Planning for volunteer involvement sets an organisation up for success. Considering the entire lifecycle of volunteer involvement during the planning stage ensures you have the human and financial resources to support volunteer involvement. A holistic approach that considers the entire volunteer management cycle also ensures you have thought through the requirements of each stage of the cycle.

Alignment with the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement

National Standard 1: Volunteering is embedded in leadership, governance and culture, covers the first aspect of planning for volunteer involvement – promoting a culture and volunteering and implementing effective systems to support volunteer involvement. This National Standard encourages organisations to define responsibilities for leading and managing volunteers, consider how volunteers fit into the organisation’s policies and procedures and risk management processes, and implement a document management system for volunteer records.

National Standard 2: Volunteer participation is championed and modelled covers both strategic and operational planning for volunteer involvement, and considers intent, purpose, goals, and resources.

Planning for volunteer involvement

The first step in planning for volunteer involvement is considering how volunteers can add value to your organisation and the community you serve. Identifying the tasks you need completing will inform the scope of your volunteering roles. Roles may be internally focused, such as office administration support, or externally focused, such as direct client support. Volunteer involvement can be an important part of meeting funding, grant and sponsorship agreements so strategic investment during the planning stage is often important to your organisation’s strategic and operational objectives.

Paid versus unpaid work

One of the fundamental considerations when planning for volunteer involvement is whether a role should be paid or unpaid. There are no black and white rules that define the difference between a paid and unpaid role. Whether an unpaid work arrangement is lawful under the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act) depends on:

  • whether an employment relationship exists, or
  • whether the arrangement involves a vocational placement.

Navigating the difference between paid and unpaid work can be challenging. Important considerations include:

  • The nature and purpose of the arrangement, including whether there is an intention to create a legally binding relationship.
  • The length of the relationship.
  • The level of responsibility associated with the role and the significance of the role to the organisation.
  • The person’s obligations.

Read the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Unpaid Work Factsheet for more information on unpaid work. 

The Volunteer Management Plan

Your organisation may choose to implement Volunteer Management Plans, which capture the duties, responsibilities, and outcomes for each stage of a volunteer’s involvement in each role. The Volunteer Management Plan can also be linked to supporting documentation, which can be useful if responsibility for managing volunteers is shared amongst staff. How many sections there are in your Volunteer Management Plans will usually be dictated by the complexity of the role. You may choose to capture your risk assessment of a role in the Volunteer Management Plan, or document this separately.