Developing your Volunteer Policy

Every organisation should have a volunteer policy in place and this guide Developing-a-Volunteer-Policy-for-your-organisation which you can download is designed to help you through the stages of putting such a policy together. Obviously, this is a guide and will not necessarily apply to every organisation or to every volunteer, but County Wicklow Volunteer Centre will be happy to help on an individual basis with specific issues or challenges.

Why might an organisation need a written volunteer policy?

  • To make a clear position statement about why and how it involves volunteers
  • To manage any potential risks (imagine the worst possible scenario associated with involving volunteers … death? … abuse? … damaged reputation?)
  • To ensure that things run smoothly and that volunteers are properly recruited and well managed
  • To serve as an aid to effectiveness which allows the organisation to get the most out of its volunteers

The process of volunteer policy development

HOW? Policy development can seem overwhelming; the process must therefore be planned and managed. Before developing policies, the organisation should ensure that they are satisfied with their Constitution (if unincorporated) or Memorandum and Articles of Association (if incorporated), and their Vision and / or Mission Statements.

WHO? Policies should not be developed by one individual, though one person should take overall responsibility for coordination. Consider setting up a policy subcommittee.

WHEN? Hastily writing policies during or after a crisis should be avoided. Good policy development takes time and a realistic timetable should therefore be set. Prioritise; do not try to do it all at once.

WHAT are the steps?

Research: Find out what written and unwritten policies the organisation already has; contact your local volunteer centre ; talk with other organisations; look at sample policies.
Consultation: Brainstorms, questionnaires, meetings, etc, with everyone who has an interest, including current volunteers, staff, management committee, service users, funders, unions, etc; this will ensure ownership of a comprehensive policy.
Writing: Use clear, simple, direct and sensitive language. Be concise, but explain why the policy exists. Draft and redraft. There is no correct format; the volunteer policy can range from one side of A4 to a thick ring binder manual.
Approval: It is essential that the policy is approved by the management committee/board of the organisation.
Distribution & Implementation: Distribute the policy as widely as possible (notice boards, newsletters, current and new volunteers and paid staff etc). Policy is not an end itself; it needs to be put into practice. Consider asking staff and volunteers to sign something saying they have understood the policy. Take appropriate action if policy is breached.
Evaluation: Regular review is essential; policies must never be considered as cast in stone.

While this process may seem intimidating at first, it is far better to have a policy that is understood and followed by everyone in the organisation and remember you can always contact us for any help you need on 01 227 3626 or email