Volunteer coordinators assess and meet an organisation's needs through the recruitment, placement and retention of volunteers

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.

You'll manage volunteers and the 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 roles are mostly found 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're recruiting volunteers (e.g. charities and councils) to understand how they work, develop partnerships and assess their 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
  • promote volunteering (internally and externally) through recruitment and publicity strategies and campaigns
  • recruit and interview volunteers and ensure they are appropriately matched and trained for a position
  • carry out pre-volunteering checks, including references and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks where appropriate
  • organise rotas and provide inductions and training, as well as debrief interviews for departing volunteers
  • ensure there is appropriate support and training for volunteers through regular informal contact and more structured reviews
  • 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 for volunteer coordinators may be low, particularly in the charity sector, and range from around £18,000 to £26,000.
  • Salaries for experienced volunteer coordinators can range from £28,000 to around £40,000. At the higher end of the salary scale the role will include managerial, budget and strategic responsibilities.

Salaries vary depending on a range of factors including your experience, location, the sector you work in and the nature of the role. For example, if you work in larger charities, hospitals and the private sector, you can expect to earn more than if you work in small charities and the creative industries.

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

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're 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.
  • 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 challenging, for example when trying to ensure volunteer reliability. Projects and jobs are often dependent on short-term external funding. This can result in job insecurity, particularly within the voluntary sector.
  • There may be quite a lot of travel during the working day, either locally or nationally.
  • There are international opportunities 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 value relevant skills and experience.

A related postgraduate qualification isn't usually needed, but is becoming increasingly useful as the job grows in popularity - especially for the more competitive industries, such as international development and the creative sector (in an art gallery or museum, for instance).

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • excellent communication skills, including networking and presentation skills
  • strong interpersonal skills, to deal with a diverse range of people
  • experience of managing or coordinating projects and volunteers
  • empathy with volunteers and an understanding of their needs
  • the capacity to inspire and motivate others
  • negotiating, influencing and problem-solving skills
  • the ability to deal with information in a confidential manner and respond with sensitivity
  • good organisational and time management skills, with the ability to multi-task and plan and prioritise your workload
  • the ability to cope with limited resources, seize opportunities and think creatively.
  • administrative and IT skills (MS Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint), and an ability to maintain records and produce clear written and oral reports
  • numerical skills if the role involves budget management or fundraising
  • experience of working across different sectors and developing links with other agencies
  • a flexible and non-judgemental approach to people and work
  • political awareness and the ability to remain impartial, as many roles involve working in politically-sensitive areas
  • an understanding of the sector, commitment to the organisation you work for and, if relevant, empathy with service users.

You'll usually need a full, clean driving licence and use of a car. This could be for visiting organisations or assisting volunteers with travel, for example.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience is essential, especially volunteering experience and experience of working with volunteers. Experience of training, supervising or supporting volunteers or staff is particularly relevant.

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 is 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. 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.

Experience of working in a customer-service or people-facing environment can also be useful.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.

Employers

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

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

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.

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:

Jobs are also advertised in the press and on LinkedIn.

For vacancies in other sectors, visit:

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

Professional development

You'll need to continue to develop your professional knowledge and expertise throughout your career. You can do this by attending relevant meetings, events, conferences and training courses provided by professional associations and networks such as:

These bodies address the needs of those managing volunteers and raise awareness of the professionalism of the role. There are opportunities to network with other coordinators and to share best practice.

Relevant qualifications, designed for those involved in the management, supervision or leadership of volunteers, include the:

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 can also be useful.

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

There are some opportunities to study for postgraduate qualifications focusing on the voluntary sector and volunteer management. Search postgraduate courses in charity.

Career prospects

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's now more movement between sectors and opportunities to develop new skills.

Depending on your particular experience you could move to a related role, such as into service development and/or a 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.

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