Volunteer Management – Staff Section

What is good practice?

Because volunteers are such an integral part of sport and active recreation organisations it is important that they are managed in ways which make them feel valued and part of organisations. This is the essence of good practice in volunteer management. Volunteers who feel that they make a worthwhile contribution to their organisation, are appropriately rewarded and recognised, and feel respected are more likely to contribute to that organisation again. Many sport and active recreation organisations argue that it is difficult to recruit and retain volunteers and often seem to assume that the problem is somewhat the volunteer’s. However, such organisations need to examine their volunteer management practices in order to determine the extent to which volunteers feel valued and a worthwhile part of the organisation.

There is no agreed upon set of volunteer management activities that will guarantee positive outcomes for volunteers. Approaches may vary to suit each organisation’s particular circumstances.

What defines a volunteer?

Volunteering Australia defines a volunteer as a person who chooses to contribute their time, skills and experience, for no payment (other than reimbursement of out of pocket expenses), to benefit the community’. An important notion in volunteering is freedom of choice. People who feel obligated or coerced into volunteering may not be as willing to contribute their time, skills or experience as someone who freely chooses to become a volunteer. Besides being clear about what defines a volunteer, it is necessary to have some understanding of why individuals volunteer and what they see as the benefits of being a volunteer.

Why do people volunteer?

The predominant reasons for becoming a volunteer are:

  • to help others or the community (altruism)
  • to be with family or friends (social contact), or
  • to do something worthwhile (personal satisfaction).

In order to recruit volunteers effectively, programs and organisations need to emphasise the opportunities that volunteering provides for social contact, to be community minded and to do something worthwhile. The table below explains these further.

Rewards Some volunteers are motivated by incentives and rewards i.e. Certificates, learning a new skill, discounts
Doing Good Altruism most common motivation identified by volunteers. People with the desire to help others and ‘do good’ have a strong sense of social responsibility
I Believe/Ideology Many people with a strong ideological commitment to social action, social reform, and environmental and global issues/Bringing about change and fulfilling their beliefs
Me, myself and I Egotistic Factors These people have often experienced a life crisis and their volunteer work, meets their psychological and emotional needs
Life Cycles People who reach a stage in their lives when their life stage circumstances attract them to volunteering i.e. Retirement, attending university.
Social Life Meeting new people, having fun, leisure aspects and socialising

(Volunteering Australia, 2012)

What are the benefits of volunteering?

  • Have fun
  • Learn new skills
  • Help others
  • Share talents and abilities
  • Fight boredom
  • Make new friends
  • Build self-confidence
  • Explore career opportunities
  • Gain a new direction in life
  • “give something back”
  • Feel needed, useful and appreciated

Volunteers fill many roles:

  • Coach sport teams
  • Organise fundraising events
  • Look after equipment and facilities
  • Prepare and maintain sport grounds
  • Instruct , teach, lead a variety of activities and programs
  • Act as officials, judges, referees, umpires
  • Serve on committees as treasurer, secretary, patron, president, volunteer coordinator
  • Promote activities and event

The following section reviews the core concepts of Human Resource Management (HRM). It provides examples of the unique features of HRM within sport and active recreation organisations working with volunteers.

HRM refers to the design, development, implementation, management and evaluation of systems and practices used by organisations to recruit, select, develop, reward, retain and evaluate their workforce. The core elements of the HRM process are represented in the Figure below. The following phases are considered the core functions of HRM, although it is important to keep in mind that these functions will differ significantly on the size, orientation and context of your organisation in which they are implemented.

(Adapted from Hoye et.al, 2012)


This phase essentially is about assessing and forecasting the staff (paid and volunteer) needs of the organisation and is very important to ensure staffing levels are satisfactory with the program needs. In this phase program manager/coordinators must assess: whether current staffing needs will be adequate to meet future demand (or alternatively; whether fewer staff will be required); whether staff turnover is predictable and can be accommodated; whether the ratios of paid to volunteer staff are appropriate or adequate; whether there are annual or cyclical fluctuations in staffing that need to be met and managed, and; whether specific capabilities will be required in the future that the organisation is currently lacking. After the job analysis, job descriptions should be constructed for each role (paid staff and volunteers). A job description specifies the title, supervision (who the person supervises and by whom the person is supervised), duties, conditions (e.g. Days, hours, frequency) and specialised skills or qualification (e.g. coaching accreditation). A job description enables potential volunteers to understand what is expected of them before taking on a position. Areas to include in a job description are outlined below:

  • Position title
  • Responsible to
  • Direct relationship with
  • Purpose of role
  • Key task and responsibilities
  • Desirable personal qualities
  • Experience and/or qualifications
  • Timing (Approximately hours/days required)

An example of a job description can be found in the appendix of this resource manual.


