Volunteer Handbook Essential Policies and Guidelines

Published on September 18, 2023

Volunteer Handbook Essential Policies and Guidelines

Volunteers are the backbone of many nonprofit organizations, contributing their time, skills, and dedication to support your cause and initiatives. To ensure a productive and positive experience, it's essential to provide clear volunteer policies and expectations up front. A well-structured volunteer handbook or policies and procedures manual is a valuable tool for achieving this goal. In this article, we will discuss the kinds of policies that should be included in a volunteer handbook to create a positive and organized volunteer program.

Important volunteer policies to include in your volunteer handbook or manual

  1. Mission and Vision
    Start your volunteer handbook by outlining the organization's mission and vision. This serves as a reminder of the overarching goals and objectives that volunteers are working towards. By understanding the bigger picture, volunteers can feel more connected to the cause and motivated in their roles.
  2. Code of Conduct
    A code of conduct sets the tone for appropriate behavior within the organization. Include guidelines on professionalism, respect, and communication. Stress the importance of treating fellow volunteers, staff, clients, and the public with courtesy and respect.
  3. Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination
    Emphasize your commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Specify that volunteers will not be discriminated against based on factors such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Encourage a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.
  4. Confidentiality
    Many organizations handle sensitive information, whether it's related to clients, donors, or internal operations. A confidentiality policy should outline the expectations regarding the handling of such information. Stress the importance of respecting privacy and maintaining the confidentiality of all privileged information.
  5. Health and Safety
    The safety of volunteers and others is of paramount importance. Include policies related to safety procedures, emergency protocols, and any specific safety measures relevant to your organization's activities. Make sure volunteers are aware of who to contact in case of emergencies.
  6. Training and Orientation
    Detail the organization's training and orientation process for new volunteers. Include information on mandatory training sessions, mentorship programs, and any ongoing learning opportunities. Well-prepared volunteers are more effective and confident in their roles.
  7. Attendance and Punctuality
    Volunteers play a crucial role in many organizations, and their reliability is essential. Establish expectations for attendance and punctuality, and provide guidance on how to report absences or delays in advance.
  8. Dress Code
    Depending on your organization's nature, you may have specific dress code policies. Clear guidelines on appropriate attire can help volunteers feel comfortable and maintain a professional image.
  9. Volunteer Roles and Responsibilities
    Outline the specific roles and responsibilities associated with each volunteer position. Define the scope of work, reporting structures, and any expectations for performance. This clarity ensures that volunteers understand what is expected of them.
  10. Conflict Resolution
    No organization is immune to conflicts or disputes. Develop a policy for conflict resolution that encourages open communication and provides a structured process for addressing issues between volunteers, staff, or clients.
  11. Grievance Procedure
    In case a volunteer has concerns or complaints, it's crucial to have a formal grievance procedure in place. This policy should outline the steps to follow when raising a concern and how it will be addressed.
  12. Termination and Dismissal
    While no one wants to think about it, sometimes it becomes necessary to terminate a volunteer's service. Clearly define the circumstances under which a volunteer may be terminated and the process that will be followed.

How do I get volunteers to sign the volunteer policies handbook?

Once the volunteer handbook is ready, requiring all volunteers to sign it or agree to it is a critical step in establishing an accountable volunteer program at your nonprofit. It not only helps volunteers understand their responsibilities at orientation but also fosters a culture of transparency, professionalism, and consistency within your organization. Additionally, it provides legal protection and a clear framework for conflict resolution, benefiting both your organization and its volunteers. Consider using a volunteer training tool like Groundwork1 to distribute the policies and procedures manual and ask for agreement in the form of a signature or acceptance button.

A well-crafted volunteer handbook or manual is a valuable resource for all nonprofits that rely on donated time. These volunteer policies provide structure, clarity, and a sense of purpose for volunteers, ensuring a positive and productive experience for all involved. By including the policies mentioned above, organizations can create a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages volunteers to contribute their time and talents effectively.

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