Author's Name: Stephen Lake
Date: Mon 12 Oct 2015

Do you appreciate your volunteers?

There are over 20,000 not for profit organisations in Australia and the majority of these organisations rely in part or in full on volunteers. These volunteers range from the occasional participants to the stalwarts of the organisation, many of whom serve as Directors and senior office bearers.

The relationship with volunteers is a complex relationship and one that often receives too little attention from the organisation's management and stewardship perspective.

Volunteers can be:

  • an invaluable and relatively inexpensive workforce,
  • taken for granted,
  • overworked,
  • subject to Work Health and Safety legislation,
  • entitled to a duty of care by your organisation,
  • harder to manage than employees or contractors,
  • the corporate memory of your organisation, or
  • a key risk should they no longer participate in the organisation's activities.

If your organisation has volunteers, your Board should aim to achieve a position where the organisation can:

  • identify who your all volunteers are,
  • record and report on their length, effectiveness and frequency of service,
  • communicate efficiently, appropriately and regularly with them, whether they are active or not,
  • contact their next of kin in an emergency,
  • ensure the appropriate duty of care,
  • ensure compliance, if appropriate, with Work Health and Safety legislation,
  • manage their recruitment and review their ongoing participation in the organisation,
  • ensure their ongoing training and development needs are met,
  • manage their workload,
  • understand the risk posed to the organisation's sustainability by the loss of an individual or group of volunteers,
  • efficiently manage any issues that arise with volunteers, and
  • recognise your volunteers appropriately for their service.

In this manner you will truly "appreciate your volunteers".

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