Managing Volunteers

There may be several reasons you decide that your organisation needs volunteers.

  1. Conducting a Needs Analysis

Asking the right questions about how your organisation could engage volunteers will help with the development of meaningful and purposeful roles.

Questions you could ask:

  • What would we like to do more of?
  • Are there any community needs that we haven’t been able to meet?
  • If we had more skills available, what could we do differently?

  1. Develop a Position description

Once you have established your volunteer needs, it is important to develop this into a defined role. It is important volunteers know that they fulfil a real and vital purpose in your organisation.

A good position description is more than just a list of jobs that need doing.

Items to Include:

  • The role title and purpose
  • Supervisor
  • Main Tasks & Responsibilities
  • Time commitment required
  • Role location
  • Any qualifications or experience required
  • Skills needed to do the role
  • Essential and Desirable qualities
  • Benefits to the volunteer

For Position Description templates, see Templates section.

  1. Put the call out

Use your networks:

  • Volunteer Central Vic
  • Seek Volunteer
  • Go Volunteer
  • Social Media
  • Local Newspapers
  • Community Newsletters
  • Posters and flyers at friendly organisations
  • At events and public talks about the organisation
  • Tell your friends, family and neighbours
  1. Interviews

This is your opportunity to get to know the person who is interested in volunteering for you.

Suggested general interview questions:

  • What attracted you to this role/organisation?
  • What do you think makes a good volunteer?
  • Have you volunteered before?
  • What do you think of volunteering? Can you tell me about the impacts of your own volunteering?
  1. Background Checks

Background checks are an important way for your organisation to stay safe and to prevent potential problems. Some background checks are required by law, depending on the role.

See this section: Background Checks

  1. Volunteer Agreement

For sample Volunteer Agreements, go to Templates

  1. Induction & Orientation

It’s a good idea to write up a brief induction and orientation procedure so that you know your volunteers have had a proper introduction to your organisation.

Volunteer Induction Checklist

  1. Volunteer Handbook

This should be presented to the volunteer as part of their induction and orientation.

A handbook is where you can compile all the useful and relevant information your volunteers need to have when they are working for you.


If you need more help with Recruiting, you can use this handy e-learning module:

Recruiting Volunteers

 The Principles of volunteering

  • Volunteering benefits the community and the volunteer
  • Volunteering is always a matter of choice
  • Volunteering is an activity that is unpaid and not undertaken for the receipt of salary, pension, government allowance or honorarium
  • Volunteering is a legitimate way in which citizens can participate in the activities of their community
  • Volunteering is a vehicle for individuals or groups to address human, environmental and social needs
  • Volunteers do not replace paid workers nor constitute a threat to the job security of paid workers
  • Volunteering respects the rights, dignity and culture of others
  • Volunteering promotes human rights and equality

The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement

The National Standards were developed in 2015 by Volunteering Australia to set a benchmark for best practice in managing volunteers.

The standards are:









Download the National Standards here:



The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement state that ” Volunteer contribution, value and impact is understood, appreciated and acknowledged”. 

There are many ways you can show your volunteers that you appreciate and value their contribution.

Remember, your volunteers are the best ambassadors and advocates for your organisation. It is important to recognise their work and express your thanks.

1. Ask for Feedback, and then act on it.

Asking your volunteers what they think about their work is an important way to lend them a voice in the organisation. Acting on their feedback is essential in backing up and valuing their contribution.

2.  Make Recognition an Organisational Habit:

 Volunteer Canada has developed some excellent Best Practice habits you can use as a starting point:

  • Make it a priority. Recognizing the work of volunteers is crucial for any organization that wants to retain its volunteers and attract new ones. Designate someone in your organization to be responsible for ensuring that ongoing recognition of volunteers takes place (and if you’re reading this, that person is probably you!). 

  • Do it often. Recognition of volunteers should happen on a year-round, frequent basis. Begin by saying “thank you” often with the help of our volunteer thank-you letter template.

  • Do it in different ways. Vary your recognition efforts, from the informal thank you and spontaneous treats to more formal events. Take a look at our ideas for formal and informal recognition later on in this guide

  • Be sincere. Make each occasion to recognize volunteers meaningful and an opportunity to reflect on the value volunteers bring to your organization.

  • Recognize the person, not the work. It’s best to phrase recognition to emphasize the contribution of the individual and not the end result. “You did a great job!” as opposed to “This is a great job!”

