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Blog > What should you include in a volunteer handbook? Part 1

What should you include in a volunteer handbook? Part 1

posted on 6:55 AM, May 15, 2017

by Maria Lahiffe

Your volunteer handbook is an important investment in organizational productivity and risk management. People who give their time and their heart to your cause deserve to know what is expected of them, how to keep themselves safe on the job, and how to react to the unexpected. If you are not sure why you need a volunteer handbook, check out our previous blog post on this topic.

Now that you know why a volunteer handbook is indispensable, the next consideration is what to include. Here are some suggestions:

Organizational Overview

This could include information about the organization’s mission, vision, and values, as well as an org chart and an explanation of staff roles. This is also where you could talk about the reporting structure.

Professionalism and Ethics

Volunteers are often the face of our organizations, doing front-line work with stakeholders. It is really important to provide guidance about how to represent the organization well. In this section, you’ll also want to include information about your conflict of interest policy, for example about accepting compensation or gifts. Other aspects of ethics which are important are impartiality and appropriate use of the organization’s resources.

The Role of Volunteers

If you are with a normal charity or non-profit, then you know that your organization would grind to a halt overnight if you had no volunteers. There is value in letting volunteers know just how important and appreciated they are. Considering that 97% of volunteers do so because they care about the cause the organization supports, you will help your retention efforts by making explicit the links between volunteers’ contributions and that wider organizational cause.

This is a good place to outline, in general terms, what volunteer roles you have in your organization. Research shows that only 45% of organizations properly match volunteers’ skills with appropriate assignments. Someone who signs up to stuff envelopes for your annual campaign might be a great leader for your after-school program, but might not say anything if they are not aware of the possibility.

Workplace Safety

This section should include:

  • Working conditions for volunteers
  • Safety rules and checklist
  • How to handle emergency situations (including who to call, and a backup if that person is not available)
  • Reporting of incidents, such as accidents or injuries
  • Harassment policy
  • Home visit protocol (if applicable)
  • Protocols related to working with vulnerable populations, such as children or people who are incapacitated (if applicable)

Service Standards

Consider including:

  • AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) policies
  • Anti-discrimination policy
  • Serving clients with low literacy and/or limited ability to speak English or French
  • Professional boundaries
  • Liability protections
  • Good Samaritan laws
  • Volunteer-client relationships
  • Client confidentiality
  • Client records
  • Serving people in crisis

This is a partial list. Part 2 is here

Come to our upcoming workshops, where Lola Dubé-Quibell will guide you through the full process of creating a high-quality volunteer handbook.

Creating a Volunteer Handbook 101: learn the theory of what should be in a volunteer handbook, and why. Creating a Volunteer Handbook 201: bring your laptop to this interactive session, in which you will actually write your volunteer handbook under Lola’s expert, empathetic guidance.


Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of co

Want to learn more? Come to an upcoming workshop.

Click here for more information, and to register.

urses related to volunteer management. Click here for more information, and to register. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.

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