Working with skilled volunteers

Skilled volunteers are people with qualifications or professional experience who are willing to give up their time and expertise free of charge to assist others.

There are a vast number of skilled volunteers in a variety of professions who can assist not for profit organisations. Often people look to skilled volunteering because they are retired or part time professionals, or people seeking to develop networks or experience through volunteering.

For volunteer organisations, it's about knowing which services are available, and how to access these services. This page provides information on how to identify the skills you need in your organisation and how to find skilled volunteers to meet these needs.

Undertaking a skills audit

The first step an organisation needs to take before trying to recruit skilled volunteers is a skills audit.

A skills audit identifies what skills already exist and what skills are needed to enable your organisation to grow and develop. It is also important for volunteer succession planning and deciding how many volunteers your organisation or community group needs and what specific roles they should fill.

To get started, brainstorm the skills your organisation already has and the skills which are needed for your organisation to be sustainable and fulfil organisational objectives.

For example, if your organisation wishes to expand, you may need to acquire skills in marketing and events, or assistance with building a business model. If you want to update your IT system, you may need someone to create a business plan.

Community Sector Workforce Capability Framework

The Community Sector Workforce Capability Framework describes the broad capabilities required by people in community sector organisations.

It was developed to help organisations think about the range of skills and attributes you have, or need, in your organisation.

You can use the Community Sector Workforce Capability Framework and/or Capability Cards to pick out and identify the capabilities needed for a new role in your organisation and put together a position description.

Having a clear idea of what skills your organisation needs to attain will make it easy to write volunteer position descriptions for specific roles and to recruit skilled volunteers.

Developing roles for skilled volunteers

Specific role descriptions with clearly defined responsibilities are important to attract skilled volunteers. Before applying, skilled volunteers will want to know:

  • How many hours a week they need to commit to the role
  • If they can work from home
  • Who they will be working with
  • If they have specific responsibilities.

Start with small and clearly defined projects that are easy for someone to apply for online. You can read our page on Writing position descriptions for tips and assistance. When you receive applications, don't be afraid to ask to view a potential volunteer's resume, portfolio or qualifications before inviting them to start.

Skilled volunteers may be able to assist your organisation with:

  • Legal advice
  • Developing a memoranda of understanding
  • Public relations and marketing
  • Website design and development
  • Graphic design
  • Fundraising and events advice
  • Membership on boards and councils
  • Training and HR advice.

Of course, the opportunities for skilled volunteers are endless. Most professions have people willing to volunteer in some capacity or to offer goods and services at discounted community rates.

Working with skilled volunteers

View your relationship with skilled volunteers as equal to that of other volunteers. Remember that they are professionals, so recognise their efforts and invest in training and induction. Invite your skilled volunteers to events, even if they are involved in a one-off project, and include them in your organisation's communication channels.

Skilled volunteers may be juggling a variety of roles, so make sure both the volunteer and the organisation are clear about expectations and the volunteer's level of involvement. Make reasonable requests with reasonable deadlines.

Finding skilled volunteers

'Matching' services are organisations that specialise in providing skilled volunteer support to community organisations. Taking advantage of a professional matching service is a time efficient method to recruit skilled volunteers.

Not for profit organisations can register with a matching service and upload volunteer position descriptions for specific roles and a description of their organisation. Some matching services will ask for the organisation's public liability insurance policy number and volunteer personal accident insurance policy number. See the Insurance page on the Not For Profit Compliance Support Centre to make sure your organisation is fully covered.

Some volunteer matching services are aimed at a specific audience. It's important to do your research and make sure your organisation's needs and values align with the type of volunteer the matching service can offer.

Tools and resources