Volunteer agreements

Volunteer agreements

Many organisations choose to use a formal document as a means of recording expectations and any agreed commitment between themselves and a volunteer.  If used, it should be a two way agreement, detailing what each party can expect of the other.  Often this is phrased in terms of “rights and responsibilities” or “hopes and expectations”.

The agreement is not a contract, neither is it legally binding and care should be taken not to imply either.  There are arguments both for and against using a Volunteer Agreement and no recommendation is being made.

Reasons for using an agreement

  • Provides a written understanding of the relationship between the volunteer and the organisation
  • Clearly sets out what the volunteer can expect from the organisation
  • Seeks to ensure that the volunteer understands and will honour the commitment they have made to the organisation

Reasons against using an agreement

  • Risk that the agreement may be interpreted as a contract thus potentially bringing volunteers under employment legislation
  • The information may be duplicated in other places such as a Volunteer Policy or handbook
  • As the agreement is not binding it may be of limited use

Typically in an agreement an organisation might commit to –

  • Provide a written description of the volunteers role
  • Provide a full induction and any training necessary for the role
  • Provide a named supervisor or person the volunteer can go to for support
  • Reimburse out of pocket expenses
  • Provide a safe working environment
  • Treat volunteers in line with its equal opportunities policy
  • Provide insurance cover for volunteers

Volunteers might be expected to –

  • Work within the policies and procedures of the organisation including health and safety, equal opportunities and confidentiality
  • Work within the boundaries of their role description
  • Honour mutually agreed time commitments and let the organisation know if they are unable to volunteer for any reason

What else to include

In their publication “Volunteers and the Law”, Volunteering England suggest the following wording is used -

“This agreement is not intended to be a legally binding contract between us and may be cancelled at any time at the discretion of either party.  Neither of us intend any employment relationship to be created either now or at any time in the future.”

Signing agreements

Some organisations like to have signed agreements.  In such cases it is doubly important to ensure that it is clear that the agreement is intended to be binding in honour only.  Otherwise it would be a reasonable question to ask: if you do not intend it to be a binding document, then why do you need signatures?