Achieve business success through growing a high-performing team

Volunteers are part of the team too

Welcome to another episode of the Work Wonders podcast (listen here) where we discussed volunteers.


Volunteers are the heartbeat of many not-for-profit organisations and community groups but managing them comes with its own set of challenges. Think of the RFS, SES, Surf Life Saving.

Your co-hosts are even volunteers in Hawkesbury Chamber of Commerce and Penrith Chamber and Susan is on the Board of an NFP.


In this episode of the podcast, we explore the nuances of volunteer management and point out the similarities with managing a paid employee.

Unlike employees, volunteers offer their time and skills without monetary compensation, driven solely by their passion for a cause or a desire to contribute to their communities.

But there are a lot of things in a workplace that still relate to managing a volunteer, despite the absence of payment.


Recruitment & Induction

One key aspect highlighted in the conversation is the importance of effectively managing volunteers once they are onboarded. While volunteers may not be bound by employment contracts or entitled to benefits like superannuation, they still require clear expectations, training, and support to thrive in their roles.

The conversation emphasizes the need for organisations to establish robust induction processes for volunteers, similar to those for employees. This includes outlining roles and responsibilities but also, where their role ends.


Hold them accountable

While volunteers may not undergo formal probation periods, holding them accountable for their contributions is essential to maintaining organisational effectiveness.

This will set a strong foundation for you and help to avoid any awkward situations where a volunteer is not performing well. Setting clear boundaries between volunteer and employee responsibilities, as well as expectations of them will set you on the right course. Volunteers should also be asked to follow the organisation’s policies & procedures just like a paid employee would need to.

Organisations must strike a delicate balance between appreciating volunteers’ contributions and holding them accountable for their actions.


Provide a safe workplace

Although volunteers are not being paid, they are still performing their duties within a workplace and so they have the same entitlement to a safe workplace as a paid employee would. This includes practical things like a workplace free from hazards, PPE and

Volunteers are driven by their passion for a cause or a desire to contribute to their communities and so there is potential for them to give their time and energy to the detriment of their own health. We would therefore encourage you to consider not allowing volunteers to overwork, just as you wouldn’t your employee.

Furthermore, volunteers should not be subjected to psychosocial hazards, highlighting the organisation’s duty of care towards all individuals involved, whether paid or unpaid.

Despite the absence of monetary incentives, volunteers should be treated with the same level of respect and appreciation as paid employees. This entails recognising their efforts, including them in decision-making processes, and providing opportunities.


In essence, managing volunteers requires a nuanced approach that acknowledges their valuable contributions while ensuring their well-being and alignment with organisational goals. By treating volunteers with the same level of professionalism and support as employees, organisations can cultivate a culture of inclusivity, collaboration, and mutual respect.

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