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Staying on Top of Your Volunteer Programs

Staying on Top of Your Volunteer Programs

by Lori Gotlieb

Volunteer Programs Need On-Going Engagement to Thrive

When examining your volunteer programs, what does your best practice model of volunteer engagement look like? Do you think your program is reflecting the best practice standards in Canada?

Volunteer engagement is a cyclical relationship that starts with your members’ interest in further engagement and never really ends. Thriving volunteer engagement programs within associations are built on solid foundations and guiding principles and standards of practices. Some of these standards for volunteer programs are outlined in The Canadian Code of Volunteer Involvement.


Engagement Standards for Engagement in Volunteer Programs

The following 14 standards are related to best practices in volunteer engagement through:

  1. Mission-Based Approach: Board of Directors and senior staff support the roles of volunteers in achieving the mission and that volunteer roles are linked to the mission.
  2. Human Resources: Volunteers are valued and appropriate resources are in place to support their involvement.
  3. Policies and Procedures: A policy framework clearly supports volunteer involvement and defines expectations and boundaries of all parties.
  4. Volunteer Administration: That there is a key person designated to support volunteer involvement.
  5. Risk Management and Quality Assurance: Risk processes are in place to assess, manage and mitigate potential risks to volunteers and members.
  6. Volunteer Roles: Clear and concise role descriptions are developed and communicated to all participants in volunteer programs.
  7. Recruitment: Strategies are built to attract a diverse audience to your volunteer programs from your membership and abroad.
  8. Screening: A transparent and clearly communicated screening process is in place that is aligned with your risk management approach.
  9. Orientation and Training: Comprehensive orientation and training is provided to minimize risks within your volunteer programs.
  10. Support and Supervision: Levels of support reflect the roles and a performance feedback mechanism is in place to give and receive feedback regularly.
  11. Records Management: Current legislative requirements and forms are documented and stored in a confidential way.
  12. Technology: Using technology to support and engage volunteers in meaningful ways.
  13. Recognition: Volunteer contributions are acknowledged through formal and informal methods.
  14. Evaluation: An evaluation framework is in place to assess both the volunteers’ activities, as well as the effectiveness of the volunteer engagement strategy


The Risks of Volunteer Engagement

What can be at risk here, and where are your red flags? Here are a few to think about:

  • Risk to reputation
  • Ethical and moral risks
  • Inappropriate screening methods or inconsistent screening
  • Improper use of equipment and branding material
  • Unclear policies and procedures that are not clearly communicated
  • Incomplete application process and forms not complete
  • Risk analysis of roles not reviewed
  • Poor succession planning
  • Insufficient role descriptions and/or terms of reference
  • No mechanism for feedback

Is this overwhelming or are you confident that you have it all in place?

I get asked all the time, what makes a strong volunteer program and my response is always the same. Ensure that you have a strong foundation and process in place to minimize risk. Find the right person for the right role. Support your volunteers in a meaningful way and evaluate annually where your strengths and weaknesses are.

And keep moving the ship forward inch by inch.



Lori will be delivering more insight and understanding into volunteer engagement in her half-day session workshop and webinar, Managing Volunteer Risk: What Keeps You Up at Night? on March 23, 2017. Click the button below to reserve your spot. Don't miss out!




Lori Gotlieb is the President of Lori Gotlieb Consulting as well as co-developer and faculty member for Humber College Volunteer Management Leadership Certificate. She is a volunteer management expert who provides a unique concierge service to her clients as well as an internationally published author and workshop facilitator who has taught workshops to many diverse audiences across North America.

Lori was the 2012 recipient of the Linda Buchanan Award for Excellence in Volunteer Management.

Lori is a contributing author the Volunteer Management Handbook, 2nd Edition as well having numerous articles published in both print and online.

Lori is a Board Member and content reviewer for the International Journal of Volunteer Administration, past president of the Toronto Association of Volunteer Administration, mentor for the Provincial Association of Volunteer Administrators in Ontario. Lori continues to push the boundaries of traditional volunteer management through her writing and teaching.



Lori Gotlieb, Volunteers, Strategic Planning, Leadership


Education, Events, Guest Contributor



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