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.
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.
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.
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.
'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 our page on Insurance 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 values align with the type of volunteer the matching service is trying to attract. For example, the volunteer matching service GreatConnections only accepts volunteers over 50 years old, and Oxfam's SkillShare matching service requires volunteers to have at least three years experience in their chosen field.
The Loddon Murray Community Leadership (LMCLP) SkillsBank provides access to a bank of skills from program graduates. These are made available to community and not-for-profit organisations across central and northwest Victoria to assist with worthwhile projects and initiatives that will have a community benefit.
Assistance provided to community organisations may include:
- Guest speakers
- Facilitation of strategic planning sessions
- Assistance with project management
- Board/Committee members
- Any request with a community benefit will be considered (provided graduates are available with the necessary skills to assist)
goodcompany matches volunteers with professional skills such as marketing, design, information technology, human resources, legal, strategic and business advice, with the needs of community organisations (particularly for skilled one-off projects). More than 850 community organisations have accessed a skilled volunteer through goodcompany in their ten year history.
- Online matching service for community groups and skilled professionals
- Links to leading Australian corporate businesses through its Engage program
- Regular workshops for community groups
For many retired professionals, no longer having a routine can be challenging. Volunteering gives retired professionals the opportunity to work strategically, to lead, stay active, meet new people and stay connected with the community.
Greatconnections’ purpose is to attract, develop and value mature age volunteers who have high-level professional skills, and match them with not-for-profit community organisations that require these skills.
Greatconnections supports not for profit community organisations that:
- Assist the vulnerable and disadvantaged
- Provide support for the elderly and isolated
- Work to alleviate social disconnection, exclusion and marginalisation.
If your organisation works in Indigenous communities, you can apply to Indigenous Community Volunteers (ICV) for assistance.
ICV is a registered non-government charity that works in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations by linking skilled and trained volunteers to help in a practical way.
ICV recruits skilled professionals and students. Once registered, communities or individuals can select volunteers that best suit their needs, and volunteers can apply to specific projects. ICV volunteers are invited to live and work in the community where the project takes place.
Leadership Victoria conducts highly esteemed leadership development programs that have become the inspiration for like-minded organisations both within Australia and abroad. Its mission is to be an innovative, independent, not-for-profit organisation developing people who exercise positive and enduring leadership in and for the real world.
Leadership Victoria's SkillsBank program brokers pro bono leadership focussed activities such as positions on Boards of Management, mentoring, facilitating or providing advice and support on a wide range of strategic issues.
PilchConnect is a specialist legal service set up by the Public Interest Law Clearing House Victoria (PILCH) to provide free and low-cost legal assistance to not-for-profit community organisations and to advocate on their behalf.
PilchConnect can assist community groups on a range of issues – from simple queries about incorporation or accessing tax concessions, to complex reviews of leases and advice on copyright or insurance issues. Services include:
- Free legal information for community organisations
- Free telephone advice
- Low cost legal training
- Law reform and policy work
PILCH also operates a free legal referral service which matches people needing legal assistance with lawyers who agree to act on a pro bono basis.
Note: Eligibility criteria apply to some of these services.
SkillShare is part of Oxfam Australia’s domestic program. The scheme is an opportunity for skilled, professional volunteers to complete capacity building defined projects with non-government organisations and community groups in Victoria, and to play an active part in achieving social justice in Australia.
SkillShare volunteers provide assistance to not-for-profit groups in Victoria in areas such as:
- Advice on development of strategic and business plans
- Review and development of organisational processes and procedures
- Strategic review of systems, such as accounting and information technology
- Project management and/or grant submission best practice advice
- Marketing, communications and fundraising strategic planning
Office for the Community Sector - Workforce Capability Tools
The Workforce Capability resources can help you design volunteer roles with a focus on the skills, capabilities and personal attributes that you would like to bring into your organisation. The resources include a toolkit, capability cards and sample position descriptions.
VCOSS Clearinghouse - Skilled volunteers: A Guide for Community Organisations
A great in-depth PDF document which provides examples of different non-profit organisations utilising skilled volunteers and outlines available support and assistance.