Do You Have, or Better Yet, Need a Volunteer Handbook?

Guest Post by Mimi Soule with Schneider Law Group

What is a volunteer handbook and why should your organization consider adopting one? A volunteer handbook – similar to an employee handbook – it’s a collection of policies and practices that apply solely to an organization’s volunteer staff and that explain the duties, responsibilities and overall principals governing a volunteer’s participation.  A volunteer handbook serves two primary purposes: (1) to provide volunteers with a simple guide to reference during their service to ensure that they effectively complete their job duties in accordance with the organization’s expectations and requirements; and (2) to reduce the likelihood of undue risk, liability and damage to an organization’s public reputation, as a result of a volunteer’s improper or unlawful conduct.

The necessary policies in an organization’s volunteer handbook will vary organization by organization depending on a variety of factors, such as whether volunteers will be working with minors or the elderly, whether volunteers will be exposed to confidential information (e.g., medical information), or whether volunteers will be involved in communicating directly with the public.  Generally, however, most volunteer handbooks should include the following provisions:

  • Overview of the Organization’s Mission or Purpose
  • Volunteer Service Options, including a description of the duties and responsibilities of each service option
  • Orientation and Training Requirements
  • Standards of Conduct, covering matters such as harassment, discrimination, and violence
  • Customer Service Requirements, often a code of conduct to be used when communicating with the public, such as courtesy, respect, or having a neat appearance
  • Media Policy, explaining whether or how volunteers should communicate with the media during an event
  • Emergency Procedures and Safety, including how to report accidents or injuries
  • Use of the Organization’s Equipment or Assets, including telephones, Internet or e-mail
  • Attendance Requirements, including call-in procedures if a volunteer is unable to provide scheduled services
  • Expense Reimbursement Procedures, including what types of expenses are reimbursable, how to request reimbursement, and how the organization provides reimbursements

As part of a volunteer’s orientation or training, all volunteers should be educated on the organization’s policies and be required to acknowledge in writing their understanding of all such  requirements and policies.  Further, in some situations, in order to reduce the risk of liability from claims asserted by volunteers or the public, organizations should consider also requiring volunteers to sign confidentiality agreements or waivers of certain types of legal claims.

If you have any questions about creating a volunteer handbook, confidentiality agreements or waivers, please contact Mimi Soule with Schneider Law Group at or 919-342-3604.  For more information about Mimi, please see her biography on the firm’s website at