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Planning & Policy

Planning is the key to success for all organizational projects, and volunteer program development is no exception.  Planning for volunteers includes a variety of decisions. Get together an internal team - or recruit some volunteers to help you - and develop a written plan.  Your plan should address an assessment of  your organization's readiness for volunteers, your goals and objectives for using volunteers, budget and resources, staff preparation, volunteer positions, and training and support. Taking the time to develop a plan will save you time during implementation.

What kinds of policies should your handbook include?

Creating a detailed volunteer handbook for all new volunteers is an essential step to orient and inform volunteers to your organization's culture, policy and expectations.

The handbook should be as detailed as possible. This is your chance to include everything you need your volunteers to know about your organizations policies. This is also an opportunity to protect your organization from liability should an incident occur where volunteer conduct is called into question. Here are a few suggestions for covering some basic, but very important policy considerations:

  • Contact information
  • A statement outlining your organizations non-discriminatory policy and non-harassment policy
  • Notify volunteers of potential background checks (be sure to conduct background checks in all situations involving minors or members of other vulnerable populations).
  • Outline your organization’s confidentiality agreement and policies related to conflicts of interest
  • Ask permission to use volunteer information if necessary
  • Your organizations policy regarding work with minors, appropriate relations with clients and amongst other volunteers and staff members
  • Expectations regarding attendance, dress code and conduct while volunteering
  • An outline of your disciplinary procedures and termination policies (if you do not have one of these, now is the time to create one!)  This also must include behaviors which would require disciplinary actions.Do not be afraid to list the obvious: drug use, alcohol, and firearms etc…
  • If your organization takes court mandated volunteers, list the policy
  • Emergency procedures

In short: your handbook should include all of your policies that are relevant to volunteers.

Other important things to include in a volunteer handbook are:

  • Your organization’s story and mission
  • Position descriptions

Sample handbooks

We have provided a few examples of great volunteer handbooks, use these models to develop your organization’s volunteer handbook. These three organizations all took part in our Volunteer Impact Program in 2010 and 2011, now called VIP 360. These organizations all provide very different service and use volunteers in many different ways, however, you will see that their handbooks have many similar elements.

Volunteer Handbook-  Rainer Valley Food Bank, provides food to families and individuals living in the Rainer Valley neighborhood in South Seattle.

Volunteer Handbook- Hearing Speech and Deafness Center is an educational, service, and supply resource for deaf, hard-of-hearing, and speech impaired people.

Volunteer Handbook- Life Long AIDS Alliance provides a wide range of services and support to people living with HIV and AIDS, as well as promoting HIV prevention in the community.

Return to Topics in Volunteer Management Guide.