What is a policy?
A policy is a statement of the ethos and values of an organisation. They clarify roles, relationships and responsibilities and they can serve as a basis for decision making. Policies tell people what to do in any given situation; procedures tell them how to do it.
Policies are helpful as they:
- Force the organisation to think strategically and act professionally
- Ensure continuity over time
- Are given importance and therefore assures more compliance
- Make sure there is less chance of misinterpretation
- Embed accountability and responsibility
Why have a volunteer policy?
A volunteer policy demonstrates:
- Commitment – It shows the care and thought that has gone into involving volunteers
- Consistency – It ensures that decisions are consistent and not made on an ad hoc basis and that all volunteers are treated equitably
- Clarity – It allows volunteers to know where they stand, how they can expect to be treated and where to turn to if things are going wrong
- Unity – It helps ensure that paid staff and trustees fully understand why volunteers are involved and what role they play in the organisation
A policy will give an overall framework for volunteer involvement in your organisation. It will refer to any other policies that include volunteers, bringing it all together in one document.
Remember – written material is not accessible to everyone. For inclusion and accessibility, think about other ways to share your policy with everyone.
Reasons to define policies for volunteer involvement
- All organisations make policy decisions regularly. They just do not call them policies, and they often do not write them down. So, writing your policies can be a simple matter of formalising decisions which have already been made
- Many policies are developed because of crises or problems. When something goes wrong, it becomes apparent that a position or policy is needed, either to decide what to do now, or to prevent the situation from recurring. Policies determine action and set boundaries beyond which you cannot go
- Policies clarify responsibilities and define lines of communication and accountability
- Policies provide a structure for sound management. Since they often identify the ‘what’ and sometimes the ‘how,’ they can bring about group or organisational improvements and increase effectiveness
- Policies ensure continuity over time. In this sense, policies endure. They promote equity and consistency
- Policies help establish values, beliefs and directions for volunteer involvement. They connect the volunteer programme to the larger organisation and its aims and objectives
- Policies can be a source of pride and satisfaction. They articulate the importance of volunteers and form an important, concrete, ongoing element of volunteer recognition. Policies thereby contribute to increased volunteer satisfaction and productiveness, and enhance volunteer retention
Principles of sound and professional volunteer co-ordination are equally important. Policies and good management inform and support one another. Both are critical to successful, responsible, and safe volunteering within an organisation.