Volunteer work has become increasingly responsible, sophisticated, and complex. There are many excellent reasons to write policies around voluntary action in nonprofit organizations. Such policies can be used to establish continuity, to ensure fairness and equity, to clarify values and beliefs, to communicate expectations, to specify standards, and to state rules. Read on as we share six important principles of writing volunteer policies.
Write as much as is required to be clear and comprehensive. Remember, however, that the longer the policies and the thicker the policy manual, the more intimidating it will be and the less likely that it will be read and used regularly.
Take great care to ensure that the policies developed convey precisely and completely what is intended. Do no assume that people reading and applying policies will understand them to mean what was intended. Avoid technical terminology and jargon.
Policies should very clearly tell people what is expected. Although one would hope for complete compliance with all policies, it is obvious that compliance with some policies is much more important than with others. Therefore, some policies may be more strongly worded and authoritative than others.
Be careful not to lose sight of the fact that the subject of policy development being discussed here is the work of volunteers. For this reason, the tone of many policies in the volunteer department should very consciously be softened to be as palatable and inoffensive as possible. Be sure to convey a deep respect for the rights and dignity of volunteers, which still getting your message across.
Emphasize the Positives
Whenever possible, policies should motivate, enable, and inspire. They should articulate outside limits, leaving as much room as possible for flexibility and creativity. The presence of supportive and enabling policies can provide the encouragement and recognition that volunteers require to maximize their potential. Policies can demonstrate just how important the work is and the very real consequences of error when standards are not attained.
Do not hesitate to draw pictures, illustrate steps and sequences, or sketch methods or techniques. Diagrams and other graphic additions make the manual more pleasing to read, but more to the point, convey specific details that words sometimes cannot.
Does your volunteer program utilize policies? Let us know how in the comments below.