Volunteering will fulfil the mission for which it was established by the organisation. The organisation must know the person well, and the person must know the organisation well.
Brining volunteers into an organisation is a delicate moment when, too often, not enough attention is paid. Organisations are always busy and want to speed up the onboarding of volunteers; they want them to get working as quickly as possible. Volunteers are generally given some basic instructions, and things will be taken from there.
Once the onboarding has started, when the best candidates have been selected to perform the job, four basic steps should be followed to complete the process.
The first step is to comply with all legal requirements. Fill in the commitment form of volunteers that shall govern the relation and limits is fundamental. At the same time, when working with minors, it is essential to fill in a sexual offence form. Although it may seem obvious, too often we rush through these procedures and these documents are left for a “more convenient moment” that never arrives.
Next, time must be taken to explain to a volunteer the nature of the organisation they are joining; it’s history and goals. This may have been outlines during the initial interview, but now is the time to dig into the details. Knowing where we come from will help us know where we are at present, why things are done a certain way, and what is the underlying spirit behind an organisation. Organisations that forget their past often run the risk of providing services without knowing why it was created in the first place.
Linked to this last point, a third step is to explain and help volunteers to understand the organisation’s culture. It isn’t about going through the organisational chart and decision-making processes –which are also important– but more about trying to convey those elements that are difficult to see at first sight on paper, what makes the organisation different from the rest and what is in its DNA. Of course, some experiences must be lived first-hand, but running through this with support will make the process easier.
The final essential step when onboarding volunteers is to encourage them to get to know the rest of the team. Even if they won’t be working together, it is always good for people to know each other; it fosters a sense of belonging and ownership and avoids creating silos where people don’t mix.
Generally speaking, volunteers are at the front line of an organisation, they carry the mission for which the organisation was created, so a lot is at stake with the onboarding process. Not only for them and the associations and foundations they are joining, but also for all the beneficiaries of the organisation’s actions.
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