Human resource and volunteer management for community organisations

Use this page to find out about human resource and volunteer management for community organisations including recruitment, training, rewards and recognition, and resolving disputes and conflicts.

'Human resources': defined

The people involved in your organisation make up your 'human resources'. Every person, whether paid or unpaid, has a role to play and helps contribute to your success.

Volunteers continue to play a vital role in managing and operating community, sports and recreation organisations and delivering the services and participation opportunities these organisations provide. Their contribution significantly reduces the financial cost of service provision. There are also challenges facing volunteer-led community organisations.

Human resource management

Human resource management principles should apply to managing volunteer and paid staff.

Effective human resource management involves:

  • recruitment, selection and screening
  • training and induction
  • volunteer/staff management
  • rewards and recognition
  • resolving disputes and conflict.

Recruitment, selection and screening

The recruitment, selection and screening of all roles in your organisation, both paid and unpaid, is an important process that requires time and effort. You should consider people within your organisation for volunteer roles, as well as people outside your organisation in the local community.

When recruiting volunteers:

  • do it face-to-face (where possible)
  • be respectful
  • provide information about the role, time commitment and task delivery.

Be aware that some roles need to be elected, or may need to be appointed as per your organisation's constitution (e.g. becoming a committee member).

Aim to spread the load. Create opportunities for people to step up into roles and provide training and support for them to undertake the role. 

Be ready and have opportunities available for people who want to volunteer.

To ensure the longevity of your organisation:

  • ask people to be involved
  • capture members' skills and experience
  • have a volunteer coordinator role.

If you are consistently unable to find enough volunteers and are struggling to deliver your services or maintain your facilities, your committee should reconsider the future of the organisation and how the facilities could be best used by the community.

Roles and responsibilities

Separate governance roles (i.e. management committee roles) from operational roles (e.g. canteen coordination, coaching, refereeing). Where possible, choose people most suited to a role (in terms of skills, experience and interest).

Provide position descriptions that clearly define the responsibilities, tasks and accountabilities of each role and aim to attract the right people. 

Make sure your organisation:

  • hasn't made it too difficult for people to volunteer
  • has roles ready for people who put their hand up to volunteer
  • is flexible (e.g. provides opportunities for people to volunteer online)
  • knows the end goal and is focused on the outcome to be achieved, rather than the 'how' and 'when'.

Visit roles and responsibilities for more information on developing position descriptions and creating sub-committees.

Selection and screening

Develop a selection and screening process for all positions within your organisation to ensure the suitability of people for roles and to meet any legal, privacy, skill and qualification/certification requirements to ensure the safety of participants. For example:

  • anyone working with young people requires a Blue Card to comply with child protection legislation
  • if you require a new treasurer, try to select someone who has accounting skills and experience.

Training and induction

It is important you make everyone who volunteers within your organisation feel welcome and confident in their role.

Once you have selected an appropriate person for a role, ensure you provide them with enough information, training and guidance for them to feel confident and capable in the role. Provide position descriptions, background information, codes of conduct, organisational goals and plans and training support. You should involve them, where appropriate, in decision making and organisational planning.

The provision of ongoing training and support to all volunteers is critical as continued learning opportunities enable people to develop confidence, strengthen their sense of value and stay motivated.

Training and support can be both formal and informal. Look at what best fits the role to determine the most suitable training delivery method/s. When delivering informal training such as on-the-job training, ensure adequate supervision is provided to enable the best learning outcomes.

Developing a training and education plan for volunteers can enhance your effectiveness when introducing new people to their roles.

Volunteer management

People who volunteer are commonly inspired and motivated by the benefits derived from volunteering such as personal satisfaction, social contact, the use of skills and experience, and the opportunity to learn new skills and gain work experience.

While effective systems and processes underpin good organisational governance, it is important to remember that organisations also rely on people participation and good relationships.

Remember, the main reason people volunteer is because they want to. It makes them feel good and they want to give back.

Analyse your organisation's current volunteer situation to determine your future volunteering needs and identify any volunteering-related issues your organisation faces.

To effectively manage your volunteers, it is recommended you:

  • have a dedicated volunteer coordinator within your organisation to oversee your volunteer needs, training and education requirements and support resources
  • have position descriptions, resources and training support in place
  • respect volunteer's rights and engage them in a way that reflects Volunteering Australia's Model Code of Practice for Organisations Involving Volunteer Staff
  • recognise and reward volunteers in meaningful ways to acknowledge their valuable contribution
  • resolve any disputes or conflicts in a timely, transparent and respectful manner.

