Forming A Volunteer Agreement
Value volunteers or watch them walk away!
It’s important that we value and give time to the relationship between ourselves and the volunteers we work with and alongside. Spending time in the forming of good working relationships and the background framework is key to developing a sense of team that is so important for volunteers to feel valued and appreciated.
It’s important to be intentional in working with volunteers and a volunteer agreement can give a structure and reference point for what’s expected and for future discussions on role, direction etc.
It’s important to reiterate that good working relationships are vital and should be developed alongside the implementing of volunteer agreements.
Perhaps the most documented example of volunteering we can read about in the bible is Jesus’ relationship with his team of disciples. From this we get a picture of encouragement, walking alongside, shared purpose (even though not fully understood) but also one of correction, challenge and difficult moments. Central though is a journey towards a principal vision of equipping the disciples for the task ahead.
There are many other examples of the importance of teamwork and working with others, these include Jethro/Moses (Exodus 18:17-25) Nehemiah in the Old Testament and the illustration of the Body in Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12 in the New Testament.
The road to Emmaus gives us a further picture of how Jesus walked alongside others. This picture of ‘journeying with’ might be helpful for us to keep at the forefront of our thinking in work with volunteers and any agreement that exists between workers and volunteers.
An attitude of service is one that Jesus demonstrated through word (“The greatest among you will be your servant.” – Matthew 23:11) as well as deed (washing the disciples feet) to his disciples. This leadership attitude is one that we would do well to have at the heart of our work and relationships.
Developing a volunteer agreement demands intentionality and time. Using an agreement from someone else’s shelf might be a good starting point, but it should be tailored to the works vision, objectives, ethos and ideally involve the volunteer/s themselves.
Purpose – What is the overall purpose of the volunteer agreement?
Content – What can the volunteer expect from the organization/group?
What can the volunteer expect from you?
What will the volunteer be committing themselves to?
Review – How often will you meet with the volunteer/s?
How often will the agreement be reviewed?
Some of the practical areas you may want to consider as part of a volunteer agreement include:
- Vision, aims and objectives – how people can contribute to this.
- Induction and training
- Supervision, support (Inc. prayer?) and flexibility
- Lines of communication
- Health and safety
- Time commitments
- Standards and procedures
- Application/Referees/DBS/Safeguarding etc.
- Problems – what to do/where to go etc.
As a starting point you may want to get volunteers together to plan and write any agreement/s you have. This encourages shared ownership of any final document. It’s important to take volunteers with you on the journey!
REFLECTION & LEARNING
The following might be helpful before implementing any agreement with volunteers
Reflect on your experiences as a volunteer? – Reflect on your current and past experiences. What did you find helpful, what did you find unhelpful? List up to 5 positive and 5 negative points.
Learn from others people’s experiences as volunteers? – Draft a short questionnaire or/& organise a meeting with a number of volunteers with a range of volunteering experiences with the aim of learning from their experiences.
It could be useful to research the history of, alongside what currently exists within your wider group/organisation in terms of working with volunteers and any agreements that are or have been in place.
A useful tool for developing practice in youth work is a ‘strategy circle’ (see attachment) A strategy circle helps in planning, implementing and evaluation and is designed to be an ongoing strategy tool. This tool will be helpful in working towards a volunteer agreement.
1 – Assessment/analysis – where are we now?
2 – Set goals – where do we want to be?
3 – Determine methods – how are we going to get there?
4 – Implement decisions – putting into practice
5 – Evaluation – how did it go, what needs to be changed?
Bill Hybels said of volunteering ‘The church was designed to be primarily a volunteer organisation. The power of the church truly is the power of everybody as men and women young and old, offering their gifts to work out God’s redemptive plan.’
Volunteers are the “lifeblood” of any not-for-profit organization. It’s critical to ensure that the methods your organization uses to recruit, train and support these volunteers reflects a well-organized and caring organization. – Agricultural and rural development
Bill Hybles – The 7 Myths of Volunteerism www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2007/july-online-only/060403.html
Reaching and Keeping Volunteers – Emlyn Williams – Grove Books
Loving Volunteers: Loving Those You Lead and Inspiring Others to Do the Same – Richard Steel – Grove Books
Steve is the director of GenR8, a local mission work that reaches out to over 40,000 children each term and has over 70 people who volunteer each year. Steve has worked with children and young people for over 30 years in a number of capacities, including Scripture Union in the UK and Australia, as well as a local Baptist Church. Steve is passionate about reaching out to this generation with the good news of Jesus.