While empathy, interpersonal skills and the ability to seize opportunities and think creatively are important, the key to breaking into volunteer coordination is work experience

Working as a volunteer coordinator, you'll manage all elements of volunteering either within your own organisation or on behalf of the organisation for which you are recruiting volunteers.

The role involves assessing and meeting an organisation's needs through the recruitment, placement and retention of volunteers.

You'll manage volunteers and their relationships with those they come into contact with, including employees and service users of an organisation. You'll also monitor, evaluate and accredit volunteers.

Volunteer coordinators work across the public and private sectors but are concentrated in the third (voluntary, charitable and community) sector.

The role of a volunteer coordinator has gained increased recognition as a profession within its own right, although in smaller charities it is sometimes combined with another role.

Responsibilities

As a volunteer coordinator, you'll need to:

  • research and write volunteer policies and procedures, including risk assessments
  • liaise with departments within your own organisation or with organisations for which you are recruiting volunteers (e.g. charities and councils) to understand how they work, develop partnerships and assess their volunteering needs
  • generate appropriate volunteering opportunities and role descriptions based on the needs of the organisation
  • raise staff awareness of the role and the function of volunteers
  • ensure there is appropriate support and training for volunteers
  • promote volunteering (internally and externally) through recruitment and publicity strategies and campaigns
  • interview and recruit volunteers and ensure they are appropriately matched and trained for a position
  • organise rotas and provide inductions and training
  • monitor, support, motivate and accredit volunteers and their work
  • celebrate volunteering by nominating volunteers for awards and organise celebration events
  • offer advice and information to volunteers and external organisations through face-to-face, telephone and email contact
  • organise profile-raising events to attract new volunteers
  • attend committees and meetings
  • manage budgets and resources, including the reimbursement of expenses
  • keep up to date with legislation and policy related to volunteering and make any necessary modifications to accommodate changes
  • work with multiple agencies across different sectors in order to establish good working relationships to influence decisions about volunteering
  • generate income, write funding bids and raise funds to make projects sustainable
  • monitor and evaluate activities and write reports for funders and trustees
  • maintain databases and undertake any other administrative duties.

Salary

  • Many volunteer coordinators begin their careers as unpaid volunteers to gain experience of the sector.
  • Starting salaries may be low, particularly in the charity sector, and range from £15,000 to £26,000.
  • With experience, salaries can range from £28,000 to £38,000.

At the higher end of the salary scale the role will include managerial, budget and strategic responsibilities.

There are rare opportunities for higher salaries, which tend to be linked to high-profile campaigns or events.

If you work in larger charities, hospitals and the private sector, you can expect to earn more than if you work in small charities, colleges and students' unions, and the creative industries.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours vary, depending on whether the role is predominantly office-based or involves more practical involvement with projects (possibly taking part in residentials or being on-call). Evening and weekend work may be involved.

Part-time and full-time positions are available. Short-term and fixed-term contracts are common in the voluntary sector and creative industries, as roles often depend on securing funding. Permanent contracts do exist, particularly in hospitals and museums.

What to expect

  • You are generally office-based with some opportunities for home-based working, depending on the organisation. The work can also involve visits to organisations which use volunteers, outreach work and site visits.
  • Self-employment and freelance work is possible, but requires experience and contacts.
  • Career breaks are popular as many volunteer coordinators develop their career by undertaking or coordinating voluntary work in the UK and abroad.
  • Volunteer coordinators often work at local level with communities or within volunteer centres and are based across the UK.
  • Opportunities are available more frequently in towns and cities, but also arise in rural areas. The headquarters of many of the larger charities are based in London.
  • Work can be stressful when assuring reliability on the part of the volunteer. Projects and jobs are often dependent on short-term external funding. This can result in a great deal of anxiety and job insecurity, particularly within the voluntary sector.
  • Travel within a working day can be frequent, either on a local or national level.
  • There are international opportunities for volunteer coordinators to manage teams of volunteers overseas. Such positions are generally with international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or businesses offering career break and gap-year opportunities.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is generally open to all graduates, a degree or HND in the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • business and management studies
  • human resource management
  • social work
  • youth and community work.

Entry without a degree is possible as employers often value experience over academic achievements.

