Actors of the volunteer programme

The volunteer programme has at least two actors: a volunteer and at least one staff member representing the organisation. But who else can you count on, and what quality, what name can the stakeholders get and what kind of activity do they provide? In the case of institutions, the success of volunteer programmes necessarily involves the proper relationship between volunteers and all paid staff. It is common experience that a programme that is not sufficiently supported by all staff cannot be fulfilled. The realisation of this self-evident situation is not necessarily easy, because in many cases employees, whether or not it is said, are afraid of the effects of enthusiastic volunteers. Not to mention that the proper involvement and support of lay assistants, especially during the most critical initial phase, requires time and energy. Without a proper management of these fears and brakes, a successful volunteer programme cannot be started and fulfilled. If the fears are not expressed and processed, they may come back before the volunteers arrive, and they may constantly and invisibly jeopardize proper cooperation. Paid staff should be made aware of and should not be opposed to volunteers. In this way, they can work together for the successful operation of the institution, knowing their place and role.


We consider a volunteer any active contributor who has a contractual relationship with the organisation, complies with legal requirements, and provides volunteer assistance to the organisation.

Volunteering can be done over a period of time: in this case we are talking about occasional volunteers.

However, during volunteering, there can be some break in continuity as well as in work. It is therefore advisable to distinguish between active and passive volunteers. The most practical reason for this is that when doing so, when calculating the number of staff available, we can really take into account those we can count on or, if necessary, increase the number of teams in a recruitment.

Volunteer coordinator, professional coordinator

Organising volunteers can be a major challenge for a large team or with few paid staff. One person, whether part-time or full-time, should be appointed as a volunteer coordinator, depending on the number of volunteers. If the organisation hosts volunteers in larger, multi-disciplinary areas, or may have different staff coordinating their day-to-day activities, they may be called a professional coordinator or mentor. For the sake of clarity, the paid individual who coordinates volunteers is called a professional coordinator.

In the case of larger cultural institutions, it is appropriate to separate these two coordinating roles. In some organisations, the professional coordinator is referred to as a mentor, and we refrain from this to avoid any confusion. Mentor refers to experienced volunteers. The choice of the name, of course, also depends on the habits and culture of each organisation.

The volunteer coordinator directs volunteers to the units and departments where volunteers are welcomed, keeping in mind their institutional employment. This is especially necessary if the institution is more ‘sites’.

Although the coordinator brings together institutional volunteering and documentation, it is the professional coordinator in the departments who manages the day-to-day contact with the volunteer; the volunteer joins the work community organically.

Tip: The Bródy Sándor Library provides services in 4 sites in Eger: the Music and Foreign Language Collection, the County Library Supply System in one building on Kossuth Street, the Central Library in the Grand Provost’s Palace, the Administrative Special Library in the County Hall and the Forrás Children’s Library and Youth House. The volunteer coordinator serves in the Central Library, consolidates volunteering, but volunteer work is assisted by librarian mentors in the departments (in our interpretation, they are professional coordinators). This is also due to the fact that, apart from physical isolation, work within departments is very different, depending on whether the task is done in the processing department, in the reading service or in the library supply service. In addition to working, mentors also help volunteers to integrate and provide continuous mental care.


The coordinator can also turn to the volunteers for help in preparing newcomers, managing the day-to-day work, and preparing activities. Volunteers who, as the right hand of the coordinator, help prepare new helpers are called mentor. The coordinator focuses more on the tasks, while the mentor focuses on the ‘well-being’ of the volunteers. Volunteers can continue to turn to them with their problems: as a recognized, experienced volunteer, supported by the coordinator, their knowledge and skills can be used effectively. Mentors are recognised by the group if their selection is based on a dual basis: both outstanding, collaborative personalities and outstanding knowledge make them exemplary among their peers.

Volunteers who do the same thing for a longer period of time also mentor each other over time, as the experience of working together encourages them to organise their own work, saving them time and energy.

There is an ongoing dialogue between the mentor and the mentee. Personal harmony and sympathy may be more important than a common professional interest when developing a mentor relationship: if you do not have to deal with interpersonal communication barriers, you can talk freely about what the mentee is interested in or what causes a problem for them.

The Museum of Fine Arts Volunteer Programme precisely regulates and describes the above categories, which we recommend to all organisations in order to avoid any misunderstanding.

Tip: Details from the Museum of Fine Arts Volunteer Handbook


Volunteer:  a person who, on a voluntary basis, works freely for the organisation during their free time.

Active volunteer: a volunteer who volunteers on a continuous basis every consecutive month.

Passive volunteer: a volunteer who has been exempted from volunteering at their written (email) request. Passive status can be given for min. 1, max. 2 months. Anyone who cannot re-enter the programme exits the programme pursuant to section II / 1 / g.
 In cases such as a foreign scholarship or maternity leave, when a returning volunteer wants to continue working for the organisation as they did in the past to the mutual satisfaction of all, they may be preferable to waiting lists. Volunteers with a passive status can participate in volunteer meetings, and the elements of volunteer training apply to them just like to active volunteers. Before joining the programme, passive volunteers are asked to contact one of the mentors named on the website, of their choice, to obtain the latest information from the weekly correspondence, the volunteer and the museum website. They are asked to also inform the coordinator in writing (e-mail).

Mentor: the volunteer, depending on the depth of his knowledge of the programme, how proactive he is, and whether he has participated in the mentor training provided by the coordinator, can be a mentor. This status is similar in form to volunteer status, but in terms of content, it is broader in that mentors prepare newcomers for their volunteer work. Mentors undertake to keep up-to-date information on museum programmes, procedures, and briefing upon request from peers in conflict situations. Volunteers undertake to follow the mentors’ guidance.

Emeritus volunteer: one can apply for volunteer emeritus status at age 55 and having served in the museum for more than 5 years. This status entitles the volunteer, without further volunteering, to visit the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions for an unlimited number of occasions for two years after the suspension of his volunteering activity. However, they do not qualify for the volunteer programme.”

[1] Szépművészeti Múzeum: Önkéntes Kézikönyv. Budapest, 2016.


This article based on the following document:

Practical Guide for the Establishment and Operation of Volunteer Programmes at Institutions : abridged English version