Managing spontaneous volunteers

It's the Australian way to lend a hand in times of trouble – as seen in Victoria's 2009 bushfires and the 2011–12 floods. There is significant interest in volunteering to help affected communities recover from damage to their towns and property.

Spontaneous volunteers are people who offer their help following an emergency or crisis. They may not have been part of a volunteer organisation before the crisis, or may not have training or experience as a volunteer.

Volunteer coordinators face many obstacles during an emergency. There are risks associated with having volunteers entering affected areas without appropriate skills or experience. So it's important to be prepared for how your organisation will manage spontaneous volunteers in the event of an emergency.

Preparing for spontaneous volunteer management

The Australian Red Cross and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) have worked together to develop the Spontaneous volunteer management resource kit.

This kit provides a framework for managing spontaneous volunteers in an emergency. It includes resources such as a draft communication strategy and draft implementation plan, and provides detailed information on the steps to take to achieve an effective management plan.

A DVD comes with the kit and includes a number of templates to use, such as:

  • A job description for a spontaneous volunteer coordinator
  • A list of key tasks and resources required for spontaneous volunteers tasks
  • Key messages for spontaneous volunteers and the community at large
  • An example floor plan
  • An example of a CD volunteer badge
  • An example registration form

You can download the resource kit on the FaHCSIA website or you can order the kit by emailing or

During an emergency

Victoria's Volunteering Portal has established an Emergency Volunteer Register to assist with the initial registration of volunteers following an emergency situation. The register is an online tool, created to help take some of the strain off councils and volunteer managers during a crisis.

You can direct members of the public who wish to help in emergency recovery efforts to register their details on the Victorian Emergency Volunteer Register.

The register is a simple form that asks for details such as availability, skills, experience, current checks or licenses and languages spoken.

For more information on the register please contact us.

Volunteer with yellow gumboots scoops up water with a bucket