FAQ's for Volunteer Managers

This will largely be dictated by the insurance cover you have. Contact your insurance provider to check whether there are age restrictions in place for your type of work and whether you can have special consideration for volunteers under or over the insurers age limit. Generally age isn’t a barrier for special consideration with your insurer. They will want to know whether the volunteer can follow instructions and isn’t a harm to themselves or others and will make a special note on your policy to cover those specific volunteers.

No. This is why it is important that your organisation is covered for Volunteer Personal Accident Insurance, which may cover a portion of a person’s salary if they cannot attend their usual paid work as a result of an injury while volunteering.

Volunteers freely give their time, but they should not be expected to pay any expenses incurred while volunteering. The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement indicate that an organisation that involves volunteers should ensure that a policy and procedure exists for reimbursement for volunteer out-of-pocket expenses.

This varies from organisation to organisation and there is no set rule. Our recommendation is that organisations should clearly specify and provide reasonable reimbursements for pre-approved out-of-pocket expenses. Volunteering WA reimburses volunteers, and encourages organisations to remove out-of-pocket expenses as a potential barrier to volunteering. For more information please refer to the position statement on out of pocket expenses.

If your volunteers are working with children, Yes. You are legally obliged to have checks done if volunteers work with children. Legislation is clear that if your volunteers work with children you must obtain a Working with Children Check. This compulsory criminal record check ensures volunteers are suitable to work with children in WA. 

Volunteers under 18 years of age are exempt from the Working with Children Check. The legislation is very specific so you should check the website: https://workingwithchildren.wa.gov.au/

Indicate in your advertising and the volunteer Position Description whether these checks are required, and whether the organisation supports volunteers to obtain and pay for the checks.

Rather than being the definitive check for volunteers, the WWC check should be considered a part of your process for protecting children. Other ways to ensure you get the right people on board are to have a strong and clear policy about protecting children, do reference / background checking, and provide a culture of looking out for behaviours that could affect children.  It is important to note the WWC is only valid in the state in which it is issued and is therefore not transferable between States.

Please also see the Department for Child Protection and Family Support Fact Sheet for detailed information about child-related work and exemptions.

Many organisations do Police Checks as standard procedure and this practice can exclude many people from participating and can also be discriminatory. More than 10% of people in the community have a criminal record, often very minor. Make sure that you Police Check for roles that are high profile, deal with money or have contact with vulnerable people. You should only refuse an applicant on the basis of a criminal past when you believe that the prior offence prevents the applicant from performing the “inherent requirements” of the position. 

The Department of Communities and the WA Police Force have established a program enabling eligible WA volunteering organisations to provide their volunteers with a National Police Check for a reduced fee (currently $15.90). Register your organisation: https://www.dlgc.wa.gov.au/Publications/Pages/National-Police-Check-Volunteers-Program.aspx call 6217 6888 or email volunteering@communities.wa.gov.au.

A great Q&A sheet is available from: https://www.police.wa.gov.au/Police-Direct/National-Police-Certificates/Volunteer-National-Police-Certificates/Volunteer-NPC-FAQs or refer to our fact sheet on background screening for volunteers.

The reference checking process helps build a picture of your potential volunteer. Part of your due diligence when taking on new volunteers is to ensure “consistency” between their CV or application form, what they have said in the interview and what the referee says. Any inconsistencies should be questioned and discussed with the candidate.

If you work with vulnerable clients you have an extra duty of care and reference checking should be part of a comprehensive checking process.

Be mindful that Privacy Laws prevent you from talking with someone about a candidate without their permission so make sure you ask for several relevant Referees in case some aren’t available.

It is a requirement of membership with Volunteering WA that all Volunteer Involving Organisations have appropriate insurance for volunteers

Public Liability insurance protects you up to a stated amount if a third party sues your organisation for personal injury (including death), or damage to property as a result of an occurrence in connection with your organisation.

Volunteer Personal Accident insurance is like Worker’s Compensation for volunteers. It can provide cover for people who become sick or injured while volunteering and may cover a portion of a person’s salary if they cannot attend their usual paid work as a result of an injury while volunteering.

Please make sure you know your insurance details when becoming a member of Volunteering WA and make sure you keep the details up-to-date on VIKTOR.

All Volunteer Involving Organisations should have a set of Policies and Procedures for everyone to follow. This makes everything consistent for all and enables effective volunteer management. You should provide as much detail as needed to cover potential incidents before they arise.

Volunteer Handbooks should contain any relevant information about the organisation, as well as, orientation information, occupational health and safety measures, and a brief history of the organisation. Basically, a Handbook should contain all the information the volunteer needs “on-the-job” without being too overwhelming. Keep your Policies and Procedures as a separate document that is easily accessible for all volunteers and staff, but you might like to include the most important or relevant policies in the Handbook.

Yes.  However, an organisation should always have a thorough set of volunteer Policies and Procedures to ensure that each situation is dealt with appropriately and quickly. Volunteer Involving Organisations should always include Grievance Policies for volunteers and organisations, and have an appropriate system to deal with issues.

Volunteers should also be made aware of that which is considered inappropriate behaviour within the organisation.

VWAs Masterclasses will give you guidance and information on how to discipline in an appropriate manner. 

Yes. Volunteering WA recommends creating detailed, specific position descriptions, so that potential volunteers are clear on the expectations of a position.  If a person is not suitable, perhaps there is another position within the organisation that would be perfect.  If not, the organisation can refer them back to Volunteering WA or their local Volunteer Resource Centre to explore other options.

