How to Create Volunteer Roles & Responsibilities for your Nonprofit | Track It Forward

How to Create Volunteer Roles & Responsibilities for your Nonprofit

Written by James McBryan

Are you working on a volunteer handbook, a volunteer job posting, or simply a volunteer agreement? We have articles on all these topics, however, if you're looking for more information on what you can and cannot list as a volunteer duty or responsibility, then you're on the right page.

Volunteer duties and responsibilities vary depending on each specific organization. However, there are a few basic responsibilities, regardless of the organization, that each volunteer is subject to:

When creating role responsibilities

1. Set expectations on what is the bare minimum to keep the role, such as:

  • Keeping internal information confidential
  • Respecting staff members
  • Accepting and following rules and guidelines of the volunteer role
  • Completing duties promptly
  • Logging volunteer hours 
  • Being willing to learn and participate in meeting and training programs
  • Communicating when not able to attend a shift


2. Set expectations on what is considered going above and beyond. This will help you separate the average volunteers and the really ambitious ones. Knowing what is considered going above and beyond can also help prevent burnout because volunteers don't feel like they aren't doing enough.

  • Assisting with organization sponsored event supervision
  • Volunteering beyond the expected times
  • Logging more hours than required
  • Donating funds and in-kind donations


Volunteer roles typically DO NOT include 

  • Full-time, consistent schedule
  • Compensation
  • A legal binding contract
  • Punishment for lack of attendance
  • Age or experience limitations


Difference between paid employees and unpaid volunteers

Employees and volunteers are not created equal. Even if they are with the same organization, their roles vary greatly.  According to Energize Inc., there are 3 main differences between employees and volunteers: the work available to them, the hours they work and why they work. 

Available work

Paid employees are subject to labor laws & salary budgets.  Employees are limited to a specific job, usually have restrictions on how many hours they can work, and the employer always has a budget for them. However, volunteers have unlimited work opportunities, a nonprofit is always looking for more volunteers, and they will hardly ever stop taking in volunteers. 

The hours they work

Regardless of the type of job, employees typically have some sort of set schedule, on average between 20 and 40 hours a week. There may be some exceptions, however, employees typically have business hours or standards to when they will be working. However, volunteers don’t have those boundaries. Some nonprofits will ask volunteers to come in during certain business hours, however, most times, volunteers “give” their time whenever they’re available and a lot of times without consistency or a schedule. 

The reasons they work

Paid employees have financial necessities and obligations that they need to meet. Sure, they may be just a passionate as volunteers, however, for them, at the end of the day, this is how they make a living. However, volunteers work for various different reasons - passion, networking, hobbies, altruism etc. They do this in addition to their day job, so it’s more of a choice than a necessity. 

Knowing your volunteer's schedule, the things that you need help with and the reasons why your volunteers want to join your organization will help you determine that minimum and expected responsibilities, as well as what is considered going above and beyond. As long as you set up your expectations up front, your chances of being disappointed will be lower!