The Volunteer Job Description

When you apply for a job, you are usually presented with a job description during the interview process.  The job description gives the employee an idea of what duties and responsibilities fall within the position and also the basic requirements necessary to fulfill the assigned duties.

As it is common to have a job description for employees, I encourage nonprofit organizations to develop job descriptions, or position descriptions, for the volunteer roles within their organizations.  All volunteer positions including board members, committee members, office volunteers and program volunteers should have a job description.  The purpose of the volunteer job description is very similar to that of an employee job description:  list the duties and responsibilities for the position and outline the qualifications necessary to fulfill the position’s purpose.

From the volunteer’s perspective, one is able to better assess if they are able to take on a new volunteer opportunity by first reviewing the job description.  This can prevent the frustrating experience as a volunteer when you think you are signing up for one role, but then get into it and find out it is completely different than you thought. (Admit it, we’ve all taken on one of those volunteer roles at one time or another.) Getting on the same page by reviewing a job description, before committing to the volunteer opportunity, can prevent a very frustrating volunteer experience.

When developing job descriptions for volunteers positions, organizations should include…

Purpose: Describe the reason the position exists and how it contributes to the agency’s mission.

Duties and Responsibilities:  List the tasks the volunteer is expected to fulfill when taking on the position.  Consider including responsibilities regarding: attendance at meetings, financial contributions, roles to fulfill, required reports, and areas of oversight.  Be as specific and comprehensive as possible in outlining the duties and responsibilities for the position.

Qualifications: List any requirements for someone to be in a position to fulfill the volunteer role. Consider including qualifications regarding: age, required training, skills, certifications, previous experience and criminal background check. (depending on the position)

Hierarchy: Identify to whom the position reports to – a chairperson, a committee or a staff member.  It is also good to identify any volunteers who report to the position as well as other volunteers who work in conjunction with the position.

Time Commitment:  Be sure to include how many hours a week (or month) are expected for the position, as well as the duration of the commitment.  If there are specific meeting times or specific times for the volunteer service, remember to include them in the job description.

Once your volunteer job descriptions are completed, the descriptions can be used during the volunteer recruitment process.  By sharing the descriptions with potential volunteers, the volunteers have the opportunity to gain a clear understanding of what is expected of them and determine if they are able to fulfill the role.  Developing and sharing a job description will ensure the volunteer and organization are on the same page – its a great way to start a volunteer relationship!

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About Dr. Sarah Wolin Mackey

Putting theory into practice at nonprofit organizations.
This entry was posted in Human Resources, Volunteer and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Volunteer Job Description

  1. Sarah,

    You make a great point that just because a role is volunteer does not preclude the use of tools often found in the business field.

    In order to avoid a “check the box” mentality, I like to look at the intent behind a process to make sure it is honored. For folks starting out in an organization, it is very helpful to make expectations as clear as possible going in and communicate those effectively. This objective is part of the basis of any relationship, employer-employee, charity-volunteer, husband-wife, friend-friend.


  2. Pingback: As Advertised | Sarah W Mackey

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