All the information you need, all in one place. We’re still working on some exciting features, so you won’t be able to login or pay online just yet. But don’t worry! All of our amazing content is open and you can make payments as you usually would. Browse our help and guidance
Volunteers bring many benefits to organisations, but sometimes there are problems.
Taking fast, fair action to solve issues reduces the risk that volunteers will leave. It also reduces risks to the organisation's reputation.
Problems you might face with your volunteers could include:
More serious problems carry a reputational risk to the organisation. These could include:
Problems with volunteers often aren't very different to problems with paid staff. But you'll need to handle them in a different way.
It’s important to have a problem-solving process for volunteers. This makes it clear to staff and volunteers what to do if something goes wrong.
This should be separate from a disciplinary and grievance process for paid staff. It can link to your complaints process, which you should share with your volunteers.
Your problem-solving process should cover:
Talk to the volunteer and find out the facts. If the problem involves several volunteers, try to speak to all involved.
If you are investigating a problem:
Once you understand the issue, you can work out the best course of action.
If it's difficult for you to remain fair and objective, involve someone else in the process.
Explain to the volunteer what the problem is and the impact it has had. They may be unaware of the issue and drawing their attention to it could fix things.
Avoid blaming the volunteer, as the problem may not be their fault. Approach it as trying to tackle the problem together.
Decide with the volunteer what they would like to happen and how you'll try to solve the problem. Involving volunteers in the solution will help make it a success.
Finally, agree when and how you will review progress.
Be flexible and open to doing things in a different way. Here are some solutions you could try.
If the problem doesn't improve, you'll need to try another solution. Set a time to review things again.
You'll need to be clear with the volunteer what will happen if the problem isn’t solved. For more serious problems, you might need to dismiss the volunteer.
If there's no improvement, it's likely the volunteer will decide to leave by themselves. Try to handle this as well as possible. Make sure they are clear about the process and what you've done to try and solve the problem.
See our guidance on dismissing a volunteer.
Problems are an opportunity to learn and think about how to do things better. This will help you avoid issues in future.
Last reviewed: 12 April 2021Help us improve this content
Learn about different volunteer management systems and how to choose one for your organisation
Guidance on volunteers from overseas
Guidance on holding and protecting data on volunteers
Things to consider when paid staff want to volunteer for the organisation that employs them
A free online tool for volunteer-involving groups and organisations
How to use NCVO's financial procedures manual template
Guidance around copyright and volunteers
Guidance and policies to consider when using volunteer drivers
Get regular updates on NCVO's help, support and services