Spell Out What You Want Them to Do
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Volunteers are the life blood of any non-profit or grassroots undertaking. You need people who are willing to help out without asking for compensation in return. As we laid out on the main page on volunteer recruitment, it is imperative that you treat your volunteers like you would any employee, and this starts with a good job description.
Now, we were not all born to be HR professionals, so here is a quick guide on how to write a volunteer job description. This doesn’t have to be on formal letterhead or look super sophisticated. The most important thing is that you have one you can post and repurpose.
Your Group’s/Organization’s Name
Most groups and organizations, even if they are loosely organized, have a name. Include it at the top, together with a logo, if you have it.
This can be anything that describes you best:
- “Seattle Garden Collective”
- “Citizens for Grassroots Change”
- “Gardening for Change”
Who We Are/What We Do
Otherwise known as a a vision and a mission statement, this is a little trickier for many people, because you need to spell out what you are about. If you don’t have a vision or mission statement, at least explain in a sentence or two what you do.
For example, you might say, “The Seattle Garden Collective converts empty and abandoned urban lots into community gardens.” That right there is pretty much who you are and what you do, and you don’t really need any more than that.
You could expand on it, if you want to: “The Seattle Garden Collective empowers neighborhoods by converting empty and abandoned urban lots into community gardens. We collaborate with local residents to educate them on healthy eating and organic gardening methods.”
Come up with a descriptive name here. Short, sweet, to the point. Example: “Event Coordinator“or “Garden Supervisor”.
If you are going so far as to have an organizational hierarchy, list who this person would report to. If you have a volunteer coordinator, your volunteers may be reporting to that person.
Description of Project/Position
Be specific. If you need somebody on an ongoing basis, list what the position is about. If you are recruiting for an event, describe the project.
“The Event Coordinator plans and executes show-and-tell, how-to and kick-off events for the neighborhood and general public.”
“Recruit volunteers to clean up the lot, plan and execute new garden beds, and build a shed structure.”
Again be specific – what do you want them to do?
- Survey the new target plot to make a “to-do” list for conversion into an urban garden.
- Take regular inventory of tools, supplements and other materials.
- Make a short plan, including tools needed, to put in garden beds and a shed.
List any skills you can think of needed for this position. Somebody who is to fill the above-mentioned role of Event Coordinator, for instance, should at the very least have these skills:
- Highly organized
- Comfortable with multi-tasking
- Manage and direct a large and diverse group of people
- Meet deadlines
- Manage expectations
- Motivate others
Attempt to come up with a compact, but still comprehensive list. Be sure to distinguish between skills that are a “must have” and those that are simply “nice to have”.
Where will this person do their job? On site, and if so, where is this? In the office?
Include here whether this is part- or full-time, how many hours per week/month are needed, or if applicable any specific days.
Training & Supervision
Include any training up front or while on the job. Will you be teaching your volunteer any new skills or simply educate them about your group or organization?
“Every volunteer is given an introduction to what we do by our volunteer coordinator during a voluntary morning session. Several dates and times are available and will be listed ahead of time.”
“All new volunteers are expected to undergo a mandatory training focusing on LGBTQ issues, including trans-inclusionary language and a history of LGBTQ struggles in the US.”
“Volunteers are given regular feedback on their performance by the volunteer coordinator.”
Vetting & Screening
Some tasks and environments are sensitive, like those involving children and other vulnerable populations. Research whether or not a background or credit check is advisable, just to cover your bases.
If you simply need to vet somebody to keep the haters out, ask them on the application how they heard about you or your event, if anybody is referring them, why they want to work with and for you and so forth. Again, do some research online, and maybe discuss applications you are not sure about as a group. Chances are, you are not the only one with reservations if somebody looks suspicious, and if you are, it gives you the chance to check your own biases.
Be that as it may, if you will be doing any vetting or screening, disclose this fact up front and get the prospective volunteer’s permission to do so: “Volunteers are subject to a criminal background check.” or “Were you referred by somebody? Please list at least one person.”