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6 Reasons Every Nonprofit Needs a Volunteer and Employee Handbook

By Heather Brown
August 11, 2017

A volunteer and employee handbook is a collection of policies and procedures that define your organization’s culture and expectations. Gone are the days when handbooks were thought only to be valuable to for-profit businesses. Many nonprofits believe they are too small to implement a handbook or, since they know their volunteers personally, it is a waste of time. But, what happens when they grow and bring in new volunteers? Creating a volunteer handbook should be a top priority for nonprofits of all sizes.

Why do nonprofits need a volunteer and employee handbook?

A volunteer and employee handbook lays out a path for team members to follow while working for your nonprofit. By having a clearly defined set of expectations, volunteers and employees stay aligned with your mission and expectations on how to serve the community. It is also the foundation for any legal matters that arise since it outlines acceptable versus unacceptable actions and includes a signed receipt where volunteers acknowledge and agree to abide by the handbook.

Creating a volunteer and employee handbook may seem like a big task, but it is an important one. Here are the top six reasons you need to create one today:

  1. Defines your uniqueness. A volunteer and employee handbook is the best way to introduce employees and volunteers to your mission, values, and culture. You get their undivided attention for that one page to brag about your nonprofit. Make your organization shine so it instills excitement and passion in them to make the most of their time with you.
  2. Minimizes excessive questions. If you have a team (of any size), chances are you field at least one question per day per employee or volunteer. Add the time to answer these questions up over the course of a year (5 volunteers, 10 minutes per day, 5 days per week, 52 weeks per year is 216 hours). What could you have accomplished in those hours?A handbook puts the answers to those questions in a central location that volunteers and employees can go to before they come to you for the answer.
  3. Accountability. Handbooks keep everybody accountable – volunteers, employees, a board of directors, and your nonprofit director. If you are unsure on how to handle a situation, you can refer to the handbook for the answer instead of making it up as you go. You can also use it to hold others accountable for their daily responsibilities. Since expectations are in writing, there is no room for argument from either party.
  4. Compliancy. There is a number of state and federal laws that nonprofits need to abide by. Some of these laws mandate certain information be shared with employees and volunteers. Include these items in your handbook, so you have proof that all volunteers and employees were made aware of policies regarding worker’s compensation, disability, OSHA requirements, etc., before starting work for your nonprofit.
  5. A defense tool when lawsuits do happen. Make sure all employees sign a receipt stating they have read and understood the handbook. The best handbook policies test volunteers and employees on the information addressed to confirm they read through it and fully understand expectations. This is a great defense tool when lawsuits do occur. You have confirmation that employees were notified of expectations, trained, and agreed to the policies created.

If you already have a volunteer and employee handbook, when was the last time you reviewed it? Handbooks need to be reviewed and updated on a yearly basis to assure compliancy and minimize risks.

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