A related postgraduate qualification is not usually needed, but is becoming increasingly useful as the job grows in popularity, especially for the more competitive industries, such as international development and creative industries, e.g. in an art gallery or museum.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • excellent communication skills
  • strong interpersonal skills and the ability to deal with a diverse range of people
  • experience of managing or coordinating projects and volunteers (paid or unpaid)
  • an empathy with volunteers and an understanding of their needs
  • the capacity to inspire and motivate others
  • the ability to deal with information in a confidential manner and respond with sensitivity
  • good organisational skills and the ability to manage a variety of tasks
  • administrative and IT skills, and an ability to maintain records and produce clear written and oral reports
  • experience of working across different sectors and developing links with other agencies
  • a flexible and non-judgemental approach to people and work.

An understanding of the sector, a commitment to the organisation to which you apply and, if relevant, empathy with service users are also important. Charities need people who have the ability to cope with limited resources, seize opportunities and think creatively.

The ability to handle numerical data may be required if the role involves budget management or fundraising, as well as political awareness and the ability to remain impartial, as many roles involve working in politically-sensitive areas.

A full, clean driving licence and use of a car, for the purposes of visiting organisations and assisting volunteers with travel, may be necessary.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience is essential, especially voluntary experience. If you are applying to work as a volunteer coordinator for an international organisation, having voluntary experience overseas, an understanding of other cultures, international contacts and a second language will be very important.

The job of a volunteer coordinator is becoming increasingly popular with graduates and non-graduates alike, particularly for positions with the better-known charities, art galleries and museums. Undertaking voluntary work is essential as you may be competing against people with a great deal of experience and contacts.

Very few charities offer graduate training schemes, although Cancer Research UK runs a scheme with different trainee streams, for example in finance or fundraising and marketing.

Internships are more common and are offered by a range of organisations including:

However, while these schemes provide an overview of the work of the organisation, they do not specifically focus on the work of a volunteer coordinator.

Employers

The majority of volunteer coordinators are employed within the not-for-profit sector, with the larger charities and universities sometimes having a team coordinating volunteering.

Smaller charities and other sectors may have someone in place who undertakes a substantial amount of volunteer coordination, but whose remit may be more diverse and who may operate under a different job title.

Volunteer coordinators are employed by a range of organisations across the private, public and voluntary sectors, including:

  • colleges, universities and students' unions
  • councils
  • festivals
  • galleries and museums
  • hospitals and hospices
  • probation and prison services
  • radio stations
  • religious groups
  • sports clubs and bodies
  • volunteer centres.

With increasing emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable development, many companies have CSR strategies, working with organisations such as Business in the Community (BITC) and investing in employee volunteering activities, which have generated more opportunities for volunteer coordinators.

Look for job vacancies at:

You can find vacancies through specialist and sector-specific recruitment agencies, for example Charity People.

There is a list of specialist agencies on VolResource.

For vacancies in other sectors, visit:

Some larger charities also advertise on:

Volunteering with an organisation can provide a huge advantage when sourcing vacancies, as jobs are often advertised internally.

Attend recruitment fairs and exhibitions to find out about opportunities, distribute your CV and network.

Professional development

There are a range of training providers offering accredited courses tailored to meet the needs of volunteer coordinators at all levels, including:

Although the role involves the management of volunteers rather than employees, many volunteer coordinators use the same skills as people working in human resources, and therefore HR-related qualifications and training are beneficial.

Business, finance and project management qualifications and training are also relevant to this role.

Professional bodies and networks address the needs of those managing volunteers and raise awareness of the professionalism of the role. See:

Their websites contain research publications, good practice banks and forums for people working with volunteers.

Increasingly, higher education institutions are offering undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications focusing on the voluntary sector and volunteer management. For more information, see postgraduate courses in the charitable sector.

Career development

In recent years, volunteer coordination has gained increased recognition as a profession within its own right. As more organisations and companies are placing an emphasis on giving something back to the local community, often in the form of employee volunteering, more opportunities are becoming available across sectors for volunteer coordinators.

Growth has enabled volunteer coordinators to work alongside specialists in other fields, develop new skills and establish programmes to meet the needs of other sectors with different approaches and outlooks towards volunteering.

Although roles within the voluntary sector generally offer good opportunities for personal development, promotion prospects can be limited, particularly in smaller charities.

Bigger organisations tend to have larger volunteering structures and so have more opportunity for promotion.

Those working in the voluntary sector often make sideways moves between organisations, although with more companies buying into corporate social responsibility (CSR) there is now more movement between sectors and opportunities to develop new skills.

You may choose to move to related roles. This will depend on your particular experience but could, for example, be a service development and/or service management role.

With a couple of years' experience, you could take on strategic responsibility to become a volunteer manager.

Moving into management often involves a loss of client contact and operational involvement, which may not appeal to you. Headship and directorship is possible after several years of strategic and managerial responsibility.