Managing the risk associated with volunteers

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

In this second and final part of our series about managing risk associated with volunteers, we will be discussing the best practices for an effective and efficient team of volunteers. As a charity insurer, who are both owned by a charity, and have close relationships with many local charities we support, we have a lot of insight on how charities can best operate and run smoothly. This article will discuss some of the top things to consider.

Perfect your patterns

It goes without saying, we all lead busy lives. Volunteers often have little free time, and it’s important to recognise this. Respecting people’s limitations when it comes to their availability is paramount to creating a lasting working relationship with them. Many people may not be able to commit to a full day of volunteering for example, when they have a number of other responsibilities such as loved ones and work. Understanding their commitment potential from the beginning is key.

If you can, having a large bank of volunteers is a great idea. They will all have different availability and you’ll be able to offer shorter shifts to people who need them, whilst also ensuring that all times are covered.

Even if they have plenty of free time, there is no one set shift duration recommended. The length of a volunteer’s time with you all depends on the nature of the job they’re doing. The sweet spot is finding a suitable time that is long enough that they are able to make a difference, but not so long that they feel burdened by it.


As a leader, you’ll know just how important communication is for the success of any task, yet it’s easy to forget it in practice. Volunteers must be crystal clear on what is needed from them in the role they are fulfilling, and you must have clear lines of communication throughout their time with you. Implementing a chain of communication is a great idea if you’re working in a larger team, and regular group briefings may be advantageous for your organisation. Of course, you know your people best, so as long as a communication style works, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Consider creating a printed or digital guide for volunteers to refer to so that they can refresh their memory when on the job. Ensure your people know exactly who they should contact and how, if they have any questions or concerns. Strong communication will make for an effective and powerful team so that your charity can help as many service users as possible.

Show gratitude

Remembering to thank your volunteers for the time they have so selflessly given will go a very long way to ensure the goodwill continues. You can show your gratitude with something as simple as a hand-written note, in conversation or via email, the point is that the gesture does not have to be grand, but volunteers will appreciate the recognition and will be more likely to commit their time to you again and again.

Cover your people

It’s imperative that you have the correct insurance cover in place, for your specific requirements. Speak to your insurance broker to discuss your policy and whether you are adequately insured, not only for your volunteers but for every aspect of risk your charity may be exposed to, such as property damage, business interruption, and cyber. We also highly recommend reading our volunteers risk guide for more information on risk management.

We hope these top tips have shown you just how simple you can make the task of managing an increased number of volunteers, helping you get the most of people’s generosity donating their time. Implementing these ideas will mean you can continue to make a big difference to those who need your services.