Writing a role description

Role descriptions (also known as position descriptions or duty statements) are essential for volunteer recruitment and ongoing management. A role description outlines the tasks associated with a volunteering role and other pertinent information related to the role. Role descriptions are also a useful tool for managing expectations on both sides: they help the volunteer and the organisation understand what is in scope and out of scope for the role.

Good role descriptions are a fantastic recruitment tool. They demonstrate to prospective volunteers that your organisation is professional and organised. Further, the information in a role description correlates directly with the fields on GoVolunteer, Volunteering Australia’s national volunteer referral database. This reduces the workload of volunteer recruitment, meaning managers of volunteers can focus their time on getting new volunteers through the door.

Alignment with the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement

National Standard 3: Volunteer Roles covers role or position descriptions. Role descriptions are a wonderful tool to help with volunteer recruitment and manage expectations. Further, they provide a tool for ongoing support and development of volunteers. Role descriptions should be provided for all volunteering roles. They are a key mechanism for ensuring volunteers are suited to the role they have applied for, and they enable your organisation to effectively plan for volunteer engagement by thinking through the requirements of any given role. Finally, role descriptions are an important tool for meeting your work, health and safety obligations to your volunteers and ensuring you are complying with insurance requirements by clearly providing a scope for the role.

Writing a role description

When writing a role description consider the following fields:

  • Position Title
  • Time Commitment
  • Location
  • Tasks
  • Training (if applicable)
  • Background Checking Requirements (if applicable)
  • Qualification Requirements (if applicable)
  • Benefits
  • Point of Contact

For a more detailed description of the above fields download our resource on Writing a Position Description.

Not a contract

A volunteer role description is not a legally binding contract. It serves as a document that clearly outlines the expectations of the volunteer, the tasks to be performed as part of the role and defines the scope of the role. It is important the role description balances what your organisation requires from volunteers with the benefits they will gain through their involvement.

Positions descriptions during recruitment

Your role descriptions are a useful recruitment tool because they enable prospective volunteers to understand the requirements of the role before applying. After receiving applications for a role, you can use the role description as a screening tool to help you find the most suitable volunteers. Consider which aspects of the role are non-negotiable and which ones may be open to compromise. For example, if a role takes place at a particular location or at a specific time, those two aspects of the role are unlikely to be negotiable. The more information you can provide up front, the easier it is for volunteers to self-screen if the role does not fit their skills or motivations.

Insurance

Role descriptions are an important mechanism of meeting your insurance requirements as they stipulate what a volunteer can and cannot do. For certain roles, especially those that take place off site without direct supervision, your insurer may require volunteers to be provided with a written list of the tasks that are in scope and out of scope. Your role description can encapsulate all of this information in one place. In the event an incident occurs, your role descriptions can serve as evidence that you have risk management processes in place to protect volunteers and service users in your programs.

More information

For more information on volunteer role descriptions, including a template see Part 5 of the National Volunteer Guide.