The question also came up at the conference about volunteer rights and responsibilities.
You may hear that "volunteering is a privilege, not a right".
While that is true, it is important to address the rights and responsibilities of volunteers.
For a smaller organization, something as simple as a "Volunteer Rights and Responsibilities" document may be sufficient.
Here is a sample document:
Some jurisdictions incorporate volunteers directly into the regulations and procedures that govern the organization's employees.
The following website out of the Directgov in the United Kingdom, provides some good information, including a sample volunteer agreement.
It is important for the volunteers to:
- understand which policies they are required to follow,
- understand the limitations of their assignment,
- be provided with those policies,
- have access to those policies,
- sign off on those regulations, as being read and understood, and
- have a mechanism to be able to provide feedback and address concerns.
Recently, when working with a university, there was discussion on incorporating the university's ethics policy into the bylaws of the volunteer organization. There was a recommendation that a link to that policy be included in the revision. A staff member mentioned they had difficulty getting the document themselves.
If a volunteer (or employee) cannot easily access the policy, how can a volunteer be required to follow it???
It is important for the person coordinating the volunteers to:
- understand which policies apply to the volunteers,
- remember the people are volunteers and not employees,
- treat volunteers with respect, and
- take some time to listen to the volunteers.
And one thing to also keep in mind is that volunteers should not be treated as "free" employees/"free" labor.