Recruitment is the process of attracting new volunteers to sport and active recreation organisations. An important question to ask is ‘Why do people want to volunteer for our organisation?’ The personal benefits of volunteering are outlined in Table 6. For voluntary positions the recruitment process is often informal and being able to attract a pool of qualified applicants can be a difficult task. Personal contact with potential volunteers, whether through friends, family or individuals already involved in your organisation are among the most frequently cited ways that volunteers first become involved in voluntary work. When recruiting volunteers, it is important to emphasise the benefits for volunteers, rather than the needs of the organisation. Many volunteers give up their leisure time to help sport and active recreation organisations and may not be attracted by work-like recruitment campaigns. Volunteers need to feel valued by the organisations and not feel as though they are being recruited to fill a position that no one else wanted.

Other examples of recruitment:

  • Newspaper ads or story’s
  • Organisation websites
  • Information sessions at conference/seminars
  • Community Radio
  • Television
  • Direct mail
  • Displays/Booths
  • Piggybank Events e.g. Sport days, annual meetings
  • Postcards to current volunteers to hand out to friends/family/others


  • The selection process involves choosing the individual who best meets the requirements of a position. Depending upon the level of the position (policy/management or operational) the selection process can involve a number of steps which may include screening, formal interviews, testing, reference checks and additional checks such as working with children card and police checks. Industrial relations legislation covers a range of organisational and employment issues and these also relate to volunteers. It is important to comply with these laws and regulations throughout the HRM process so that your organisation is not exposed to claims of discrimination or bias (on the basis of race, colour, country of birth, ethnicity, disability, religion, sex, age, marital status, pregnancy or sexual preference).

Example questions NOT to ask in an interview may include:

  • How old are you?
  • Do you have a problem working with younger people?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have any children?
  • Where do you attend church?
  • What are your views on taking prohibited drugs?
  • Please send a recent photo with your application form.
  • What are you going to do about your weight problem?

The following website will provide additional information in this area:



Orientation is the final step in the recruitment process. New members are welcomed to the organisation and given details about their position, the day to day operation of the organisation, and introduced to key people. Taking up a new position is a critical period for new volunteers and for the organisation. Volunteers are making a transition from being an outsider to an insider within the organisation. New recruits cannot be expected to understand the requirements of their new position or how the organisation functions on a day-to-day basis. For example, a new Group Leader needs to know where the equipment is stored, how to access it, what to do in case of an emergency and so on. A well designed orientation process reduces stress on new volunteers, makes them feel welcome and may reduce the likelihood of turnover.

Orientation is based on the process of socialisation, which is about influencing the expectations, behaviour and attitudes of a new volunteer in a manner considered desirable by the organisation. Some organisations run formal orientation programs which prelude a more detailed training and development program. In many sport and recreation organisations, the orientation process is less formal, but not less important if volunteers are going to perform their new roles successfully.

Orientation Program Checklist Example:

  • Provide an orientation guidebook or kit.
  • Provide copies of current newsletter and annual report.
  • Provide a copy of policy and procedure manual.
  • Enter the name, address and contact details of each volunteer into the database.
  • Gather and file copies of qualifications and accreditation certificates form each volunteer.
  • Fill in appropriate paperwork and forms such as Working with Children Check and Police (crimcheck) checks.
  • Introduce the organisation’s culture, history, aims, funding, participants/members and decision-making processes.
  • Introduce key volunteers and/or staff (and organisational chart).
  • Outline the roles and responsibilities of key volunteers and staff.
  • Detail the roles and responsibilities and accountabilities of the volunteer in their new role.
  • Familiarise volunteers with facilities, equipment and resources.
  • Explain and ‘walk through’ emergency and evacuation procedures.
  • Familiarise volunteers with the organisations day to day operations (telephone, photocopier, keys, filing system, tea/coffee making, organisation processes and procedures).

