Volunteer manual – operating principles

Before hosting volunteers, the organisation must clarify many aspects that provide the framework for volunteering. Here it is basically about the well-defined expectations of the organisation.

The following issues are worth considering:

  • To which organisational unit does the Volunteer Programme relate and how?
  • How does the Volunteer Programme fit into the organisational mission and vision?
  • Will there be a coordinator?
  • In what areas are volunteers welcomed?
  • How many volunteers do you want? How many volunteers can be provided with the work to be done?
  • What are the basics of volunteering? In what hours, exactly what kind of work do you expect?
  • Do you provide training for volunteers?
  • Is there ongoing training for volunteers?
  • Do you have the material conditions to accept volunteers?
  • Is it possible to lay off volunteers, and how?

All of these questions and answers to them can be summarised in a volunteer handbook. The handbook is one of the most important documents that will serve as the statute and operating rules of the institutional volunteer programme as it contains all the information and rules that set out the conditions of volunteering in the institution and the rights and obligations of the volunteers. The scope of this manual may vary depending on the size and type of institution (pages 5-50), but it is important that each institution has it. Not only all volunteers but also all staff in the institution must be familiar with the contents of this handbook. It is important to note that what is written in this handbook can be modified over time, just as in the volunteer strategy.

For example, in the Museum of Fine Arts, the volunteer manual is a mandatory attachment to a volunteer contract. The 10-page manual created in the first months of operation has since grown to 34 pages – as volunteering has expanded and rules worth describing have evolved. At the Museum of Fine Arts, the volunteer programme has become an integral part of the institution. It suited to a high degree of control within the organisation, which provided organisational traceability and predictability for participants.

Table of contents of the organisation’s manual:

What should the volunteer manual include?

In the volunteer manual, collect with your staff the rules governing volunteers’ activities, relationships, rights and obligations. It is recommended that the institution’s Rules of Organisation and Operation be amended accordingly so that all staff and volunteers are made aware of its content.

In the introductory part of the document, present the activities of the institution and why volunteering is important. Describe the practice in a given institution in the following areas (elements of volunteer management) [1]:

  • recruiting volunteers;
  • orientation and training of volunteers;
  • costs for volunteers;
  • delegating the task to the volunteer and supporting the volunteer;
  • the volunteer’s relationship with employees;
  • working conditions;
  • insurance;
  • equal opportunities;
  • ethical issues;
  • complaint handling;
  • motivation and recognition;
  • leaving the organisation;
  • confidential data handling.

A special section of the document may include the accident and safety regulations for the volunteer. The rules that apply to volunteers in general are set out in the volunteer manual, and the individual agreement is set out in the volunteer contract.

[1] Kármán E., Kónya G.: Önkéntes menedzsment alapok, avagy amit az önkéntes fogadó szervezetnek önkéntesekkel való együttműködés során tudniuk érdemes. Budapest, 2008, Önkéntes Központ Alapítvány


This article based on the following document: This article based on the following document: Practical Guide for the Establishment and Operation of Volunteer Programmes at Institutions : abridged English version