What Are Your Rights And Responsibilities As a Volunteer?

Volunteer rights

adult groupHere are ten basic expectations that all volunteers have when they give their time to an organisation, and that the organisation should be able to meet. 

  • Volunteers should not be expected to undertake tasks that they are uncomfortable with, or are physically incapable of performing to an adequate standard.
  • Volunteers should be given tasks that match their personal goals, skills and motivation as far as is possible within the organisation.
  • Volunteers should be recruited only where all staff agree to the arrangement and welcome volunteers - paid staff need to have a clear understanding of the role of the volunteer.
  • Volunteers should never be used to perform tasks that are or have previously been done by paid workers.
  • Volunteers should not be charged anything to give their time, except for travelling and accommodation expenses, and in cases where the project requires a once-off volunteering fee.
  • Volunteer organisations should be committed to operating an equal-opportunities policy, and work within it with regard to their volunteers.
  • Volunteers should understand the lines of supervision by the staff at the organisation. Formal supervision should exist and this should provide volunteers with the opportunity to develop their skills.
  • Volunteers who are not accepted when applying to an organisation have a right to know the reasons why.
  • Volunteers should receive other support and training if necessary.
  • Volunteers should rely on organisations for ensuring that all health and safety procedures are in place at the project.

There are also some things that an organisation can rightly expect of its volunteers.

  • Volunteers should be reliable, and if they make a commitment to perform certain tasks at certain times, they should be expected to meet this commitment. Volunteers need time off work just like paid employees, but it’s fair to expect them to give some notice if the time off doesn’t fall over an agreed-upon rest period, like a weekend.
  • Volunteers must always work within the aims, objectives and ethos of the organisation.
  • Volunteers encountering problems with their tasks or the organisation should be honest about it with the staff.
  • Volunteers must respect confidentiality at the organisation at all times.

Six top tips to make your volunteering time a positive experience!

There are a few basic steps that organisations can take to help to ensure that things go smoothly and that volunteering is a positive experience, both for the volunteer and the organisation, and to minimise the risk of things going wrong. Discuss with the organisation to find out their procedures.

  • Right person, right role - a volunteer interview is the ideal opportunity for both sides to find out about each other. Both the volunteer and the organisation need to know that they can work happily together. Be honest and upfront with your expectations.
  • Volunteers should be given role descriptions and written outlines of tasks they may be expected to perform. The more clarity there is about expectations before a commitment is made, the better for all parties.
  • You’re allowed to say “No” – both volunteers and organisations have the right to state if they don't think the relationship will work out. However, it’s right for parties to expect explanations for such a decision.
  • Good preparation is essential to help a new volunteer settle into their role. There might be a lot to take in at the beginning (especially if there is an added element of culture shock!). A new volunteer at a project should have access to all the information and support they need.
  • A trial period for new volunteers is a good idea for both organisation and volunteer, as it allows an opportunity to review any problems, and to decide if the arrangement won’t work out. If a trial period is going to be used, this must be made clear from the outset, and feedback should be given if everything goes well. Trial periods should be applied to ALL new volunteers.
  • Volunteers need ongoing support and supervision to ensure that they are happy with their role, developing their skills and achieving their full potential within the organisation. Appropriate support ensures that volunteers remain motivated to continue with their voluntary role and helps them to feel valued.


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