  • Make it appropriate to the achievement. For example, a paper certificate accompanied by a private thank you may be appropriate for a few months of service, but a public dinner and engraved plaque may better suit 10 years of volunteerism.

  • Be consistent. Make sure that whatever standards of recognition you establish can be consistently maintained by your organization for years to come. Holding a volunteer recognition dinner one year sets up expectations for future volunteers.

  • Be timely. Try to arrange recognition soon after an achievement has been reached. Delaying until weeks or months later diminishes the value of your gratitude.

  • Customize it. Getting to know each of your volunteers and their interests will help you learn how best to recognize each individual and make them feel special.

Other ideas for recognising the work and contribution of your volunteers:

  • Send a card – birthdays, thank-yous, get-well, holidays. Whatever the message, people appreciate a real card sent in the mail. It’s better than a bill any day!
  • Write an Impact Report and circulate to the rest of the organisation, Members, Committee and local government that clearly states the contribution of volunteers to your organisation and the wider community.
  • Share a special Thank-You message from the President or Chair, CEO or other organisational leader. It matters to volunteers that those in power understand and appreciate the work they are doing.

Inclusive Volunteering means more than just equality, it means meeting the needs of all volunteers including those who are from marginalised or vulnerable communities.

Volunteering Victoria has a useful LGBTIQ-Volunteers-Inclusive-Practice-Guide-PDF-1

Victoria Alive! has produced a comprehensive set of Guides for adapting volunteer programs and including volunteers with a disability:

Volunteers are protected by anti-discrimination legislation in Australia. Always make sure that your recruitment and engagement policies and procedures are inclusive and equitable to meet these legal requirements.

Volunteering Australia has produced this Practical Guide to Involving Volunteers from Diverse Cultural and Language Backgrounds

Overwhelm is common for managers of volunteers who might be responsible for a large team, but only available to them for 10 or 20 hours per week.

Here are some practical tips to help manage the volume and calm the mind.


We all know the feeling – 100 things to do and you don’t know where to start.

  1. Write it down in 1 place. This can be a notebook, a list-management app (there are several), or a Word doc.
  2. Categorise your list: Do | Defer | Delegate | Delete

  1. Now, do any tasks that only take a couple of minutes
  2. Then, use your calendar to allocate time and a deadline by which you will complete the deferred tasks.
  3. Delegate as many tasks as you can. Getting them off of your list will relieve the pressure.
  4. Delete the tasks you don’t need to do.

Further ways to prioritise your tasks:

  • Urgent/Important Matrix

Top 3 tasks – set aside time first thing to write down those MITs (no more than 3) and get those things done. Anything else is a bonus.

  • A day-by-day list

Set out the tasks for that day. Anything not completed gets moved over to the next day (after being analyzed through the Do | Defer | Delegate | Delete process).

Myths of Multitasking:

ABC Radio National – program on All in the Mind

  • Neuroscientists have now determined that humans are not capable of multi-tasking, but rather we become adept at switch-tasking.
  • Rapid switch tasking can lead to mental and physical fatigue. The brain is so taxed that it becomes harder to concentrate on tasks that take effort and focus.
  • Switch-tasking results in much more of the stress hormone cortisol being released into your body.
  • The antidote is focused single-tasking.

Periodically block out the constant stream of information. Shut off social media, email and other notifications for a block of time and focus on one task.


Delegating can be tricky. It can sometimes require time and effort. However, by building good delegating habits, you will not only be in a better position to manage your time, you will also be building the capabilities of your volunteers and team members.

Good delegation involves:

  1. Deciding on the task
  2. Picking the right person
  3. Communicating clearly what needs to be done
  4. Checking in regularly (without being over-bearing)
  5. Being patient. You might need to provide more support
  6. Giving credit where it is due: if your volunteer has done a good job, let everyone know.

Conflict Resolution

Anyone who works in a team understands that conflict happens. Knowing how to resolve conflict can help teams to work better together and keep stress levels down.

Help from NFPLaw regarding conflict, grievance and mediation

Screening_Checks_Guide_VIC Dealing-with-conflict-PDF has some useful information about managing teams and conflict resolution:


Burnout – What to Watch For:

It is important to know when you are dealing with more than usual amounts of stress.

Signs of Physical/Emotional Exhaustion:

  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness
  • Increased illnesses
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Anger

Signs of Cynicism and Detachment

  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Pessimism
  • Isolation

Signs of Feeling Ineffective

  • Lack of productivity
  • Feeling of apathy
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Increased irritability

4 Ways to Beat Volunteer Management Burnout:

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