Designing Volunteer Roles

What are you going to ask your volunteers to do?

If you have a volunteer role that you wish to recruit for, as a first step, look at how that role would match with the motivation of a volunteer. Consider this example:-

You have designed a volunteer task description for a volunteer to fill envelopes, so if a potential volunteer hears about this role, what do you want them to know about it?

  • that they are doing a job that no-one else wants to do, but it does help the organisation
  • that they are sending out a nice newsletter to a long list of people
  • that they understand they are sending a newsletter to the community supported by the organisation and that this small contact is just enough to reduce people’s sense of isolation and make a real impact on their lives

Which of these do you think is most likely to appeal to a volunteers’ motivation?

A good exercise to do before you start any recruitment for a particular post is to jot down what you believe will motivate your volunteers and think about using the key words in an opening statement for your advert

Designing volunteer roles is, oddly, often overlooked, or at least ‘undercooked’ in the development of a volunteer programme. Volunteer role design is critical if organisations want to recruit and retain volunteers. A volunteer role has to be appealing, rewarding and something the volunteer looks forward to – better than a job.

The volunteer role can be regarded as a product: all the same marketing principles apply. And like many products, we want people to keep ‘buying’ them – we want volunteers to keep coming back. We want people to tell their friends about how good the product is, how high the quality is, so that they buy it, or at least know how great the organisation is. The volunteer role can be as attractive as a night out in the pub, as a meal in a restaurant, as a must-have diamond ring, or a big car. Well, perhaps not quite as attractive, but still pretty desirable.

What tasks need to be done?

Paid staff, existing volunteers, and management structures should all have a role in identifying tasks that need doing. This will ensure that the roles you offer volunteers are what your organisation really needs to be done. Ask colleagues the following questions:

  • What activities and projects have you always wanted to do but have not had the time for?
  • What would you like to see done that no-one has the skills for?
  • What could be done to enhance the service we are offering?
  • Are there specific tasks or projects that volunteers could take on?

Everyone in an organisation can feed in to the process of identifying volunteer tasks at all stages.

For more information on designing volunteer roles, please see below:

Designing Volunteer Task Desriptions

Task Description Template