Appointed a Volunteer Coordinator?
  4. Posted the position in a range of places, online and offline?
  5. Provided adequate volunteer orientation materials?
  6. Provided adequate workspace?
  7. Completed necessary security and confidentiality checks?
  8. Established a process of direction, review and reward for the volunteer?



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