Understanding the role of volunteer coordinators

Volunteering has changed significantly over the years. Volunteer coordinators today must clearly understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as the tools available to help them do their job.

Volunteering has changed significantly over the years. Volunteer coordinators today must clearly understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as the tools available to help them in their work.

Volunteers have certain duties and obligations to the organization, but also their own needs and reasons for volunteering, which the coordinator must consider when recruiting, integrating and working to retain volunteers. In turn, the organization itself has duties and obligations that it must fulfill and is subject to specific laws governing volunteers.

Obligations of volunteers

Volunteers must:

  • make certain commitments to the organization
  • respect the cause, the organization, its clientele and the community
  • be responsible and carry out their duties with integrity
  • undertake to comply with the organization's internal bylaws, regulations and policies

Obligations of the organization for which they work

All community organizations must:

  • take measures to assist volunteers in their work
  • provide volunteers with support and a safe environment
  • ensure that volunteers can work effectively
  • assign volunteers appropriate tasks based on their experience and preferences
  • provide volunteers with a clear description of their tasks, responsibilities and duties
  • provide volunteers support, training and guidance from competent people
  • treat volunteers as full-fledged team members rather than just free labour
  • recognize volunteers in tangible ways
  • be attentive to volunteers and encourage them to take part in the planning and development of new projects
  • encourage volunteers to make suggestions
  • clearly explain each party's legal responsibilities
  • develop a code of ethics and explicit policies

Policies, rules and laws to consider when managing a volunteer program

  • Due diligence
  • Vicarious liability
  • Criminal Code and criminal record
  • Defamation
  • Occupier's liability
  • Board of directors
  • Charter of rights and freedoms
  • Administrative law
  • Occupational health and safety committee

Duties and responsibilities of volunteer coordinators

Preparing the volunteer program

  • Analyze corporate structure and services.
  • Identify the organization's need for volunteers based on its operations and services.
  • Determine what the organization can offer future volunteers.
  • Analyze the risks associated with volunteer positions.
  • Draw up or update job descriptions.
  • Develop policies and procedures for welcoming and integrating volunteers.

Recruiting and selecting volunteers

  • Prepare or revise a volunteer recruiting strategy: who, when, where, why.
  • Select and screen volunteers.
  • Come to an agreement with the selected volunteers regarding their tasks and the terms of their involvement.

Integration, training and supervision of volunteers

  • Welcome new volunteers.
  • Inform them about their assignment and provide any information that will help them settle in.
  • Draw up each volunteer's schedule.
  • Assist each volunteer in carrying out their duties and tasks.
  • Be consistently available.
  • Prepare and provide training.
  • Handle conflicts and crises.
  • Evaluate volunteers' level of satisfaction concerning their tasks, support provided, work organization, interests and needs.

Recognizing and retaining volunteers

  • Recognize the daily contributions of volunteers and draw attention to their contribution to the organization.
  • Organize activities to recognize volunteers within the organization.

Promoting volunteerism

  • Develop and implement a strategy to promote volunteering.
  • Represent the organization at various events and issue tables.
  • Update the volunteering section of the organization's website, if applicable.

Administrative tasks

  • Help manage the organization.
  • Evaluate volunteer services.
  • Manage the volunteer services budget.
  • Create a database on volunteers and volunteer services and keep it up-to-date (or arrange to have this done).

Professional development

  • Keep volunteer management knowledge and skills up-to-date.
  • Attend training sessions.
  • Participate in research and knowledge-sharing initiatives.

A few tips on recruiting, integrating and retaining volunteers

Meet volunteers' expectations

To meet volunteers' expectations, the manager must:

  • establish meaningful relationships with them and try to understand what they seek to accomplish by volunteering
  • be flexible and accommodating with volunteers
  • be sensitive to cultural, linguistic, generational and gender differences
  • take a personalized and balanced approach to volunteer involvement
  • clearly explain objectives, anticipated impacts and the value of volunteer work
  • explain desired outcomes while remaining flexible about where, how and when it is achieved

Understanding the profiles and expectations of new volunteers

To make it easier to recruit, integrate and retain volunteers and meet their expectations, the coordinator must first understand volunteers' profiles.

(age 15 to 24)


  • Need positive feedback and look for immediate results
  • Often get involved because of community service obligations
  • Need to feel respected and be given responsibility
  • Volunteering is often perceived as a good way to find a job


  • A clear sense that they're making a contribution
  • Access to technology
  • Presence of models in their environment and establishment of a partner relationship
  • Flexible supervision by competent people
  • Team spirit (commitment)
  • Possibility of working with peers
  • To be consulted and have their opinion taken seriously



  • Volunteering allows families to spend quality time together and give back to their community despite the time constraints caused by their many responsibilities and commitments.
  • They seek activities that are appropriate and fun for people of all ages.


  • Opportunity to teach young people about volunteering (virtual volunteer activities families can participate in)
  • Prefer one-off activities



  • Professionals seek to develop and explore talents and interests that they do not use in other areas of their life.
  • They are very geared toward results, and prefer structured, short-term, flexible volunteer activities requiring high-level skills.
  • They look for volunteering opportunities without a rigid hierarchy where they are treated as equals.


  • Independence
  • Multiple tasks and challenges
  • A chance to achieve, develop and continue learning
  • Have fun in an exciting, stimulating, motivating and enthusiastic environment

(Born between 1945 and 1962)


  • Baby-boomers are on the verge of retirement.
  • They have a strong sense of team loyalty and commitment and want to have a place in society.
  • They are strongly geared toward rules and procedures.


  • Recognition and respect
  • Team work
  • Schedule planned several days in advance
  • Activities that reflect their strong commitment to social engagement
  • Independent work and a sense of belonging to their projects
  • Projects that allow them to clearly see the impact of their work
  • Occasional or short-term activities before committing long term

Traditional volunteers
(Born before 1947)


  • This group respects traditional values, morals and ethics.
  • They are conservative and seek to contribute to the common good.
  • They generally volunteer more hours and commit to longer periods.


  • Good working environment
  • Good interpersonal relationships
  • How results are achieved as important as the results themselves



  • New immigrants vary greatly and face very different conditions depending on when and where they arrive in Canada.
  • They often exhaust their savings during the immigration process and need to take the time to set up house and adapt to the Canadian labour market.


  • Serving a cause
  • Achieving something they can be proud of
  • Putting their values, skills and experience to work
  • Creating new social ties, integrating into Canadian society and learning more about Canadian culture, while improving their chances of finding work

You are now well equipped to assume your role as volunteer coordinator. By getting to know your volunteers, their profiles and their expectations, you will be better able to recruit the right people, motivate them and keep them on your team for a long time.