While volunteers are unpaid, they still have legislative and moral rights. Refer to Volunteering Australia's volunteer rights and checklist for more information about how volunteers should be treated and their rights when participating as a volunteer.

The Model Code of Practice provides advice on:

  • ways to engage and support volunteers
  • delivering a positive volunteer experience
  • how to comply with legislative and duty of care requirements
  • developing position descriptions, grievance and disciplinary policies and procedures
  • offering professional development opportunities
  • acknowledging volunteer contributions.

It is important to remember:

  • you don't need to change your legal structure to change your organisational structure
  • to value people's time - every hour invested should be meaningful for both the volunteer and your organisation.

Online volunteering

The inclusion of online volunteering opportunities can significantly increase your volunteering options, increase interest, and enhance your operations. While online volunteering should not replace face-to-face volunteering, it should be factored into human resource planning. The opportunity for people to help maintain websites, perform online research, develop grant applications and sponsorship proposals, as well as assist with social media, communications and online marketing, can have a significant impact on your organisation. 

Online technology can also enable volunteers to stay in touch more often. Systems to support feedback, organisational updates and reminders, as well as the receipt of progress reports and timesheets, can enhance a volunteer's contribution and longevity. You can even create secure chat groups to discuss volunteering and organisational matters.

Be mindful that the same success factors that contribute to face-to-face volunteering success, also apply to online volunteering. Remember to ensure your online volunteers feel just as valued, respected and motivated as face-to-face volunteers.

Visit the Our Community website for more information on online volunteering.

Succession planning

Nowadays, due to busy lives, there are fewer volunteers available and more bureaucracy and paperwork. 

People may want to help your organisation, but don't know how to engage with you about how they could or would like to help.

Succession planning involves identifying, training and involving people to take over committee or volunteer positions within your organisation. It also requires knowing how to engage members and the local community to volunteer.

Read more about succession planning.

Rewards and recognition

It is important to recognise the valuable contribution of all volunteers within your organisation. By valuing your volunteers, you are not only thanking them for their contribution, you encourage them to continue participating, foster a deeper connection, create a supportive culture and increase the likelihood of them encouraging others to get involved.

It is important your organisation recognises the value of:

  • informal recognition to maintain morale and retain skilled volunteers
  • providing meaningful ways to formally acknowledge volunteers with the aim of maintaining a positive working environment and culture
  • reducing the impact of increasing obligations on volunteer involvement
  • promoting volunteering options such as online volunteering.

Reward and recognition options

You can reward and recognise volunteers in many ways, including:

  • providing all the tools, resources and support necessary to do their role
  • reimbursing them for any out-of-pocket expenses
  • involving them in your organisation's planning and goal setting and listening to their ideas
  • keeping them informed and communicating with them
  • letting people know when they've done a good job and sharing this with others
  • thanking them directly or publicly when they have 'gone the extra mile' to help out
  • having noticeboard space for recognising and highlighting volunteer achievements
  • celebrating National Volunteer Week and International Volunteers Day
  • inviting them to attend special events
  • providing awards, certificates or gift vouchers
  • providing volunteer support
  • providing training, skills development and professional development opportunities
  • enabling them to 'step up' and take on other responsibilities they are interested in doing
  • being flexible and respecting their personal needs.

Visit the Our Community website for more information on valuing volunteers.

Resolving disputes and conflict

Unfortunately, all organisations encounter disputes or conflicts that need to be managed from time to time. The reality is, issues do occur, and people do have a right to raise their concerns, be listened to and have them dealt with.

There may be internal disputes (e.g. between your management committee, members and your organisation, or even employees and your organisation, or external, where your organisation as a whole may be in conflict with another person or organisation). In any case, these situations can be stressful for everyone involved. It is crucial your organisation takes the correct steps when a dispute or conflict arises to ensure it is resolved as quickly and amicably as possible.

Terminating conflict in a way that doesn't address the issue or cause of the conflict can result in it re-emerging and causing negative impacts on your organisation such as committee or participant disruption and fractures, poor culture and loss of members.

All Queensland incorporated associations are required by law to have rules and procedures for dealing with disputes and grievances. Refer to the rules and procedures contained in your organisation's constitution (or rules), as well as the Associations Incorporation Act 1981 (Qld) and Associations Incorporation Regulation 1999 to guide you.

To reduce any unnecessary stress or frustration, your organisation should also have a disputes and conflict resolution policy in place. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) recommends that organisations appoint someone to be responsible for receiving and dealing with any disputes or complaints that arise and to have a process in place for recording and reporting on the outcomes of any issues or complaints received.

