The benefits of doing your volunteer training online with Intuto are clear, so let’s begin with creating your volunteer handbook – essentially the master document of your training program – to include in your course. It should be the first thing volunteers read as they embark on your online training program, and they will refer back to it for the duration of their volunteer period.
Obviously, this template is just a recommendation and you will need to adapt it to your specific organisation with relevant information and sections. But following this format will give you a solid foundation for a strong volunteer handbook.
It’s also important to remember that you can use and reuse your online volunteer handbook with minor adaptations for subsequent events or training in different locations.
A warm letter of welcome from a CEO, executive director or even volunteer manager will remind people of the reasons they are volunteering for your organisation – whether it’s to make a difference in the world or share in a love of sport – and show your appreciation for their help. This kind of personal touch is especially important for larger organisations, where volunteers can feel like just numbers, and helps to reduce attrition further down the line. It’s a good idea here to also offer avenues they can take to seek assistance.
It’s likely your volunteer already has a good idea about what your organisation is and does, but this is a good place to cement this information. In the unlikely instance that your volunteer has the wrong idea about your organisation you can clear it up here, and give them a chance to withdraw themselves before they get too far into the training. In this section, you should include:
This is the kind of nitty gritty information that volunteers need to know in order to smoothly transition into your organisation. Having it clearly marked in the handbook will make it easy to find when they need it – and one of the benefits of having an online handbook is that they will always have access to it.
You may require volunteers to read and sign a confidentiality agreement to protect the organisation and its clients. You should lay out volunteer confidentiality obligations clearly and have volunteers electronically sign.
Now that your volunteer clearly understands the organisation, you can move on to their role within the organisation.
Start with why volunteers are so important to your organisation, including all the different contributions volunteers make. Clarify the relationship between and differences between volunteers and paid staff.
Ask your volunteers why they have chosen to share their time and why they chose your organisation. It might be that they need it as an academic requirement, or they wanted to get out of the house, or that they wanted to learn more about the industry, or have a personal connection to the charity. Establishing why they are volunteering may help you match them with roles that suit them and that they enjoy, making it more likely they’ll keep coming back. You can include a list of options for them to tick, to make processing this information easy.
Here is a good place to let your volunteers know their rights and responsibilities – think of it like a contract between you and them. Just as much as paid staff, volunteers need to know that they will be respected, protected and treated fairly. Give them clear avenues to explore if they have complaints or concerns and reassure them that you value their time, while also emphasising the commitment they’ve made and the standards you expect them to uphold. Some policies you may want to cover include:
You’re likely to have all these policies in greater depth elsewhere in your training course, but it might be worth adding a checkbox to each policy so your volunteer can confirm they’ve read each one.
Just as with a paid worker, a clearly defined position description will go a long way to ensuring the volunteer has a fulfilling experience and your organisation gets the most help from a volunteer. As the handbook is a standard document that applies to every volunteer and position descriptions are more specialised, you may want to separate out position descriptions into individual courses that volunteers unlock as part of their online training. This section should include:
Remember to update your online training manual regularly so your volunteers are referring back to up-to-date information at all times.
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