More than six million Australians contribute their energy, expertise and time to volunteering each year. Without their contributions, much of the work that charities do would not be possible. Engaging volunteers who share a commitment to your charity’s purpose and have the right skills is a great way to maximise your charity’s impact. To support their contribution, these are some things to keep in mind when engaging volunteers.

  • Before you start recruiting, think about the role your volunteers will play – it is useful to have a written description of the activities and responsibilities associated with it. This will help clarify the role to any potential volunteers (as well as for your charity).
  • When recruiting volunteers, consider how best to reach the people you need. Recruiting a large number of volunteers for a brief period of time (such as for a public event) is likely to require a different strategy to recruiting a smaller number of permanent volunteers. Consider using mass media (such as radio, newspapers or social media) to reach larger audiences, and personal contact or flyers for a more targeted approach to a smaller group. There are also useful online services – for example, ‘GoVolunteer’ is a free national database where you can advertise volunteer positions.
  • Some charities require background checks of all volunteers such as providing proof of identity or personal references. In some cases police checks may be a good idea. Working with children or vulnerable persons checks are required by law if volunteers are working with people such as children, people living with a disability or older people.
  • Support new volunteers with a good induction… maybe give them a ‘buddy’ or mentor who knows how the charity works. Consider welcoming them with a letter that also sets out their role, rights and responsibilities. Look at what training they need when they start (and on-going) so they can best perform their role.
  • Your volunteers are a precious resource. Although volunteers are not covered by workers compensation, you are required to ensure all volunteers have a safe work environment so consider volunteer protection insurance. Look at how to reduce any risks related to the particular activities they do (this may mean considering if they are covered by other types of insurance such as public liability insurance).

  • Don’t forget to check the laws in your state or territory regarding discrimination. Even though volunteers aren’t paid employees, you may have obligations under anti-discrimination laws and you should be aware of these when you are engaging volunteers.

  • Don’t confuse the roles of volunteers and employees at your charity. There are different legal obligations depending on whether a person is an employee, contractor or volunteer.