Volunteering – evaluation, accountability

During volunteer activities, we strive to define tasks clearly and in an understandable manner, as we believe it contributes to effective performance. At the same time, in order to maintain the motivation of the volunteer and to keep the enthusiasm, it is essential to give feedback on the work performed – perfect or not. Diplomatic, honest feedback is always motivating and developing. In the meantime, we should not forget to devote time to the volunteer who is taken for granted and performs perfectly at all times: thank them in at least a few sentences and express our appreciation for her help.

There may be several purposes for evaluating volunteering:

  1. Provide feedback on the activity performed, feedback from management, staff and visitors;
  2. improve future performance, with a need for re-planning and potential modifications;
  3. strengthen the relationship between the volunteer and the organisation through mutual communication;
  4. look back and celebrate the results of a given period (e.g.: annual evaluation);
  5. organise programme information, facts and statistics.

Depending on the purpose for which the evaluation is being conducted, it may be done individually or in groups. In the case of 1-3 persons, individual, while in the case of 4-5 persons group evaluation is more typical. It is worth considering, however, that highlighting an achievement in front of the team can be motivating for everyone, just as finding the point of reference for a difficult case and giving feedback to the team can strengthen the team’s identity and aspirations, and can help find and recognise the common denominator.

The basis for recording volunteer activity is that it should be tangible to some extent – for example, on the basis of an attendance sheet during volunteer hours. The activity undertaken is also recorded in the contract, but it is only a verbal agreement that forms the basis for carrying out the specific activity. It is important to give feedback on whether the activity has been performed as expected.

Consider what can serve as a basis for control and accountability:

  • Agreement: it is advisable to record the task in writing so that it can be easily recalled by any party without distortion of memory. For example, the verbal task explanation should be confirmed in writing (e-mail); exactly what and in what form is expected, and by what deadline.
  • We should indicate who can be contacted in the case of further questions and whether we ourselves are available.
  • Sharing in advance why this task and the keeping of the deadline is so important to us; this can bring understanding and stronger motivation for the other side.
  • The volunteer manual is clearly a good base for the compiling rules on volunteering, and becomes an organic point of reference over time for the organisation and volunteers.

It may happen that the performance of the task is not perfect. Trusting our personal impression and the ability of the volunteer, it is always worth giving it another try. Honesty pays off when we are guided by the principle of good intention and support. This way, we can also check if there was an error in the task assignment. It may happen that we rushed and did not make sure the volunteer understand the task. In the second attempt, we should make sure that the task assignment is traceable in writing.

If the second attempt fails or encounters serious resistance or a violation of the rules, we may generally feel powerless. It is precisely in these cases that the importance of what is contained in the volunteer manual increases. Later, we will write about this in the Resigning section, but it may be possible to disassociate the volunteer from the activity, redirect them to another area, or disassociate them from the organisation. It is certainly worthwhile to think carefully about what has happened and to draw the right conclusions, even when it comes to changing our own processes.

There are many tools that can be uses to get feedback on difficult cases. The coordinator’s self-awareness is key at this point. We are going to show you three tools here, all of which require practice and many attempts.


In assertive communication, we communicate the interests of the organisation without compromising the interests of the other party (the volunteer). That is, we strive for co-operation, partnership, a win-win situation, primarily standing up for ourselves (our organisation).

This includes understanding the other party’s difficult circumstances and life situation, but at the same time being able to say, for example, that after the third critical mistake we can no longer accept such a mistake, therefore we want to achieve another solution in this regard.

One of the basic principles of assertive communication is to qualify our own experiences and not the other party, and to make requests or make and communicate decisions in relation thereto.

Non-violent communication

Non-violent communication approaches a situation through facts, emotions and needs. It is a basic premise that it is only worth using if your goal is to maintain the relationship. Its basic principle is that each person is responsible for their feelings stemming from their needs. In this way, we can avoid blaming the other party and find a creative solution to the situation, either based on changing our position or on a request made by or to another party.

This model is based on the basic assumption that there is a difference between reality and the reality we perceive. In fact, our perception can trigger different feelings depending on what we need at that specific moment. One of the main goals of non-violent communication is to create understanding and identify the action needed to meet the need.

