Working well with volunteers

Working well with volunteers

Guidance for churches and church-based organisations

Churches vary enormously in resources - human and otherwise - but they all rely on volunteers.  In many churches the word volunteer is not specifically used and people see what they are doing simply as Christian service.  The resources below offer a range of suggestions and templates to help make working with volunteers as effective as possible, without trying to pretend that one size fits all.  If you only use one little bit of this resource, that's just fine.  And if what you need isn't here, please ask.

The guidance is divided into 7 broad sections, each with a guidance sheet, supported by adaptable samples or templates.  Click the titles to expand each section.

If you have any difficulties using the guidance or templates, would like a hard copy or have any suggestions please contact Julia Hill.  Click here for a short feedback survey with 5 questions.

If you would like to know when this page is updated, please register for updates.  You can access and download all documents here as individual pdfs or a zip file.

Clarifying Tasks

Clarity about what a volunteer is being asked to do helps everyone involved.  Here you can access:

Taking On Volunteers

For those who don’t have a ready supply of volunteers, encouraging suitable people to volunteer is sometimes a challenge. Whether you can find volunteers easily or not, having some sort of process for starting people in new roles helps to make things work smoothly.  Here you can access:

Building Good Relationships

When people are not paid or under contract success depends entirely on relationships.  Here you can access:

Thanking and appreciating volunteers is an important way of buildling relationships.  Sometimes this will be just a word, sometimes a thank you card for something particular, sometimes it could be a thank you celebration for a group of volunteers and some volunteers might appreciate a certificate thanking them for the number of hours that they have done in any given time.  This can be particularly important for young volunteers, building a CV and wanting to provide evidence of what they have been doing.  The type of certificate will depend on the volunteer but Microsoft Word and Publisher both have templates that can be adapted.

Encouraging Development

Many people develop significantly through volunteering.  Here you can access:

Tackling Difficulties

Where human beings are involved, misunderstandings or challenges will inevitably arise.  Recognising this and dealing with difficulties well can help to build a strong team.  Here you can access:

Agreeing Principles

It can help everyone know how to operate, and know that systems are fair, if principles are agreed. Here you can access

Managing Formalities

There are some formalities associated with working with volunteers, some of which (e.g. Safeguarding and Health and Safety) are legal requirements.  Getting formalities in place that fit your context can be enormously helpful.  Here you can access

Additional documents:

Further Information

  • Faithfully Volunteering is an excellent, comprehensive guide to working with volunteers in church organisations, produced by Church and Society in the Diocese of Liverpool with support from Church Urban Fund. 
  • NCVO has a great deal of useful information that you can access via Know How Non Profit (http://knowhownonprofit.org/).  You have to register but there is no cost.  Once you have signed in, the quickest way to access relevant information is to type your topic into the search bar in the top right.  (e.g. Volunteer policy, volunteer expenses, risk assessments).
  • A-Z of Volunteer Management by Bill Crookes and Jackie Rouradian (Mosaic Creative). This is a highly accessible, practical guide from an organisation with experience of managing volunteers in churches and not for profit organisations.
  • Loving Volunteers by Richard Steel is part of the Grove Leadership Series (www.grovebooks.co.uk).  It is strong on the relationship aspects of volunteering. (Richard Steel has also written a longer book with background reflections on involving volunteers - Building up the Body: Encouraging, equipping and enabling volunteers in the church - BRF 2013)
  • Volunteer Dos and Don’ts from the Stewardship website (www.stewardship.org.uk).

Specific Topics

  • Data Protection: The Information Commissioners Office has excellent information about the principles of data protection – including useful examples - http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/data_protection/the_guide/the_principles
  • Health and Safety: The Health and Safety Executive website (www.hse.gov.uk) has clear information, specifically aimed at voluntary organisations.  You will also find guidance and templates in the Managing Formalities section above.
  • Safeguarding: For churches and church based organisations, contact your diocesan safeguarding officer for advice and guidance or see the House of Bishops’ guidance.
    The Safe Network has a range of information about safeguarding, including information specifically targeted at faith groups.
  • Tackling Difficulties: How to Learn Through Conflict by Colin Patterson – Grove Booklet P96  (www.grovebooks.co.uk).

We would like to keep improving these resources: please click here for a short survey with 5 questions. If you have any other comments or suggestions please contact Julia Hill, Volunteer Development Coordinator of Church Urban Fund.


We are grateful to Kristen Stephenson of NCVO for her advice during the production of this guidance and to Lindsay Cross of West End Refugee Service in Newcastle for her invaluable comments. We are also grateful to Andy Farrell (Chartered Safety Practitioner) for guidance on Risk Assessment. Many of the templates have been developed whilst working with people across the Together Network and so we are also grateful for the many ideas and comments that have helped to shape them.  

 

This work has been carried out as a partnership between Church Urban Fund and the Church of England Lay Development Adviser, with support from The Jerusalem Trust.  It aims to increase the capacity of churches to tackle poverty and to support the growth of discipleship.  

Language note

We refer to people as volunteers simply because they are not being paid for what they do.  In practice, they may never refer to themselves as volunteers and may prefer you not to either.  You will, of course, choose language that fits your context.

Similarly, in some examples we have used vocabulary common in the Anglican Church since that is our context.

These documents and all accompanying material are intended for guidance purposes only. They are not a full statement of the law and are not a substitute for professional advice. No liability or responsibility is accepted by Church Urban Fund or its partners.

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