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Volunteer management toolkit

Please find below various good practice articles on and tools for managing volunteers.

If you'd like support on any of the articles or indeed issues raised - please contact us here in the volunteer centre at 087 7594770 and we'd be more than happy to give you advice and support.

50 ways to thank and support volunteers

  1. ThankYouStarEvaluate volunteer involvement on an ongoing basis
  2. Create a climate in which volunteers can feel motivated
  3. Say thank you often, and mean it
  4. Match the volunteer's desires with the organisation's needs
  5. Send birthday cards
  6. Provide a clear role description for every volunteer

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Another 50 ways to thank and support volunteers

cacthankyou151. Keep volunteers informed of changes in structure and personnel
52. Provide adequate clothing and name badges if appropriate
53. Use quotes from volunteers in leaflets and annual reports
54. Devote resources (time and money) to volunteer support
55. Count up how many hours volunteers contribute and publicise this
56. Ensure all paid staff and trainees know how to work effectively with volunteers
57. Provide accredited training

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Designing effective volunteer positions

volunteer-opportunitiesWell-designed volunteer positions ensure that volunteer programs contribute to the achievement of their organization's goals. A plan for involving volunteers allows volunteer programs to recruit from the pool of volunteers available in the community and to engage them in ways that effectively utilize their skills.

Designing volunteer positions also plays a role in the strategic planning process of the volunteer program as well as the overall organization. Once designed, periodic reviews of volunteer positions and tasks help volunteer program planners make volunteer roles more effective and mission-oriented.

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Ever thought about young people and volunteering?


  • Target more information about volunteering opportunities at young people to help them make better choices. 
  • Use positive images of volunteering (and less stereotyping) to attract younger people to your organisation. 
  • Make volunteer opportunities attractive and appealing to young people. 

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Ever thought of disability and volunteering?

IMG 3648A Practical Checklist for organisations involving people with disabilities as volunteers. 

  • Actively encourage people with disabilities to volunteer through targeted promotion, and the use of appealing recruitment campaigns.
  • Overcome physical barriers to involving volunteers, eg buildings, transport, information, equipment, to be more accessible to every form of disability.
  • Be creative, and develop volunteering opportunities which can be carried out by people with disabilities.

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Ever Thought of Older People and Volunteering?

volunteer-blog-pic-4A Practical Checklist for organisations involving older people as volunteers

Have fully operational equal opportunities policies which encourage older people to volunteer and to be involved more effectively.

Try not to adopt a narrow view of what activities are suitable for older volunteers. A choice of volunteering roles, including those which are physically and mentally taxing, should be offered.

Build flexibility into the volunteering role to allow older people to carry on with other things going on in their lives.

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Finding Daytime Volunteers

planningOne of the myths of the volunteer world is that daytime volunteers are an endangered species. In the past, organizations grew complacent in their dependency on female homemakers. When women took paying jobs (though in fact some homemakers still exist), such agencies found themselves without their accustomed source of volunteers. The good news is that organisations willing to seek new pools of talent will end up with an even better corps of volunteers than before.

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How to fire a volunteer and live to tell about it

misfortune-cookiejpgOne of the recurrent nightmares of any volunteer manager is encountering a situation in which they may have to consider 'firing' a volunteer. For many this prospect creates severe stress, both over the appropriateness of the action and over fear of possible legal and political consequences. Ann Cook, in a survey of Foster Grandparents Programs in 23 communities discovered that 82% of responding volunteer managers rated the decision to terminate a volunteer as being a 'difficult or very difficult issue' for them. Over 60% of the volunteer directors reported delaying dealing with the issue when they encountered it.

This article is intended to provide some guidelines on developing a system that will assist both in confronting and managing decisions to terminate a volunteer's relationship with an agency.

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Key Principles in involving volunteers

checklistGuidelines for organisations

  • Volunteers should be recruited to enhance a service not to replace paid staff.  
  • Before recruiting, be clear why a volunteer is wanted or needed
  • Organisations should provide clear written task outlines for their volunteers which are skills based – meaningful tasks with opportunities for personal development
  • Provide the volunteer with an induction and preparation/training programme, and where appropriate, additional support for volunteers with disabilities

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Managing Volunteers

volunteer management page imageBe Prepared !

Just like another well-known volunteer organisation with that slogan, your organisation needs to be prepared. It needs to know why it wants to involve volunteers in its work, how volunteer positions fit and be ready to receive willing volunteers when contacted.