If an issue does arise, the first thing you need to do is clarify what the dispute or conflict is, when it occurred, who was involved and what actions have been taken. This information will determine what rules or procedures apply and how the issue should be handled. Once you have established what the issue is, your organisation must adhere to the rules that apply and ensure the appropriate steps and procedures are followed.

Depending on the issue, you must also consider any other laws or regulations that relate to the matter (e.g. disputes involving employees or workplace health and safety matters). If the situation involves the Police, then criminal laws may also apply. Where there is a risk of your organisation being taken to court, you may need to engage a lawyer.

It is important to recognise that dispute procedures are different from disciplinary procedures under your organisation's constitution. Disciplinary procedures apply to specific circumstances that involve steps to suspend, fine, or remove a member from the organisation, whereas dispute procedures are focused on addressing an issue or conflict.

If you find you can't resolve a situation, you may choose to get help via a special general meeting, in accordance with your constitution, to discuss and resolve the issue. You may also consider having an impartial person, independent from your organisation, to oversee the meeting.

If you do require a mediator (an independent, neutral third party or person who has no decision making power), you can access mediation and support services such as the Australian Mediation Association and Queensland Dispute Resolution Centres. Find out more about mediation on our Governance and committee management page. The OFT does not get involved in resolving internal disputes.

Be aware, if your organisation does not follow its constitution (and rules), the result may not be legal, and your organisation could be taken to court. This can be very time consuming and costly, as only the Supreme Court of Queensland can intervene in the operation of an incorporated association.

Dispute resolution resources and support

  • Not-for-profit Law - program of Justice Connect that provides advice for community organisations on disputes and conflict including complaint handling, external and internal conflict and mediation
  • Community Door - visit their website for information on resolving conflict including ways to minimise or resolve conflict, information on informal and formal conflict resolution, and dispute resolution templates.
  • Play by the Rules - provides a range of resources, templates and information for sports organisations on complaints handling, complaint procedures, and how to respond. A complaint handling online course is also available.

For sport and recreation organisations, there is also a network of Member Protection Information Officers (MPIOs) across Australia to help people understand the complaints handling process. While they do not handle the complaint, they can provide guidance about what to do. Their role is to provide information about a person's rights, responsibilities and options, as well as support organisations through the process. To find out more, contact your Queensland sports and recreation organisation.

Volunteer schemes

Some organisations use volunteer schemes or levies to provide incentives for volunteers (e.g. offering discounted membership fees in return for undertaking volunteer roles).

It is worth investing some time researching how various volunteer schemes work to determine if they align with, or could be modified to suit, your volunteer management processes. While they can be successful, be mindful that such schemes can be difficult to manage and may not adequately value volunteer work.

Employing people

Investigate the feasibility of employing people to undertake some on-going tasks. Employing people to undertake bookkeeping, data entry, cleaning, mowing and kitchen operations can significantly improve your operations and can also free up volunteers to focus on strategic decision making to improve the viability and effectiveness of the organisation. It may also be appropriate to employ people to deliver activities, undertake coaching, or to coordinate other areas of your operations, depending on the scale and size of your organisation.

Be mindful to consider the responsibilities of people who are paid for their work with those who aren't. Things volunteers might be asked to do may include working bees, annual clean ups and asset inspections. To be able to pay for work to be done by non-volunteers, you need good budgeting, business practices and an appropriate fee structure. 

If you're looking to move from being a volunteer-only organisation to an organisation that also manages employees, you need to consider:

  • your organisational structure and if necessary, make changes to support paid employees
  • the tipping point for needing employees instead of volunteers
  • employing people that are the right fit for your organisation
  • how you communicate to the organisation about why you are paying people to do certain roles and what their responsibilities and accountabilities are.

Becoming an employer also involves:

  • legal obligations such as compliance with the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld) and Fair Work Act 2009 (Commonwealth)
  • having a workplace health and safety program in place
  • determining each position status (i.e is it full time, part time, casual, contractor) and the relevant taxation that applies
  • superannuation, workcover and long service leave
  • human resource and performance management.

To support not-for-profit organisations to attract, recruit, onboard and retain employees Our Community and HESTA created the Good Jobs: Great HR resource. The employer resources section helps organisations throughout the job lifecycle, provides tools to improve and streamline the selection, induction and ongoing development of employees and offers templates and guides to help you with your human resources practices and policies.

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