Volunteer job descriptions are hugely important for successful volunteer outreach and retention in nonprofit organizations. You must strive to have effective, well-written volunteer job descriptions.
This is for a few key reasons:
- A well-written job description provides clarity to volunteers and sets expectations for their roles.
- Effective job descriptions enhance volunteer recruitment by showing volunteers that you value their work and respect them enough to give them clear roles. Poorly written job descriptions can seem, at best, unprofessional and, at worst, sneaky, like you’re trying to get more out of volunteers than you’re letting on. Well-written ones immediately show new volunteers you are transparent and trustworthy.
- Because these descriptions can set a strong foundation with volunteers, minimizes turnover and improves retention.
- Well-written job descriptions set a tone of professionalism and transparency for your organization—which are traits you want to showcase!
All these together mean that well-written volunteer job descriptions set the stage for successful volunteer engagement. You seem more trustworthy and transparent and volunteers know exactly what they’re getting into, which means they feel more comfortable and respected.
But how do you write a good job description?
The Key Elements of a Volunteer Job Description
There are four key elements you need to include in any good job description. First, you need a clear position title and purpose. These are the taglines that will get volunteers interested in a role. They should describe the role’s main objectives and how those objectives align with the organization’s mission. This helps volunteers know exactly what they’re going to need to do and how their role is important to the organization as a whole.
Second, you want to list out the role’s responsibilities and tasks. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important enough—and forgotten frequently enough—to warrant reminding! You need to clarify the specific duties and tasks volunteers will perform. Clear communication is the name of the game in nonprofit organizations, especially when it comes to your volunteers. This is also a great spot to highlight the impact of the responsibilities a volunteer has to reemphasize the importance of your volunteers.
Third, you need to highlight any qualifications and skills that may be necessary for a role. Some roles might be as simple as “Must be able to stand for several hours,” while others may require leadership and management skills. Whatever the essential skills and experience needed are, you need to clarify them!
This is also a good spot to mention desired—but not essential—qualities that will contribute to success. For example, a volunteer can’t really have resume experience with talking to people, but sociability is definitely a quality that they will know if they have or not.
Finally, be clear about the time commitment a role may need. If the role is just two hours at an event, be clear about that. If the role is a long-form project aide that may take a week or month, be clear about that, too. Honesty is essential throughout the job description, especially when it comes to the time commitment a volunteer might be making.
Structuring a Well-Written Job Description
Now, how do you structure all those details? It’s pretty simple. You need:
- Clarity and simplicity. Use clear and concise language and avoid jargon and acronyms.
- Positive tone. You want encouraging and motivating language to make volunteers feel empowered to help your organization. Be sure to showcase the value of volunteer contributions, as well.
- Inclusivity and diversity. You want to use inclusive language and verbiage that will promote a diverse volunteer pool.
Your description can be long or short, and it can be as complex as the role demands, but keep a standard of concision, positivity, and inclusion that shows across the board.
Tailoring Job Descriptions to Different Volunteer Roles
Different volunteer roles may demand different job descriptions. Feel free to tailor the description based on the role itself; this just helps even more with clarity.
You might want to have volunteer categories that prospective volunteers could sort by. You might organize by:
- Event-based volunteers. These are your one- or two-time volunteers who come in to help with an event or a shift at a long event.
- Long-term volunteers. Having a description for longer-term roles is important to clarify the length of time needed, and the level of commitment required.
- Skilled volunteers. These are the most important kinds of roles for job descriptions as you need to clarify what skills are necessary and in what ways they are needed.
- Remote volunteers. Emphasizing what roles can be done remotely (and thus long-distance) is essential for volunteer clarity.
This kind of categorization immediately sets a tone for the roles within and will help volunteers filter roles as they see fit. A good categorization system can avoid a lot of crossed wires.
Also, feel free to adapt descriptions for different roles. If three roles are similar but different in some ways, highlight those specific aspects for each role. This helps provide even more clarity to volunteers and shows if roles align with volunteers’ interests and goals.
Crafting an Engaging Call to Action
Finally, you need a great call to action so that people feel inspired to apply for your volunteer roles. You can emphasize marketable skills that can be gained or give example resume bullet points. You could also highlight your organization’s mission and community so volunteers feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.
Ensure you include relevant contact information for any roles so potential volunteers can reach out with questions or concerns. You can also outline the next steps for volunteer applicants so they don’t feel like they need to wait around to hear back—this can even be a great place to include donation links to turn volunteers into donors!
If you want to see this advice in action, we put together an example job description for a skilled, long-term volunteer going abroad. This might seem like an extreme example, but that just means our advice is even more important!
Example.org Medical Volunteer
Example.org is dispatching a group of medical volunteers to help displaced people in Ukraine with emergency medical needs. Example.org Medical Volunteers will work with local authorities and medical services to provide essential care to people who need it.
This is a three-month, group volunteer deployment. We will leave on DATE and return on DATE.
- Bachelor’s degree in public health or nursing.
- Work experience in public health, nursing, or EMT.
- Strong verbal and written communication skills.
- Excellent interpersonal, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.
- Beginner or intermediate fluency in Ukrainian, Russian, and/or Polish is preferred.
Example.org cares deeply about its volunteers and hopes that their diversity can highlight America’s diversity. Applicants with diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.
Importance of Well-Written Volunteer Job Descriptions
Hopefully, the importance of well-written volunteer job descriptions is clear. These descriptions establish a foundation of clarity and trust between your organization and your volunteers that improve volunteer recruitment and retention while ensuring you get the best applicants for the right roles.
Be sure to put this knowledge into practice for successful volunteer engagement! And, if you want more help with volunteer management, be sure to check out our site.
As CEO of Civic Champs, I lead our team of passionate change leaders to create technology solutions to create a seamless and rewarding volunteering experience for both volunteers and service organizations.