Need for a volunteer programme and strategic planning

Recruiting volunteers also means transparency as volunteers get behind the scenes and get much more information about the organisation, internal relationships, and difficulties than the target group of the organisation. Be sure to be aware of this. Many organisations are scared to involve volunteers, unpaid helpers in their operation. However, the purpose of awareness is to be successful in the preparation, to avoid unexpected situations.
The reasoning behind the involvement of volunteers must be very unambiguous, clear and unquestionable in terms of institutional responsibility, working hours and energy financed from public money.
Large groups of volunteers can be important credentials and messengers for their institutions. An institution with poorly managed or unhealthy internal structures is much less likely to retain long-term volunteers. Volunteers are able to convey the institution’s reputation through one of their most powerful forms of personal experience, which can be most persuasive and can be effective without a special communication campaign.

Organisational advantages – disadvantages

First, let’s take a look at the organisational benefits and disadvantages of starting a volunteer programme! Because the affected institutional group performs service functions, it is essential to think about each organisational layer: the institution itself, its staff and its clients. At the end of the table, the volunteers’ point of view is presented without being exhaustive, primarily in order to list the perceived difficulties.
It’s a good idea to read the list – if you’re working on a volunteer programme – to underline all the arguments and counter-arguments that may be relevant to the organisation. During the planning phase, also think about why you might be opposed to volunteering and how to overcome this resistance, for example. by careful selection, possibly by examination.



advantages disadvantages
·         reducing the workload of employees

·         positive social message

·         enhances the institution’s image

·         increasing quality and number of services (this may lead to higher prices or a new revenue source)

·         contribution to meeting deadlines

·         hard-working and motivated extra workforce

·         extra knowledge in the organisation

·         cost effective solution

·         involves little investment

·         extends the organisation’s network of contacts

·         increases the number of clients and visitors

·         the customer-oriented attitude of the organisation is strengthened

·         the pledge of management’s ongoing reminder to the public opinion

·         enhances the operation of the organisation

·         easy to integrate

·         the information is disclosed

·         objects and books entrusted to the institution may be damaged

·         legal liability

·         fear of the unknown

·         distrust of strangers

·         significant staff time spent on preparing, controlling, motivating, retaining volunteers

·         it is necessary to check the results of volunteering

·         administrative burden

·         potential unreliability

·         lack of space and infrastructure

·         source of conflict (organisation within the organisation)

·         it may seem to be a substitute for staff, even though it only helps them

·         there is an ongoing maintenance cost (not free)

·         expectations other than those of the institution



advantages disadvantages
·         sufficient number of staff to complete the tasks

·         enthusiastic volunteers increase the enthusiasm of the staff

·         implementation of new, idle projects

·         new inspiration, energy

·         less stress on the staff

·         the client-oriented attitude of colleagues is improving

·          fear for the position, fear of losing a job

·         fear of uncertainty

·         time-consuming preparation, checking (‘I’d rather do it’)

·         constant need for control

·         they can come up with unprofessional ideas that are not feasible

·         too much administration

·         fear of fluctuation

·         different means of communication may be needed (fragmentation)

·         volunteers come up with new expectations

Clients / Visitors


advantages disadvantages
·         receive more attention and information

·         receive more services for the same amount

·         warm welcome, constant enthusiasm (much less burnout)

·         more patience

·         possibly better foreign language skills

·         incomplete or bad information

·         lack of competence

·         less information

·         less confidence



advantages disadvantages
·         acquiring new knowledge and work experience within an organised framework

·         opportunity to find a job, expand the network of contacts

·         become an active member of a community

·         recognition, success

·         free programme opportunities

·         spending free time usefully

·         too much hope (to be employed)

·         unequal treatment (not treated as a partner)

·         competitive behaviour of the staff towards the volunteers

·         initial distrust

·         incomprehension of organisational procedures and decisions

Organisational development issues

It is important to note that the appearance of volunteers in an organisation involves its development and change. That is why it is worth thinking about organisational development and asking some basic questions and answering them.[2]


  1. What is the purpose of accepting a volunteer?
  2. How can this benefit us?
  3. Can we provide the necessary personal and material conditions to organise the programme?
  4. What other resources might we need?
  5. Within what framework, and by what principles do we imagine working with volunteers? (Are we aware of risk factors and are we willing to take action to address them?)


Based on the answers to the questions, the management will decide whether to launch the volunteer programme. The more widely we discuss these issues during the preparation, the more committed the staff will be to receiving and actively engaging volunteers. The basis of a successful volunteer programme is that we consider volunteers as enriching and expanding the activities, innovation and creativity of our organisation. They represent added value while having their own needs and rights. The activities of volunteers are clearly defined and the tasks of the volunteer-related staff (mentor, coordinator) are deliberately planned to make the joint work successful.

