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Designing Volunteer Positions

Think about both the benefits to your organization and the benefits the volunteer is going to feel as you design volunteer positions. If you select the right people for the right role, volunteers can help with almost all areas of your organization.

When you develop volunteer opportunities it's important to be clear not only about your organization's needs but also about how you can fulfill a volunteer's needs.  A volunteer may be motivated by a desire to be of service, an interest in learning new skills through a volunteer role, or an interest in meeting and being with people. In order to make sure there’s a good fit between the volunteer's needs and the organization's needs think about these parallel considerations:

Matching volunteer expectations with organizational needs

Volunteer Organization

Volunteer’s values about who they want to help; what issues they care about

Focus/mission; staff/board diversity; who is served

Volunteer’s values about workplace culture

Organizational culture (formal/informal, studious/fun, how decision are made, how people relate to one another)

Volunteer’s preferences about using/developing their skills

Organization's needs (what needs to be done; what skills, knowledge or expertise is needed.)

Volunteer’s preferences about the structure and benefits of a volunteer opportunity

Structure and benefits of the volunteer opportunity (independence, hours, social opportunities etc.)

Just as you would for a staff member, develop a detailed position description for volunteers that clearly define the activities and responsibilities of the role and the minimum and preferred background or qualifications.  Whether you’re looking for a large number of general volunteers for an ongoing program or an individual with a particular skill set, be as specific as you can about the role and the skills needed.  For direct service roles, be sensitive to the culture and needs of the communities you’re serving.  Be sure to involve staff members when designing volunteer roles so that the volunteer will be supported and valued by others in your organization.

Sample position descriptions

Here are some sample volunteer position descriptions created by nonprofits participating in the 2010-2011 Volunteer Impact Program (VIP), now known as VIP 360:

Return to Topics in Volunteer Management Guide.