The style and frequency of supervision will depend to a large extent on the roles that volunteers do.  Counsellors, for example, will require regular, formal clinical supervision by a suitably qualified person.  Other roles will require a less formal arrangement, but it is good practice to have some form of regular supervision in place.

In determining the frequency, consider the following:

  • The number of hours that the volunteer works
  • The nature and demands of the volunteering role
  • How long the volunteer has been involved

It is important that all volunteers who work similar hours and in similar roles, have the same supervision arrangements. 

Volunteers may not always see the need for supervision, particularly if it involves an extra commitment outside of their usual volunteering hours. Help them to see it as their individual chance to give feedback and receive input, rather than as you checking up on them.  Remember that volunteers may be extremely competent in their role and may also have been with the organisation for longer than many staff.  Try to arrange sessions at times when they would usually volunteer.  If it has to be outside of this, then make it clear that travel expenses will be reimbursed and try to be as flexible as possible about time and location.  A telephone call at a mutually agreed time may be an acceptable option.

Aims of a supervision session

For the group or organisation to gain:

  • An improved understanding of the tasks and issues involved in volunteering for each part of the group or organisation
  • A perception of how things are going
  • To hear the volunteers' views and ideas of the development of the group or organisation

For the volunteer to gain:

  • Direction from the volunteer coordinator, Management Committee or Trustees
  • Feedback on their work
  • Support and advice

Running the session

  • Set aside enough time to ensure that everything is covered
  • Make sure you will not be interrupted
  • Choose an appropriate venue - this does not have to be your office.  Consider a meeting  place convenient for the volunteer such as a local coffee shop
  • Keep notes of what was discussed and let volunteers have a copy

Using self evaluation as part of supervision

People learn best when they see for themselves what needs to change.  The questions you ask during supervision can prompt this process.  Include questions such as:

  • What has gone well/what do you like about what you did?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • What support do you need from me/others?

Giving feedback

Part of the session will also involve giving feedback on a volunteers work.  Useful, constructive feedback should be:

  • Specific
  • Descriptive
  • Remedy-seeking, as opposed to blame seeking
  • Well-timed and current
  • Checked for understanding