Should our volunteers have role descriptions?

You’re not legally obliged to provide a written role description for your volunteers, but there are occasions when it can be helpful. Here are a few considerations to make that will help you to decide:

Does the role involve formal responsibilities?

The chair of your club and the person who makes the tea on Saturday mornings are both volunteers. However, the chair is responsible for the overall running of your organisation, while your tea-maker is not. If a role involves formally conferring responsibilities onto somebody (which could be to do with health and safety, safeguarding, managing money or enforcing the rules of the club), then it’s good practice for them to have a role description.

Is your volunteer helping with a one-off task or will they be working with you for the long-term?

If you ask someone to help with your accounts once, for example, then they may not need a job description because a) they’re an accountant and already know how to do the task and b) once the task is complete they will stop volunteering for you in this way. If you’re asking someone to be your treasurer however, then a role description will serve as an ongoing reminder of the scope of their role.

Is the volunteering role at a one-off event?

If the answer is yes, a role description will be useful when you advertise for, and train your volunteers. Your volunteers only have a limited time in which to understand their role, and writing it down will help with this.

When you write a volunteer role description, it’s important you make it clear it’s not a paid job description and that the volunteer is in no way contractually obliged to perform any of the tasks. See the section on the differences between employees and volunteers for more information on this.

See the following links for more information:

Volunteer Scotland - Volunteer role descriptions

NCVO - Writing role descriptions

Club Matters - Templates for key volunteer roles

England and Wales Cricket Board - Bank of role templates

Sport England - What is the difference between employees and volunteers?