The mentoring conversation

“The Coordinator oversees the volunteer programme of the organisation, knows how many volunteers are required, what tasks are assigned to them, and the coordinator distributes the tasks, while in a more complex programme with many volunteer institutions, a paid mentor or professional coordinator rather deals personally with the volunteer, knows the volunteer the best and provides help and support to them. The good cooperation of the two, when the two roles are performed by one person, completes the evaluation and accountability by simultaneous awareness of the two aspects. The mentoring conversation is a consciously structured opportunity to help the volunteer develop, which usually centred around the following issues:


  • How do we feel within the organisation? (helps to acclimatise)
  • We refer back to previous conversations that may be relevant to the current period.
  • We evaluate the tasks in terms of quantity and quality (both parties).What have they been doing, what activity have they been involved in since the last conversation?
  • What problems did/does the volunteer have?
  • How did they solve the problems?
  • We work together to develop solutions to current problems.
  • Positive empowerment of volunteers (their strengths, specific successes)
  • In what area does the volunteer need development? Who can assist them in this and what kind of assistance can they receive?

Mentoring and evaluation discussions are regular, can be planned in advance, and there is the possibility of spontaneous discussions and accountability if a problem arises on the part of the recruiting organisation or the volunteer that jeopardises the success of the task or may be detrimental to the organisation. ”

Nature of volunteering Description of difficult situation   Suggested solution

Volunteer – coordinator misunderstanding, dissatisfaction, disobedience

registration, receiving guests, less physical work, landscaping, escorting performers During art, gastronomic festival and other large events volunteer activities are performed with the involvement of 20-25 volunteers. Not everyone possesses the relevant information, and the large number of people creates misunderstandings. The team is not united, there are personal conflicts, so the performance of the task is difficult. In advance: Control of team cohesion, management of personal conflicts, individual discussions, small team task solutions before the programme. Holding of a joint briefing before the event. It is important for the volunteer coordinator to provide a clear description and assignment of tasks. During the post-event evaluation it is necessary to identify errors and formulate improvement measures.

On-site:depending on time and capacity, the Coordinator acts as a firefighter and clarifies the tasks one by one, setting an example by joining in the completion of the task.

Participation in training for volunteers On several occasions, one volunteer expresses their dislike for the rules. During the break, other volunteers indicate that this behaviour is unacceptable to them and that if the person in question does not leave, they will leave the programme. On-site: the coordinator asks the team to cooperate and pay attention during the sharing of information, and repeats it as necessary.

Later:In a face-to-face interview, they inform the person causing the general outrage of the nature of the outrage and assesses the degree of willingness of the concerned party to cooperate. Volunteers may be required to leave in order to maintain team morale.

The volunteer makes a mistake, causes damage, commits a misdemeanour

receiving and seating guests Assistance of 5 volunteers at a popular music concert. One volunteer accidentally causes damage to a piece of valuable audio equipment. On-site: creating a record of what has happened, preferably with the signature of the security and technical personnel present.

Later:The volunteer coordinator informs them of the material damage they caused unintentionally and that it is the organisation’s obligation to repair the audio equipment, pay for its cost, and draws the attention of the volunteer to perform their work with care. The latter can be repeated in front of the team.

pre-ordering of food and drink for guests, reception of guests at the event 2 volunteers participate in the opening of the exhibition. One of them forgot to order the food and drink. On-site: Before the event, they are obtained by the colleague responsible for the professional task (preferably with the direct assistance of the omitting volunteer).
Later: after the event, the volunteer coordinator, through an individual discussion and evaluation of the event, draws their attention to the commitment and responsibility required from them for the performance of the undertaken tasks and also informs them of the possible consequences of repeated omissions, already recorded in the volunteer manual.
registration, receiving and seating guests Professional conference with the participation of 3 volunteers. One of the volunteers comes to the conference in an outfit that is not suited to the occasion, despite the highlighting thereof by the volunteer coordinator’s prior to the event. It communicates the wrong tone and style to the arriving guests. In advance: make the volunteers aware that the information provided at the preliminary briefing are important and that they play a crucial role.

On-site: ‘disarming’ the volunteer, moving them to a post where they have no direct contact with the guests but they are still able to help. Provide a direct explanation immediately following the arrival of the guests.

Later: in the course of a team evaluation, highlight their colleagues behaviour, problem solving ability and willingness to collaborate, and mention the omission experiences and its solution.

