Employment Hero

10 Volunteer Management Rules That Every Not-for-Profit Should Know

Not-for-profit (NFP) organisations have the same legal obligations as an employer to their workers, and this includes their volunteer staff. While you don’t pay volunteers for their time, there are still fundamental people management practices that you need to put in place to ensure you’re compliant with Fair Work legislation.

According to Volunteering Australia, approximately 6 million Australians regularly volunteer their time, providing roughly $14.6 billion of unpaid labour to not-for-profit organisations. Another analysis of the scale of volunteering’s economic value to Australian society suggests it’s more to the tune of $290 billion a year.

Volunteer Compliance

Whatever the true economic value, for many not-for-profit organisations, volunteers are your very lifeblood. Without volunteers, your organisation could not continue to operate. Yet, too few organisations truly optimise volunteer engagement. Instead, they overlook the need to put a formal structure in place to recruit, train and manage this vital piece of their workforce. While this opens the organisation up to risk, many NFPs make the mistake of thinking that they have no legal responsibilities over their volunteers when quite the opposite is true.

Please keep reading to see our checklist of ten volunteer management rules that every not-for-profit should know…


The volunteer checklist

Are you ready to dive in and find out the ten management rules you need to know? 


  1. Recruitment: It’s essential to document volunteer recruitment selection policies and procedures. You must also ensure they are consistent with anti-discrimination and equal opportunity legislation, practices and guidelines.managing volunteers - recruitment
  2. Onboarding: Provide volunteer staff with orientation, clearly defined volunteer roles and job descriptions. Most of these should be done before the new volunteer starts their first day.managing volunteers - onboarding
  3. WHS: WHS compliance is a priority for all your workers (and this includes volunteers). You need to ensure that your volunteer staff have a healthy and safe place to work, along with adequate supervision. This includes making volunteers aware of standard safety protocols and conducting regular WHS training with them.
    managing volunteers - WHS
  4. Training and development: Ensure your volunteers obtain the knowledge, skills and feedback to do the work required of them. This will allow them to effectively carry out their responsibilities safely. You can also offer volunteer staff the opportunity for professional development to further their skills and knowledge in a specific area
    managing volunteers - training and dev
  5. Workplace policies: Create policies and procedures for volunteer involvement and ensure that these are understood and implemented through your organisation. You should also provide all staff with information on grievance and disciplinary policies, and that these acknowledge the rights of volunteer staff.
    managing volunteers - workplace policies (1)
  6. Insurance: NFP organisations can be exposed to a number of risks. It’s important that your volunteers, paid staff, management committee, clients, customers and yourself are protected. Under the Work Health & Safety legislation, NFPs are required to organise personal accident and public liability insurance on behalf of their volunteers. It is not the responsibility of the employee. managaing volunteers - insurances
  7. Rewards and recognition: Attracting and engaging volunteers is a costly exercise, so it’s important to retain them. Volunteers can quickly lose motivation if they feel that their work is not being valued. To counter this, publicly acknowledge the contributions of volunteer staff and treat them as valuable team members. If you can, offer perks and other benefits in line with what you offer employees where appropriate.
    managing volunteers - reward and recognition
  8. Record keeping: As with all other workers, you need to establish a system to manage and control all records relating to your volunteers.
    managing volunteers - record keeping
  9. Continuous improvement: Continually review your volunteer management system to ensure that opportunities to improve the quality of the system are identified and actively pursued.
    managing volunteers - continuous improvement
  10. Due diligence: Ensure appropriate processes and procedures are in place for your volunteers. This involves effectively planning and reviewing activities relating to the delivery of services by volunteers.
    managing volunteers - due diligence

To minimise compliance risk, you can use Employment Hero to help you meet your obligations to your volunteers. Employment Hero’s all-in-one HR, Payroll and Benefits platform is a convenient and effective way to attract, manage, and retain your volunteers. To find out how to attract more star talent to your NFP, download our guide to what Australian employees want below.


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