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Welcome to the first part of the new NCVO website. While we finish building it, you will find the rest of our help and guidance on our existing site.

Writing volunteer role descriptions

What volunteer role descriptions are

Volunteer role descriptions outline what a volunteer role involves. They are important for helping staff and volunteers understand their roles.

You should give volunteers clear role descriptions. These are often written, but some volunteers may need them in another format, such as in large print or as a video.

Role descriptions should be consistent across your organisation and follow your volunteer policy.

Use them to:

  • give volunteers more information than you can give in person
  • allow them to compare a role with their skills and expectations
  • help you measure their performance
  • help others understand how the role applies to theirs.

What to include in a role description

A role description should include:

  • title of role
  • aims and expectations of role
  • an outline of the role's tasks and responsibilities
  • role boundaries and any activities volunteers need to avoid
  • who to ask about changes to the role (for example making a role home-based if that helps someone to volunteer)
  • if you will pay expenses and for what
  • performance targets or measures.

You could include:

  • the name of the person the volunteer reports to
  • why a new volunteer might like to take up the opportunity
  • location and hours
  • how the role fits with the organisation's work
  • expectations of behaviour and dress (if appropriate)
  • essential and desirable skills and qualifications
  • required person specifications (if appropriate)
  • how to find out about other opportunities.

Volunteer role descriptions can look a lot like job descriptions. They are not. Instead, they describe unpaid roles and should only describe expectations of a role.

You must be careful not to imply a volunteer is under contract to perform specific tasks. If it looks like you treat them as an employee, they may be eligible for full employment rights. You could also find yourself in breach of employment law.

Giving volunteers a good experience

When writing your role description, make sure it offers a good volunteering experience. This will make sure the role is attractive to new volunteers.

In January 2019 NCVO published its Time Well Spent report on volunteering. This found eight things that make up a good experience for volunteers.

  • Inclusive of everyone
  • Flexible around people's lives
  • Impactful and makes a difference
  • Connected to others, the cause and the organisation
  • Balanced, doesn't overburden the volunteer
  • Enjoyable and makes people feel good
  • Voluntary, not an obligation
  • Meaningful to volunteers' lives, interests and priorities

Check your role description against this list to make sure it will appeal to new volunteers.

Last reviewed: 12 April 2021

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 12 April 2021

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