Sometimes volunteers become less able to fulfil their duties in an organisation. Changes in the workplace, their duties or their personal ability and interest can all impact their effectiveness. It is best not to ignore this fact. Speak frankly but politely to the volunteer and suggest a change in duties if appropriate.

Volunteer personnel records, like other staff records, have to be kept for seven years.  They can then be archived. These records are confidential and need to be kept in a locked room or cabinet.  This is part of the Privacy Legislation which covers volunteers.  Access to the files should be limited only to those who need to know.

Yes. Training helps volunteers to be more confident in their duties, and also makes them feel like an important part of the organisation. Training can also be a significant tool for retention of volunteers. In volunteer reviews, it’s a good idea to ask volunteers if there is any further training they require and attempt to provide it.

No.  Volunteering WA and Volunteer Resource Centres refer volunteers to our member Volunteer Involving Organisations. To list positions on Volunteering WA’s website, your organisation needs to become a member.  For more information contact our Membership Coordinator.

Volunteering WA has a sample Policies and Procedures Manual that can be customised and used by any organisation.  We have a network of organisations similar to yours so if you are looking for something specific please get in touch and we’ll try to assist.

This toolkit contains a variety of resources to help with running a volunteer program in a sport or recreation context. These resources have been created to assist as many clubs and associations as possible, and therefore are general in nature. If a document or template does not reflect the nature of your club, please update the text for use within your club. Please view the tool kit.

Volunteers are covered under legislation for bullying, privacy, protection from liability, health and safety. There are also rules around working with children and equal employment opportunity.

Volunteering WA recommends:

  • Following the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement as good practice. We have practical workshops twice a year that will help you achieve the Standards Quality Mark.
  • Develop your own Volunteer Rights and Responsibilities, and Organisational Rights.

Yes.  Amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 took effect from 1 January 2014 and now cover volunteers. It is your legal responsibility to ensure bullying is identified early and dealt with appropriately and quickly.

In order for the above to be considered as bullying the behaviour must be repeated and unreasonable and must create a risk to health and safety.

Visit Fair Work Commission There are forms and fees that need to be completed to make a claim. The website will also tell you about the process involved.

Any volunteers who do not have permanent residency in Australia need to ensure they are keeping within the law and abiding by their Visa restrictions.

It is important that you make sure that the person can legally undertake volunteer work on their particular visa. Generally if the person has the right to work in Australia, they generally have the right to volunteer

Legal information is available from Not-For-Profit Law:  www.nfplaw.org.au. They have great resources including videos that address a range of concerns raised by organisations.

No.

Any questions not covered in this section can be directed to our contact form.

Experienced or new to volunteer management, this list serves to outline the support and resources available to ensure an easy and successful journey in volunteer management.

The Big Picture

  1. Membership:  Check your membership status with your local volunteer peak body.  In WA it is Volunteering WA.
    1. Members are offered a range of discounted services and support
    2. Practical resources
    3. Targeted and practical training for all levels of experience
    4. Volunteer job advertising services
    5. Networking sessions
    6. Connection to Corporate and Skilled volunteers
  2. Volunteer Resource Centres:  Determine your closes Volunteer Resource Centre (VRC) and get in touch.  Building relationships with local VRCs can prove invaluable for sourcing new volunteers and other opportunities for collaboration.
  3. Be mentored:  Consider being mentored by an experienced Volunteer Manager. Professional mentoring can be arranged through VWA with the Volunteer Leadership Network members.
  4. Know the Standards:  Become familiar with the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement, they will provide a guide in all elements of your work.
  5. Attend training and conferences:  Reach out within the sector by attending conferences, training workshops and networking.  Volunteering Australia hosts a national conference and VWA hosts a state-based conference every two years.

 

On-the Ground

  1. Know your organisationGet to know your organisation and how volunteers help to achieve its purpose, vision and mission.  This is a good starting point to understand your volunteer’s motivations.
  2. Orientation:  How are volunteers brought on-board the organisation and does the process comply with all relevant legislation.  Look for barriers that may be preventing people from volunteering easily.
  3. Get to know your volunteers:
    1. Use data and records to gain an understanding of attrition, longevity of service, your volunteer demographic, motivations and why volunteers leave.
    2. Understand volunteer and paid employee responsibilities and how they are defined
    3. Ensure all volunteers have job descriptions
    4. Know what’s in your volunteer budget
    5. Understand your volunteer’s rights and responsibilities and any internal policies for volunteer involvement.
  4. Advocate: Advocate for your volunteers with internal and external stakeholders, share good news stories and look for opportunities to promote their work and achievements.  This can be done through measuring results and impact and telling stories.
  5. Recognise volunteers:  Find out what is currently happening, determine if it is enough and if you can do more:
    1. Formal recognition (Awards, nominations etc)
    2. Informal recognition (BBQs, social events etc)
    3. Saying thank you…. ALWAYS
  6. Create partnerships: Think about ways to create partnerships with other organisations (corporates and other NFPs) for:
    1. Fundraising
    2. As a source of volunteers
    3. A source of corporate volunteering and skilled volunteering opportunities.
    4. Partner to fund volunteer recognition events, and/or apply for grants.
  7. Communicate with volunteers:  Your volunteers are already giving you their discretionary time, so respect their time by communicating clearly, succinctly and in a way that works for them.  Ask your volunteers about the frequency, means and reasons for communicating with them.

This list was put together by the Volunteer Leadership Network.

Any questions not covered in this section can be directed to our contact form.