Even with our busy, digitally-driven lives, we still find the time to volunteer, according to The Corporation for National Community Service: more than a quarter of Americans, nearly 63 million people, give their time to a cause. Worldwide, "voluntourism" is a $173 billion industry, with travellers sometimes paying their own travel and accommodation expenses and spending weeks or months working at events or on humanitarian projects during their vacation time. When eager new volunteers arrive, ready to help, your organization needs a volunteer handbook that meets them halfway with essential information they need.
5 facets every volunteer handbook needs:
1) A welcome letter
Make this the first page of your volunteer handbook. Use this as an opportunity to express gratitude to your volunteers - describe their importance and the value that they bring to your event or project. Volunteers want to know that their efforts will make an impact, so describing details around this will get them amped up to participate and read more in your handbook.
2) A mission statement
This is a simple, one or two-paragraph definition of your organization's aims and values. A mission statement defines who you are behind the name, what you believe, why your organization exists and who you serve. This is important for your volunteers to know so that they can understand your organization's brand and, therefore, direct their efforts to support it.
3) Statement of conduct and ethics
It's not just about harassment, drugs and cell phones. The conduct and ethics statement sets out clear guidelines of behavior for everyone associated with your organization. It is a reminder that whether paid or volunteer, working for your organization means representing your organization positively in the community. The statement covers guest policy for events, dress code, gift acceptance, written and verbal communication with clients and staff and other professional conduct standards.
4) Your story
Educating your volunteers makes them part of the larger picture of the organization; whether told as a narrative or a graphic timeline, it provides the history and context of the event or project. Include a list of all your organization's events and ongoing initiatives, programs and campaigns to highlight your continuous role as a community outreach leader. You can also use this space as an opportunity to describe how all the different volunteer roles work together to create the final, big picture.
5) Details on how to use your volunteer management software
If you're using a volunteer management tool like InitLive, be sure to include a few notes about how you would like your volunteers to engage, communicate and keep track of their shift schedules. If you'd like them to check themselves in and message their supervisor when they arrive, mention that they can do that via the InitLive mobile app on their phones. Whatever your plan, provide examples of how you intend to use the tool to engage with them so that they will know what to expect.
Bonus: A directory of local events, contacts and not-to-miss experiences
Comfortable volunteers are repeat volunteers; they feel welcome when introduced to the local community. Provide a list of special events, festivals, beaches, parks, sports venues and restaurants with phone numbers and addresses. Assist volunteers with after-hours questions, who need assistance at event venues or have personal emergencies and include the names and numbers of essential organization staff.
Include these elements in your volunteer handbook and you'll be setting your volunteers up for success no matter what event or project your preparing for.
InitLive's volunteer management system helps make managing staff easy from recruitment & scheduling, to day-of communication & check-ins, to measuring your successes post-event. To learn more about how InitLive works, watch a demo now!