The benefits of being organised and ready for volunteers are plentiful:

  • It sets the stage for an effective volunteer program and positive volunteer experiences.
  • Thoughtful screening connects the right volunteer with the right opportunity.
  • Happy volunteers tell others about their experiences, as do unhappy volunteers?

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Planning a Volunteer Position

volunteerThis "worksheet" is intended to assist you in deciding what types of volunteers could be of assistance to you. We hope that this information will make it easier for you to think of creative ways to involve volunteers and make it easier for us to recruit the right volunteer for you.

Potential Job Areas 
In thinking about how and where volunteers might be involved in your area of responsibility, there are factors that you might want to consider. You might, for example, want to think about creating volunteer jobs through consideration of the following categories of work:

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Preparing for a volunteers first day

workThe following are a list of useful checks to ensure that your volunteer has a welcoming, informative and rewarding first day at your organisation. Remember that orientation is an important first step to making a volunteer feel welcome in a new environment.

  • Give a tour of the workplace including all the areas that are available to the volunteer such as the kitchen facilities, bathroom, offices, etc...
  • Introduce Volunteer to staff members and other volunteers working within the organisation. If your organisation is large with a big staff compliment, it might be useful to use an organisational chart with details of staff and their interrelationships with other staff/organisations
  • Give a brief history of your organisation and its mission plus an overview of the services you provide.

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Supporting Volunteers

9 support groupNever assume that volunteers know they are appreciated. Recognition of their contributions should be part of the formal and informal operations of the organisation. Volunteers who do not receive frequent feedback and recognition begin to wonder if they are doing a good job and if anyone cares about the work they do. This often creates an unmotivating climate, and can result in high volunteer attrition.

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The Top Ten Reasons why volunteers leave unexpectedly

top-10-listReason no. 10 
The reality of their experience was not what they expected when they signed on

Reason no. 9
Employees treated them as an interruption, not as welcome (and anticipated) help.

Reason no. 8 
Veteran long term volunteers wouldn't let them into their "insider" group.

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 © South Dublin County Volunteer Centre - 2001

Turn your organisation into a volunteering magnet

Attract-People-Like-A-MagnetClick here to download the book "turn your organisation into a volunteer magnet". This is a free publication. Turn Your Organisation Into a Volunteer Magnet is a knowledge-sharing initiative within the international community of volunteer programme managers (VPMs) for the purpose of peer-to-peer professional development.

Following twelve months of working with authors from around the world, the second edition of the highly successful volunteer management guide ‘Turn your organisation into a volunteer magnet’ was launched this month at the Institute for Advanced Volunteer management in Blackpool, England.

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Volunteering and Social Welfare Payments

Social Welfare Logo 01According to the Department of Social Protection, you may volunteer if you are receiving the following payments.  Please read the paragraphs carefully as certain conditions may apply.

Job-seekers allowance

A person may engage in voluntary work and continue to be entitled to JA provided s/he continues to satisfy the conditions of being available for and genuinely seeking work.

A number of factors are taken into account by a Deciding Officer in determining whether the work involved is voluntary and whether a person would continue to satisfy the conditions for the receipt of JA, and these include:

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Volunteer Expenses

When considering the issue of volunteer expenses and framing a policy in this regard, the three issues regarding volunteer expenses policy to be considered should probably be:

expense1.  Where possible, make sure that volunteers are fully reimbursed for their costs and are not out-of-pocket after volunteering.
2.  Don’t give more money than your volunteers have spent. This could be regarded as a ‘payment’ and affect tax, state benefits or even the legal status of a volunteer.
3.  Create a simple and efficient system so that expenses are quickly reimbursed and volunteers are encouraged to claim.

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Volunteering to Explore Career Possibilities

handsupAre you looking to start a career or to change jobs? 

Volunteering is a marvellous way to explore possible career options. It is relatively risk-free in that you can sample a work field or setting without making a long-term commitment to it. This allows you to discover whether or not you like the work or are good at it ? and if you discover it's not for you, you can move on without disrupting your resume or your cash flow. 

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Your rights and responsibilities as an organisation


  • To look for certain qualities and skills in volunteers
  • To select only volunteers who are suitable for the work
  • To draw up a volunteer agreement or 'contract'
  • To ask for tasks to be done in a particular way
  • To ask for commitment

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Why people volunteer...


  • To feel needed
  • To make a difference
  • To get to know a new neighbourhood
  • To help someone
  • Because a friend pressured them
  • To gain or improve skills
  • Because they have time on their hands

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