(Source: Australian Sports Commission website at: www.ausport.gov.au)


The level of competency of volunteers can have a significant impact on the success of sport and active recreation organisations. Training is about teaching specific job skills whereas development prepares volunteers for future roles or responsibilities and satisfies individual’s needs for personal growth. Training and development should not only be offered to new recruits. Individuals who have been with your organisation for some time, but who are taking on a new role or planning to do so, will also need access to appropriate training and development opportunities. Training and development opportunities will vary widely from organisation to organisation and need to be adapted to suit the needs of individual volunteers as well as the organisation’s needs and level of resources.

Examples of training may include:

  • Teamwork Training
  • First Aid Training
  • Programming specific skills training i.e. Canoeing, high ropes course
  • Group facilitation
  • Sport Coaching
  • Food preparation and safety training
  • Specific policy’s and procedures of your organisation
  • Inclusive Strategy’s


Good sport and active recreation organisations seek ways of maximising the performance and satisfaction levels of their volunteers. Performance appraisal is the process of evaluating the effectiveness of volunteers and providing them with feedback. Performance appraisals should recognise and reward volunteers who have done a good job and identify where improvements in volunteers’ job performance can be made. Generally a performance appraisal is informal and a way of communication rather than a formal process. Mentoring can also be a way of allowing more experienced and skilled volunteers to share their knowledge with recently recruited or less experienced peers. It enables experienced volunteers to help improve performance through informal appraisals that occur as a result of a mentoring process.

Things you may discuss with a volunteer as part of the performance appraisal process:

  • Volunteer Expectations of the organisation towards their role.
  • Specifics of the tasks the volunteer is involved with.
  • Interpersonal skills with participants, other volunteers and staff.
  • Training or development requirements.


Recognition is very important for valuing volunteers and their efforts within sport and active recreation organisations. All volunteers who volunteer for your organisation deserve some form of recognition even if it is a simple thank-you for helping out. Recognition and reward programs tend to work best when they are individualised, varied and open to new and interesting ideas. Forms of recognition and reward do not need to be complicated and expensive to establish and administer, but they are an essential component of effectively retaining the services of your volunteers.

Examples of ways to give recognition to your volunteers:

  • Smile and say hello/thank you etc.
  • Send a birthday card
  • Arrange for discounts i.e. Gym memberships with your organisation
  • Plan annual ceremonial occasions
  • Recognise personal needs and problems
  • Provide good orientation and training
  • Award certificates or plaques for years of service
  • Take time to talk and discuss with your volunteer(s)
  • Carefully match volunteer with a role
  • Celebrate outstanding projects or achievements
  • Plan staff and volunteer social events
  • Encourage volunteer participation in team planning
  • Enable volunteers to ‘grow’ on the job
  • Keep volunteers informed via newsletter
  • Provide letters of reference
  • Honour volunteers on International Volunteers Day, December 5th
  • Celebrate National Volunteer Week in May


Well done, you have successfully encouraged people to volunteer for your organisation. That’s the easy part. Now you have to retain them!

The goal of retention is to develop a sense of organisational commitment among volunteers. Although volunteer turnover is to be expected in sport and active recreation organisations and creates opportunities for organisational change, high rates of turnover can hinder the quality of care and range of services to your participants. Organisations with high turnover rates of volunteers may have to divert large proportions of limited resources to recruiting, orientating and training new volunteers. This is why it is essential to ensure volunteers, are managed using appropriate and supportive HRM processes to ensure volunteers are retained with your organisation.

The table below summarises good practice HRM processes for volunteers



Provide written job descriptions for volunteers Neglect the recruitment of new volunteers
Ensure training sessions are relevant Ignore volunteers interests
Acknowledge and show  volunteers achievements/efforts Treat them differently to paid staff
Identify clear pathways for volunteers to develop Take volunteers for granted
Value each person’s qualities, skills and efforts Provide ineffective information , orientation, training and development
Delegate according to skills, talents and desires Neglect to guide new volunteers
Openly discuss all relevant issues to volunteers Forget to acknowledge contributions/efforts
Ensure that fun is part of the volunteers work Put barriers up to communication
Ensure they have access to debriefing Assume volunteers have the required knowledge without orientation and training
Accept volunteers for what they can do Be inflexible
Listen to all viewpoints Overload volunteers with work
Include volunteers in meetings Put volunteers in difficult and dangerous situations
Listen to volunteers ideas/suggestions Spring jobs on volunteers at the last minute
Give positive feedback Lose patience with volunteers

(Adapted from Australian Sports Commission website at:www.ausport.gov.au)