Base Jumping with your Volunteers

Recently a Volunteer Manager said to me “On-boarding volunteers feels like jumping off a cliff. Off we go, no safety harness, and a 2000ft drop below. Managing volunteer risk in my program is overwhelming!”

Managing volunteer risk does not need to feel this way. Let us help you prepare by packing a ‘volunteer risk management parachute’.

Here are a couple of tips to help you get started:

Pack a Parachute

Before you jump into volunteer management, you should…

1. Review Risk Management For Staff

Begin by asking critical questions about existing risk mitigation for staff.

Do staff in your organisation need to have a Police or WWC Check before commencing work? If so, what was the thinking behind this? Will your volunteers be exposed to the same clientele or work environment?

Determine whether the risks that apply to on-boarding and utilising staff will also apply to your volunteers. Perhaps your volunteers will be working a low-risk environment?

Open your mind to new ways of doing things.

2. Review Your Organisations Risk Culture

This will help determine what risk your organisation considers to be reasonable in pursuit of its strategic goals.

Some questions to ask:

  • Does your organisation have an existing structured approach to risk management in your volunteer program?
  • Is risk management built into routine business practices or is the approach more ad-hoc?
  • When opportunities beyond routine practice arise, how does your organisation approach these- is your workplace opportunist or conservative?

These questions will help you determine the risk appetite of your organisation.

The extent to which your organisation reacts proactively to risk determines the risk culture and level of risk maturity. Organisations operating at the highest-level of risk maturity are ‘risk-aware’ and actively use risk information to inform their practices. Many small organisations, including those with limited resources, operate at a much lower level of risk maturity.

Understanding your organisations level of risk maturity can assist you to begin conversations with co-workers and management.

3. Ask An Expert

Always enlist professional help where possible. Often somebody in your professional network has experience in risk management- pick up the phone and ask for their professional guidance!

If you cannot pinpoint a person to mentor you, turn to resources and professional development workshops. Start with Justice Connects online resource and then download Volunteering Australia’s Information Booklet. These are excellent resources to put in your volunteer risk management parachute!

Make the Jump

Congratulations, you are nearly ready to make the jump into risk management!

By reviewing existing processes, identifying your organisation’s risk culture and finding a risk management expert you are well on your way to appropriately managing risk in your volunteer program.

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Leep NGO Inc. does not provide legal advice.

By Lucy Haynes, Leep Senior Project Officer