Thinking of Starting a Volunteer Program? Here Are 5 Things To Consider

Couple Working in Homeless Shelter
  1. Know what role your volunteers will have.    Even if your organization has numerous tasks that it just cannot get to, planning is essential to an effective volunteer program. As such, the first step is to think about what suitable tasks and responsibilities are needed that match the organization’s strategic goals.  In other words, is the work suitable for a volunteer and will it advance the organization’s strategic goals.
  2. Know compliance requirements and regulations applicable to your industry and be prepared to share your organization’s written policies and procedures with your volunteers.     If required by law or advised by legal counsel, have volunteers sign written acknowledgements.  Federal grants now require that nonprofit organizations protect personally identifiable information.  Check with a legal professional to find out:
    • If volunteers should adhere to your organization’s confidentiality agreements
    • Whether volunteers should receive training on applicable laws such as HIPPA or other privacy laws
    • Whether volunteers are covered by your organization’s insurance in the event of a claim of liability
    • Does the work require the volunteer to undergo a background check or health assessment
    • Answers to other compliance requirements under either state and federal laws or funding requirements that may impact the volunteer program
  1. Identify staff members with sufficient time to oversee the volunteer program. Don’t assume that HR or a program manager would be the obvious choice for oversight of any portion of the volunteer program.  A proper volunteer program will require time and effort to run properly. 
  2. Develop a framework for recruiting, training, promotion, recognition and retention.    It’s not enough to just seek out helpers and put them to work. An effective volunteer program requires cultivating if you want to retain volunteers.
  3. Select the best channels for recruiting potential volunteers.    The organization continues to brand itself even during the recruitment process.  Therefore, the organization should solicit volunteers that are consistent with the organization’s brand and mission.  Finding volunteers who match the mission and objectives is equally important.  Finally, the type of work involved, general timeframe for completion and any indirect costs to the organization are important considerations.

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