Have You: Created a Volunteer Agreement Yet?

I’ve had many an instance where I just showed up to a volunteer event, and was immediately put to work. And though there’s technically nothing technically wrong with being this efficient, there are a few benefits to be gained from having new volunteers sign a volunteer agreement first.

For example, an agreement is probably one of the cheapest marketing tools you’ll find out there. The first, if not the second, question asked should always be “How did you hear about us?”. If on a tight budget, like most non-profits, than having a running knowledge of how volunteers are hearing about your organization can be extremely helpful with targeting efforts. Another key benefit to an agreement is that you’re able to mitigate any mis-communication by spelling out the scope and expectations of the position from the very start. Every non-profit has had that volunteer intern who thinks an hour of sorting paperwork just about suffices as laborious work for the day. Or what about that guy that is just SO friendly?  In fact, his “friendliness” is exactly what concerns you? Having a volunteer agreement would allow you to detail what is appropriate/inappropriate behavior, what will cause termination, and the right questions would even allow you to vet out trouble before it hit.

It”s important to understand, however, that an agreement doesn’t have to be 20 pages of whereas, thus, and therefore’s. Keep it to a page or two, clean, and to the point. And along those lines, I wouldn’t advise sprinkling an agreement with dozens of clauses warranting against death, severed legs, punctured lungs, skin discoloration, third heads…..I think you get the picture. You want to ensure that the organization stays protected (after all that is the primary concern). But you don’t want volunteers to feel like they”re prepping for a space walk.

If you’re not quite sure where to begin, Idealist and The Center for Non-Profit Management are great places to start and each has plenty of templates. (Templates are your friend by the way). You might to also check out Volunteering.org too.

For more ways in which non-profits can benefit from a volunteer agreement check out my article here.


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