Nonprofit and charity organizations

Why are Volunteers Important?

For many nonprofit and charity organizations volunteers are the life-blood that keeps the organization working and performing to its true purpose and goals. Without these unpaid volunteers the charity or nonprofit organisation would not be able to function because costs of employing paid workers would probably make it unviable.

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For any organisation that uses volunteers recruitment can cause a big headache. It is tempting to think that if someone is prepared to give up their time for free then that is all that is needed. This is a mistake. It is important to find the right people for the tasks that need doing but those people will need to have or be prepared to learn the required skills.

Shared Values and Purpose

Volunteers will also need to fit into the organization so they will need to have the beliefs and attitudes that the organization sees as being important in the role it aims to fulfil in society. This means an organization will need to have clear values and purpose and look for people who share them to recruit as volunteers.

When selecting and recruiting volunteers consideration needs to be given as to why the organisation needs volunteers. It is likely that the financial considerations will be an important factor with the economy of unpaid volunteers favouring setting on paid staff. At the same time it is important to recognise that some members of the organisation may well need to be paid employees

‘Them’ and ‘Us’

Sometimes a ‘them’ and ‘us’ or ‘volunteers’ and ’employees’ scenario may develop which may not be healthy for the organisation. It may be necessary to emphasise that paid employees are an essential part of the organisation and that volunteers will probably be the lifeblood.

Rewards for Volunteers

People rarely do something with out some kind of reward or return whether it is monetary, training, gaining experience, or for personal satisfaction. Volunteers will need to feel they are contributing and receiving. Ways will need to be found to ensure that both employees and volunteers feel they are valued and have a proper place within the organisation.

Defining Boundaries

It will be necessary to define the roles and boundaries within the organisation for employees and volunteers and define and communicate clearly what the organisation needs and expects from both which may differ. It will also be necessary to decide what the organization will give to the volunteer. This may be satisfaction and a sense of doing good work, training, experience, a good reference for future employees or perhaps something else. Whatever it is it will need to satisfy the volunteer’s expectations.

To help ensure the nonprofit or charity organization gets the right person in the right place at the right time there will need to be an understanding of what roles are required and the type of people needed to fill them.

Job Descriptions and Contracts

It is a good idea to create a separate Job Descriptions and contracts for employees and volunteers. This will help define the boundary between employee and volunteer. This is important because some volunteers have been known to claim that they are employees with employee’s rights which can have serious legal implications. Also some employees may try to claim some of the volunteer’s perks, rewards or working conditions.

The role, or roles, that the organisation want filling will need to be clearly defined to ensure that candidates are interviewed for the right position. An organisation may have several different roles it want to fill and it will be a waste of time interviewing a person who does not have any administration skills or interest in learning them for a role in administration. It is essential to define the role and then decide what skills the candidate will need to either have, or learn.

Person Specification.

It will be necessary to identify the characteristics and personal qualities and beliefs of the volunteer and their motives for volunteering to ensure that they are right for the organisation and in sympathy with the aims and mission of the organisation. A good idea is for an organization to decide the kind of person they will be looking for and decide what characteristics, attributes and skills are essential or desirable.

Separate Recruitment Procedures and Policies

The organisation will need to have a separate recruitment procedure and policies for employees and volunteers. This will be necessary to protect the organisation and also offer best protection for employees and volunteers. The organisation will need to comply with the law.

Finding Volunteers

When the organization has defined the role of the volunteer, created Job Descriptions, Contracts and Personal Specifications and knows exactly what sort of people they are looking for how do they find them?

Word of mouth can be an effective and cheap way to find volunteers depending on the role of the volunteer and the numbers of recruits required. This can be effective for some organizations with employees, existing volunteers and their friends and neighbours spreading the word, or service users and their families doing the same.

There are also various forms of advertising that can be used to help recruitment. Television, radio, internet, newspapers magazines can be expensive but reach a great number of potential recruits. Cheaper ways of advertising such as putting up posters in local shops, or leaving flyers in public places such as libraries can also work well as can simply handing them out in busy shopping centres.

|What ever way the organisation decides to advertise the advertisement will need to have certain information displayed clearly. The name of the organisation and the nature, purpose and values needs to be made clear. It will also be important to display the role of the volunteers and the benefits they will receive.

To make it easy for potential recruits the advertisement will need to display clearly how to apply, where to apply or get further information. A contact name, postal and email address and telephone number will help and encourage potential recruits to apply or ask questions. Information in the advertisement should be clear and simple, concise and inoffensive. It should stand out but for the right reasons.

Once the method or methods of advertising have been decided and advertisements placed the next stage is to send out application packs with the Job Description, Person Specifications, Application Forms and any other information the organization wants to send or is required to send by law. The organization may decide it wants to keep to assign a date for the return of applications or it may decide to leave it open. Either way it should advise the potential recruit as well as advising them on how or when they will be informed if they are accepted for interview.


The interview should give the organization the chance to access the candidate’s potential and consider how they will fit in. The previous work done on producing a Job Description and Personal Specification will be a big help in this.

Before the interview takes place the format of the interview needs to be decided. For example, will it be a group interview, will there be tasks or tests, or it will candidates be interviewed individually? Decide who and how many people will interview candidates, what questions are going to be asked and how the answers will be rated. All candidates should be treated equally and fairly.

When these points have been addressed then a timetable can be scheduled taking in advertising, closing dates, time to consider applications and sending out invitations. With all the preparation work done the interview should give the organization a good idea of if the candidate is suitable for them.

Candidates need to be informed as soon as possible. Successful candidates should be informed first just in case they turn down the offer for some reason. An offer can then be made to the next best candidates if deemed suitable. It can also be useful to keep unsuccessful candidates details on file just in case a more suitable position comes up in the future… This will save the need to advertise.

It should be made clear to successful candidates that any offers are subject to suitable references, qualification checks and any legal checks that may need to be done. It may be necessary, depending on the role offered, for some, or all of these checks to be done before a starting date can be arranged.

Getting the Right Person in the Right Place.

Finding the right volunteers for a required role can be very difficult and time consuming and expensive. An unsuitable volunteer may cost the organization or charity a lot of money or cause damage to their reputation so it is essential to recruit the right people. If all of these points are considered and taken into account the nonprofit organization or charity will stand a very good chance of selecting the right volunteers for the right role at the right time.

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