Volunteer Engagement

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Effective volunteer engagement is critical to the success of a nonprofit. The time, talent and treasure provided by volunteers help an organization maximize results in working toward its mission. Nonprofit organizations should exercise fair and equitable volunteer management practices that attract and retain qualified individuals. An effectively-managed volunteer program can build an organization’s efficiency, enhance community engagement, provide specialized expertise and increase the community’s awareness of issues and resources through a knowledgeable pool of ambassadors and donors.

Infrastructure Checklist

Strongly Recommended

Yes No In Progress Not Applicable Not Sure
Organizational Needs Assessment (volunteers)
Orientation & ongoing training plan
Position descriptions
Recognition plan
Volunteer Policy & Procedures Manual
  • Anti-Harassment
  • Attendance
  • Confidentiality
  • Discipline
  • Grievance
  • Liability/risk information
  • Non-discrimination
  • Organizational chart
  • Travel policy


Yes No In Progress Not Applicable Not Sure
Grievance policy & procedure
Performance review
Recruitment plan

Practices Assessment

No/Not Begun In Process Yes/ Complete Not Applicable Not Sure
We have a volunteer engagement plan that includes the following elements:
  • Purpose statement – identifies what benefit(s) the organization gains from the effective use of volunteers
  • Organizational assessment – analyzes the organization’s readiness for volunteers
  • Budget – determines if organization has the financial resources to support a volunteer program
  • Roles and responsibilities – clearly defines roles, responsibilities, and relationships between staff and volunteers
We have a written position description for every volunteer position.
Volunteer recruitment activities are targeted and specific, clearly identifying the work to be done, the hours to be committed, and the intended impacts of the volunteer activity.
We have established screening procedures to ensure the safety of clients and minimize potential liability to the organization.
Volunteer assignments are made with careful consideration of the volunteer’s skills, needs, and interests.
We have current written volunteer policies and procedures that are accessible to all volunteers, including attendance policies, confidentiality policies, grievance procedures, and other key information to minimize risk and maximize effectiveness.
We have a system whereby volunteers are oriented and trained for the specific skills and knowledge needed to perform their volunteer roles, as well as to understand the limits of their work and the latitude they may have for decision-making on behalf of the organization.
We have an ongoing orientation/communication plan to keep volunteers apprised of changes within the organization as well as enhanced opportunities for volunteer involvement.
Each volunteer has a direct connection to an identified supervisor and understands with whom to communicate when the supervisor is unavailable.
We have a clear and documented grievance procedure whereby volunteers may address issues including (but not limited to) harassment and discrimination.
We have clearly articulated and documented accountability and discipline procedures for volunteers that address lack of performance as well as policy violations.
We have a thoughtful recognition system which provides individual and group recognition and celebrates the impact of volunteers.
Volunteer performance is evaluated regularly (at least annually) with the supervisor through a formal process. **Note: the depth of performance evaluations should be appropriate to the role and scope of service the volunteer provides. One-time (or episodic) volunteers can be evaluated in much less detail.**
The volunteer program as a whole is evaluated annually to assess cost and benefits of the program, to document impact on mission achievement, and to direct future volunteer initiatives.

Walking the Talk

  • Design your volunteer management and support systems to meet the scope of your volunteer involvement. Strategies may be different for one-time, episodic or short-term volunteers than for long-term, ongoing volunteer projects.
  • Build collaborative relationships with other programs/organizations similar to yours; consider sharing recruitment, training, and recognition activities.
  • Talk to staff and volunteers about how volunteers can expand programs, or take tasks off paid-staff workloads that would allow staff to maximize their expertise in other ways.
  • When reporting volunteer impact to funders, the community at large and your internal constituents, make sure to factor in the established value of a volunteer hour.
  • Listen to your volunteers. Ask them how the programs are going, how clients are feeling, what general community members are saying. Ask them how they’re feeling about their work, if they feel valued, if they understand their role in achieving mission. They will be the first to let you know what works, and what doesn’t.