Volunteers… from the hockey mom down the street, the senior who serves at a homeless shelter or the saintly Mother Teresa…they truly are valuable! In the previous blog we discussed the benefits for both organizations and individuals. And while managing human resources has always been important, this aspect has become more crucial than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Part 1, the first 3 standards of practice from the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement were discussed. It begins with a mission-based mindset, an integrated human resource approach and an infrastructure that defines and supports the involvement of volunteers.
The Standards of Practice for Volunteer Involvement
- Mission-Based Approach
- Human Resources
- Infrastructure for Volunteer Involvement
- Evaluation: Tracking Measuring and Reporting
- Volunteer Roles and Recruitment
- Risk Management
- Orientation and Training
- Support and Supervision
- Recognition: Valuing volunteer Involvement
Following is a discussion of the next four standards.
Evaluation: Tracking Measuring and Reporting
The impact of volunteer involvement needs to be evaluated to ensure its success. The organization should have an evaluation framework in place to assess the performance of volunteers and to gauge volunteer satisfaction. Records should be kept for each individual and in accordance with privacy laws. Just as a paid staff member would have annual reviews, the individual performance of the volunteer should also be evaluated on a regular basis. The impact of their contributions should be shared with them as well.
Volunteer Roles and Recruitment
Clear roles for volunteers must be identified. When staff are hired for pay, a job description is part of the expectation. The term ‘Volunteer’ refers to what the staff member is paid, not the expectation of their work. Therefore, a clear title and documented job description is necessary for paid or volunteer staff. Be sure to include the hours or time required, skills needed and how the task supports the mandate of the organization. Try to incorporate both the things that need to be done and things that motivate volunteers. What are the benefits? List them: learning new skills, meeting new people, or helping those in need.
It is necessary to monitor and redesign jobs where needed. If there is a job that is difficult to fill, ask around to see what is preventing volunteers from committing to it. Do volunteers for a certain area keep quitting? Ask questions to find out both why and to discover how the task could be more rewarding.
A recruitment strategy must be developed. Try to reach diverse groups for potential volunteers. Keep in mind that the different generations may require a different engagement approach. Statistics indicate that younger Canadians are less likely to volunteer if they are not asked personally. Does the ideal volunteer need to have specific skills or interests? What kinds of needs might the ideal candidate have (childcare, transportation, etc.)? Answering those kinds of questions may help determine where to start looking for the right people for the job. Having determined who you are trying to reach makes the next step of getting the message out to them easier.
A consistent selection process must be established. While interviews are a common method to determine an individual’s suitability for the position, keep in mind that a face-to-face interview is limited in what it reveals. A person who interviews well is displaying that they are skilled in interviews. It might not be the best method to evaluate all candidates, especially when individuals who have great potential are shy or nervous. Additional components such as personality tests, skills-based questionnaires or working a trial shift may be useful. A reciprocal attitude– allowing the candidate to ask questions can reveal clues as to whether their goals will complement those of the organization.
Procedures should be in place to assess, manage and to mitigate potential risks to volunteers, organizations, clients, staff, and participants. Each role and activity should be assessed for risks.
Health and Safety protocols should be followed. Provincial health and safety regulators often provide resources for employees which can be applied to volunteer positions as well. Form a workplace safety group with volunteer members and ensure that liability insurance is in place to cover unforeseen circumstances.
Would a bank hire a teller without background checks to make sure they are trustworthy? Clearly, there is the same type of risk with volunteers as there is with paid staff. The organization should have a clearly communicated, consistently applied and transparent screening process. This should include background checks such as a Criminal Record Check or Vulnerable Sector Check as well as conversations with personal references.
Begin by defining the organization’s screening process for new volunteers. Once the guidelines have been developed, assess the current volunteers and their job descriptions, and begin implementing screening.
When all staff and their roles are valued, and with a framework for implementing a volunteer program in place, it is more likely that organizations will get the right person for the right job. The next task is to create an environment that retains volunteers. Further insight into how to create that kind of environment and the related standards of practice will be covered in part 3…