Someone has complained to me about one of our volunteers. What should I do?

From time to time as a volunteer manager, people may complain to you about the behaviour or performance of a volunteer. This complaint could come from another volunteer, a participant at your group or event, or a member of the public.

If someone has complained to you about any suspected criminal activity, it should be taken seriously and reported to the police.

In relation to any safeguarding issues, you should follow your club’s safeguarding procedure. For more information on these, visit Club Matters via the link below.

If someone reports any other unlawful activities, you should seek legal advice.

If the complaint involves other issues regarding the volunteer’s behaviour or performance, you will then need to establish whether the complaint is reasonable. Sometimes it may be more a clash of personalities than the behaviour of one individual which has led to a complaint. If this is the case you should try and resolve it with the individual that has complained. It may be as simple as assigning different tasks at different times.

It may be that the complaint is reasonable but the volunteer has not been given information or guidance they need to understand their role and how they should behave in it. Having volunteer agreements in place will be useful here, as they will state not only how volunteers will ideally behave but also how they ought to be treated by your organisation. You should consider if you have made your expectations about conduct or performance clear to the volunteer.

If it’s your organisation that needs to better communicate expectations, you should explain that you’re aware the volunteer has been unable to perform the task as well as expected and that you aim to provide better support that will change this. You should then put this in place. If the volunteer’s behaviour is at fault in spite of the fact you have made expectations clear to them. then you should explain this to the volunteer, referring to the volunteer agreement if they signed one.

It’s helpful to have a complaints procedure that covers complaints by and about volunteers which you can refer to in these situations. This should be separate to any procedure you have for paid employees.

Volunteer Scotland has a good practice guide on challenging volunteer situations.

See the following links for more information:

Club Matters - Child protection

Volunteer Scotland - Good practice guide