Voluntary Sector Support Guidance

Recruiting volunteers

Volunteers are hugely important to the success of any community organisation. From local toddler groups to national charities, volunteers can take on many different roles.

When recruiting a volunteer to support your work it’s crucial to set out the expectations of the role from the beginning. Bear in mind that some volunteering roles can involve working with children or perhaps adults who could be vulnerable. It’s really important that volunteers are recruited safely. To underpin volunteer safe recruitment you should have a robust policy in place.

Safe recruitment of staff, volunteers and trustees

When recruiting support for your organisation including trustees and other volunteers, it may be helpful for your organisation to have a safe recruitment policy which includes the following.

Volunteer role descriptions

It’s important that you’re clear about the volunteering role you’re recruiting to. Having a role description for each different role enables you to set out the expectations and to clarify boundaries.


You should carry out interviews for potential new volunteers. For a volunteer position this would most likely be quite informal. It is often helpful to ask a safeguarding question of prospective volunteers. For example, ‘What is your understanding of safeguarding?’ This will help you identify any potential training needs.


It is standard practice to ask for references, including for volunteers. References should be used alongside information you gather in the interview process to help build a bigger picture of the person potentially joining your team.

DBS Checks

Depending on the role you’re recruiting to, you may need to undertake a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, previously known as a Criminal Records Check (CRB). Only individuals undertaking what is known as ‘Regulated Activity’ require a DBS check. It is your responsibility to ensure that only the appropriate people are DBS checked. In accordance with Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) procedures, it is also your responsibility to report any individual(s) to the DBS who come to your attention negatively during the recruitment process.

Induction, probation and training

All volunteers should have an induction which will include an overview of important topics such as health and safety and safeguarding. Subsequent training should be appropriate to each role. It’s also quite common for volunteers to start their role on a probationary period (eg six months). Having a probationary period is a two way process, it allows volunteers to ‘road test’ their position with you too.

Support and supervision

Depending on the roles of your volunteers / staff, they will need different levels of ongoing support and supervision. For example, a volunteer at a one off event probably doesn’t need weekly or monthly supervision. However a volunteer befriender working with families weekly would definitely need regular supervision. Supervision can be formal or informal, but it’s very important that all volunteers understand what support is there for them, and what to do if they have any worries or concerns.

Volunteer role descriptions

All volunteers should have a volunteer role description. This should set out simple expectations of the role and boundaries around it.

Be descriptive if you can, for example if you are writing a volunteer be-friending role description, outline where be-friending sessions should and should not take place. Include information on checking in and out with the volunteer manager or supervisor. Be careful that the role description does not become a job description, legally volunteers are not employees. You can find lots more information on the NCVO website.


Training is an ongoing process with initial training needs often established during the induction process.

Training should be proportionate to the role, it’s important that volunteers are valued and offering relevant courses is one way in which you can support this.

People volunteer for many different reasons. Some people volunteer to build their skills and experience to enhance their CV. People in this position may be keen to attend training which could help them into employment. This can be tricky for voluntary organisations, as time and resources may have been invested in a volunteer and you will be keen to keep them involved.

At the very least volunteers should to be briefed on Equal Opportunities and Safeguarding within your organisation. It may be that volunteers also need basic ‘First Aid Training’, ‘Food Hygiene’ or ‘Dealing with Difficult People’ training. You may be able to provide some training in house, however you might also need to find specialist courses externally.


No matter what the volunteering role, all volunteers should be included under your organisation’s insurance policy.

Further support

The Voluntary Sector Support team are here to help you so please get in touch if you have any questions.

For more information about supervision, retaining volunteers and expenses, visit the NCVO website.