Assistance, registration of individuals and teams, catering Participation of 1 volunteer at the home event of the Crossword Club. The volunteer does not attend the event and does not notify the volunteer coordinator in advance of their absence. On-site: the professional colleague responsible for running the programme seeks a solution by taking on personal and ad hoc tasks or assigning them to another person. It will also immediately (as soon as possible) notify (enquire with) the volunteer about the omission by telephone.

In advance: it is worth selecting two main volunteers for important events, who will be prepared by the coordinator just before the event (therefore they have to arrive half an hour before your event), or can replace each other in case of an unexpected event. It is worth choosing a volunteer who lives nearby and is well prepared and also flexible with time.

Later: it is worthwhile to regulate in the appropriate passage of the manual how many such events the organisation tolerates.

Selling books in book tents, preparing events on stage, helping with sound 2-3 people assist in the library during the Festive Book Week. One of them is ill, they do not know where they are, and the preparation of the event is delayed. On-site: ask other volunteers to be observant and aware of the pre-arranged, distributed tasks, and promptly notify the event’s professional in-charge of any non-fulfilment of tasks for them to be able to arrange for a replacement.

Later: inform the sick volunteer to notify the Coordinator in the future of their absence.

Assisting visitors at the information desk Two volunteers serve side by side at the information desk. The ticket office will not be able to issue a ticket to a visitor arriving during the last hour of the operation. The volunteer gives the visitor a badge, which entitles them to enter. On-site: if the coordinator is not present, there is likely to be general outrage among colleagues. If the coordinator is present, immediate action is required.

Later:It is a good idea to clarify the cause of the general outrage by taking minutes and asking all concerned to explain what happened. After this is completed, inform the volunteer in a face-to-face conversation about the nature, extent and cause of the outrage. If they still do not show willingness to cooperate, ask them to leave. If there is no rule in the manual on the behaviour of volunteers contrary to the general principles of the organisation, it is worth including it.

Providing a statement At one of the institution’s events, the local press inquires with a volunteer, who provides internal information that they are not aware of/authorised to disclose. Later: the case is only discovered after the broadcast, when the damage has already been incurred. It is therefore advisable to prevent such cases. Be sure to include in the volunteer manual the rules that apply to providing statements and provide clear information on the extent of the volunteer’s competence. If the volunteer is not allowed to make a statement about our institution during the preparation, give a tip (template sentence) to help prevent them avoid similar situations.
Placing store labels on documents in the external warehouse Based on past experience, a trained volunteer mentor directs the labelling in the warehouse further away from the library for school community service students. They correct the mistakes made by the students with a new group of students. The volunteer does not notice in the student group that the store labels are not in the right place (in the middle and top of the book’s spine) until after the work. The next time, a new group of students arriving to the warehouse remove the incorrectly places store labels and re-apply them in the correct place. The volunteer shares the information of the events when the warehouse is controlled. Later: The volunteer needs to be informed that they committed a two mistakes: they did not check the process during training, only at the end of the work when the students had left. The mistake was then corrected by individuals who were getting their first experience in volunteering, risking discouraging students from performing the work. However, if a mistake still occurs during the performance of the task and they fail to notice it, it should be rectified by them personally.

Disputes between volunteers

Assisting visitors at the information desk Two volunteers serve side by side at the information desk. They do not provide uniform information to the information requested by the arriving visitor and there is a disagreement between them in front of the visitor. On-site: If the coordinator is not present, there is likely to be only general outrage from the part of the visitor and possibly any colleagues present. If the coordinator is present, immediate action is required.

Later: it is worthwhile verbally working together to clarify the case immediately after its occurrence at the information desk or as soon as possible (with as little time passing before clarification as possible). The coordinator shall give both volunteers an equal opportunity to speak during such a discussion. After all the emotional and factual descriptions they summarise and compare the events with the expectations of the organisation. The aim is for the parties to come to an agreement and to share the lessons learned at team level with other volunteers. This will allow the team to speak outwardly with one voice in the future. At the same time, the coordinator provides a safe environment and an option for clarification for those involved.

Colleagues’ disapproval of volunteers

Volunteers assist at the information desk Following a (some) cases causing outrage, rumours start circulating amongst colleagues that volunteers are doing their job poorly. (as a result of the above badge handout) The coordinator listens to the parties, investigates the problematic cases and does some research, then, in the interest of clarification and for the general perception and clearing of the volunteer team, they convene the internal staff for a general workplace discussion, where they jointly discuss the feedback options for volunteers, the rules applicable to them and, if necessary, bring in new volunteers.

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