The volunteer group should be conceived as the closest, partly insider clients to the organisation. They form a gateway and mediate between the inside and outside. Their integration clearly brings openness. Let’s take a look at the following section of the mission statement of Bródy Sándor County and City Library [1] , which outlines what goals it sets out to achieve its social usefulness.

To achieve the goals:



  • employs knowledgeable, well-trained librarians
  • is constantly developing and revealing its collection
  • provides interlibrary borrowing and mediates services of other libraries
  • offers advanced technical services that respond quickly to user needs
  • organises the networking of the libraries operating in the county, the professional training and the development of joint services
  • connects to the cultural life of the city and the county with its events
  • develops broad partnerships with financier local governments, educational and cultural institutions, the civil sector

The last point is the commitment to which volunteering can be closely linked: IKSZ (School Community Service), NGOs, cooperation with educational institutions. The specific tasks, activities, plans and intentions specific to volunteering can be followed in detail in the institution’s annual report and work plan. And the regulation of its partnerships is provided in a section of the institution’s Quality Manual.

Another example is the  Csabagyöngye Cultural Centre  which has a very heterogeneous range of programmes as a local educational institution. In many cases, the number of staff required to implement each attraction exceeds the number of paid public employees, so the organisation has decided to involve volunteers in operational activities in order to effectively and efficiently perform its tasks.

Volunteer friendly organisation

By clearly articulating our institutional mission statement and by day-to-day implementation of its stated goals, we make it clear to the outside observer the social usefulness of the organisation’s activities. In order to achieve our goals, we need to clearly identify where professionals and volunteers work.

Our institution acts rightly when it encourages volunteers to work effectively also through their own activities. The management plays an important role in this, guiding the planning and execution of tasks effectively. It accurately identifies the volunteer’s place in daily work and provides them with the necessary conditions to work. At the institutional level, by appointing a volunteer coordinator, we can ensure the volunteers’ integration process, their positive partnership with their staff, and the information background they need to work.

Success is complete if our institution not only ensures the added value of volunteering in its activities, but also applies the experience of volunteering in practice.

An important strategic question is where to place the volunteer programme in the organisational structure. On the one hand, in order to be most useful and efficient, it is necessary to ensure the active involvement of the volunteer coordinator in the management of the institution and, on the other hand, to find and succeed in the organisational structure appropriate to the size of the team it coordinates.

In the museum field, volunteers appear most often in the fields of communication, public service, public education and museum education. Generally speaking, the programme can be placed anywhere in the organisational structures, but care should be taken to ensure that the head of the department understands exactly what the complexity and significance of the volunteer coordinator position is. For example, it may not be fortunate to assign volunteers to a rarely existing HR area so that volunteers have less priority in the organisation than other employee groups. The big difference is that the HR manager is generally responsible for the entire workforce of the organisation, but is not in touch with the staff in their daily activities. In the case of volunteers, the coordinator also selects the volunteers. It would be most fortunate if the volunteer programme could sooner or later appear as an independent department or organisational unit. [3]

Internal resistance had already been encountered by several institutions before the introduction of the volunteer programme. Staff in the institution may be afraid of their position and their work vis-à-vis the volunteer, who often has a high level of professional knowledge.

To prevent such situations, we recommend the following:


  • Launching a volunteer programme should be the result of a joint decision, but it should be preceded by a staff consultation, where potential aversions and fears can be discussed;
  • joint development of volunteering policy is needed to set the framework for volunteering;
  • it is important to inform the staff about the tasks before the volunteers arrive, mentioning in particular the possibilities developed to deal with possible difficult situations;
  • involving staff in the training of volunteers, thus enabling a meeting platform and first-hand dissemination of information;
  • introducing the volunteer to the staff in line with the organisational culture (to be guided around the institution, invited to a meeting);

respect for the work area, tasks and competencies of the staff – volunteers do not replace the workforce.

[1] Küldetésnyilatkozat: Eger, Bródy Sándor Megyei és Városi Könyvtár, 2014. (utoljára megtekintve: 2017.04.14.)
[2] Marosszéki E.: Önkéntesmenedzsment kihívások hosszútávon (előadás). Recruitment workshop, 2016. szeptember 22. Budapest, Szépművészeti Múzeum – Magyar Nemzeti Galéria
[3] Jackson, R.: Where should leadership of volunteering sit in an organisation? 2016.
(utoljára megtekintve: 2017.04.19)


This article based on the following document:

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