Developing Policies and Proceedures

What is policy?

Volunteer-involving groups or organisations tend to work within the parameters of this framework:

Constitution or Memorandum and Articles of Association
Vision and/or Mission Statements
Day to day work

Organisations can have policies on any number of subjects, including staffing, health and safety, equal opportunities, finance, etc.  Policies are a statement of the ethos and values of an organisation.  They define a boundary within which things are acceptable.

They also clarify roles, relationships and responsibilities and they can serve as a basis for decision-making.  Policies tell people what to do in any given situation; procedures tell them how to do it.  Policies are frequently unwritten, but written policies are preferable, for many reasons, including:

  • they force the organisation to think strategically and act professionally;
  • they ensure continuity over time;
  • they are given greater importance and therefore assure more compliance;
  • they make sure there is less chance of misinterpretation.

Remember that not everyone can read and also make provision for those with literacy difficulties.

Reasons to define policies for volunteer involvement 

  • All organisations make policy decisions regularly. They just do not call them policies, and they often do not write them down. So, writing your policies can be a simple matter of formalising decisions which have already been made.
  • Many policies are developed because of crises or problems.  When something goes wrong, it becomes apparent that a position or policy is needed, either to decide what to do now, or to prevent the situation from recurring.  So policies determine action and set boundaries beyond which you cannot go.
  • Policies clarify responsibilities and define lines of communication and accountability.
  • Policies provide a structure for sound management. Since they often identify the 'what' and sometimes even the 'how,' they can bring about group or organisational improvements and increase effectiveness.
  • Policies ensure continuity over time.  In this sense, policies endure.  They promote equity and consistency.
  • Policies help establish values, beliefs and directions for volunteer involvement.  They connect the volunteer programme to the larger organisation and its aims and objectives.
  • Policies can be a source of pride and satisfaction. They articulate the importance of volunteers and form an important, concrete, ongoing element of volunteer recognition.  Policies thereby contribute to increased volunteer satisfaction and productiveness, and enhance volunteer retention.

Principles of sound and professional volunteer co-ordination are equally important.  Policies and good management inform and support one another.  Both are critical to successful, responsible, and safe volunteering within an organisation.