Charity guide to using volunteers: 10 steps you should follow
Updated: Jul 27
More and more charities are relying on volunteers to enable them to complete their vital work. Here are ten easy things you can do to set up your Furlonteer partnership for success...
1. Don’t leave your potential volunteer hanging!
Try to respond to offers of support within 48 hours - if you leave a volunteer waiting you risk them losing interest, or moving on to another opportunity!
Drop them a quick line to acknowledge their offer of support.
Be honest if you need a little more time to work out the specifics of how they will be supporting your project.
Schedule in a first call to discuss how they can help - try to do this within a week of first contact.
2. Set a clear mission statement
Create a clear working relationship so that volunteers understand the direct positive impact their work will have for your organisation.
On the first call, you want to give the following information:
Your Story: A brief history of your organisation.
Your Aim: What is it you’re hoping to achieve through this collaboration?
Furlonteer Contribution: How will the work your volunteer undertakes clearly feed into that goal?
Take the example of NAFS, who we partnered with earlier this year.
Story: NAFS has been running events to encourage BAME girls and women from the Bradford area to engage in sports.
Aim: Due to Covid-19 NAFS had to move to online events. Their problem? They had minimal experience in building and maintaining an online presence.
Furlonteer Contribution: To create a website with clear branding which could be used across multiple channels.
3. If you’re unsure of how to proceed - just be honest!
You may have an idea of where you want to get to, but no idea how to get there.
That’s OK - your volunteer will likely have more experience in this area than you. That’s why you are utilising their skills in the first place!
Use their experience to guide your strategy. Tell them your aim and then give them the space to come up with some options for strategy.
4. Set clear working boundaries
However keen your Furlunteer is to get involved, remember they’re giving their time for free.
With your Furlonteer agree a maximum amount of time they should commit to the project.
Share and connect them with a relevant member of your team who they can contact for support with tasks.
Create a timeframe for any tasks in the project, and ensure to take time to check in regularly to see how things are going!
If your Furlunteer will be interacting with various departments or employees then do make sure to go through who does what. It can be daunting to have to approach complete strangers, so potentially arrange a group call to make introductions and break the ice.
How much access should you give your volunteer?
As good as it is to trust the volunteer joining your organisation it’s vital to put safeguards in place concerning the access they have to your sensitive documents. GDPR is a real thing, people!
5. Create a space to communicate with your Furlonteer
If you use apps like Microsoft Teams or Slack set up a dedicated channel where you can communicate and pass on relevant information and files.
You can set other channels to private if they contain private documents or conversations.
6. Email or no email?
If your Furlonteer needs to email on the behalf of your organisation then using an official email address is best. It makes it clear who they are, and what their role is in your organisation.
Giving access to a main Hello@ / Info@YourOrganisationName.com email would mean giving access to all documents on your cloud drive.
Instead, you could create a dedicated email account for volunteers.
For example - Furlonteer@YourOrganisationName.com
These are quick to set up, and also to close when you no longer need them.
If you don’t have the resources to do this, you can easily set up a free account like YourOrganisationFurlonteer@gmail.com or similar.
Or, if you and your Furlonteer agree for them to use their own personal email address, create a template signature which explains that they are volunteering for you.
7. How to use #SocialMedia
Many charities contact Furlonteer requesting social media and marketing support.
First, decide who will be responsible for posting content. This can be either you, or your volunteer.
Before handing over your channel logins, provide a brand pack including colour schemes and guidelines on the tone of voice to use whilst posting.
If you don’t have a document like this, then you could ask your Furlonteer to create one for you!
For the first few posts at least, it’s a good idea to have your volunteer schedule the content rather than posting directly. This means you can review it before it goes live to check it fits your message.
Alternatively, you can simply ask them to create the content and send it to you to post. This is more work for you, however!
8. Legal bits and bobs
It’s a good plan to inform any senior management (i.e. board of directors) about bringing a volunteer onboard. Run through the access they will be given, and your plans to monitor this. If your work is sensitive you may consider asking your volunteer to sign a non-disclosure agreement to cover any of the work they do for you.
All’s well that ends well
9. Exit interviews don’t have to be scary
Yes, this sounds super formal, but don’t worry. It’s as simple as having a cuppa and a chat (virtually if you are working remotely!)
Discuss how they found the project and anything they’ve learnt.
Would they have done anything differently? How did they perceive your organisation when they joined? Are there areas of your induction or workflow processes which could be improved?
Don't be scared! It's an amazing opportunity to find areas for growth (and celebrate a successful project).
10. Write something nice about them
Your volunteer has given up their time and skills, so as well as the experience they’ve gained it’s a nice gesture to write a testimonial they can use when looking for future opportunities.
Send a copy to your Furlonteer via email and also add it to their LinkedIn profile.
It will take you a very short amount of time, but will make a massive difference to them in their future activities.