Your Responsibilities As A Volunteer
Although you are volunteering your services for free it’s still necessary to honour your responsibilities to the role in accordance with what the organisation expects of you. These responsibilities will vary according to the charity or organisation you are working for and the type of role you’re looking to undertake but you’ll be able to be discuss that at interview and you’ll usually be given some kind of handbook or brochure which will state both your rights and responsibilities in the role you’re going to be carrying out if you are offered a position (Note – Your rights as a volunteer are discussed in another article contained in this website).
In general terms, however, here are some of the basic responsibilities which are pretty common to most voluntary organisations and they will, at least, give you a flavour of what would be expected of you.
Organisation’s PoliciesYou have a duty to respect the organisation’s policies on issues like racial discrimination, sexual harassment, affirmative action and disability discrimination and, if you don’t understand the law on any of these issues, you should make it a point to read up on them. They will not just be policies which the organisation has devised but government legislation which will be common practice in all workplaces so, if you contravene any of these policies, not only are you liable to be dismissed, you run the risk of legal action being taken against you and you could end up being taken to an employment tribunal.
Carrying Out Your DutiesYou should carry out your duties in accordance with the written copy of the description of your role which you should be provided with before you start. If you’re unsure about carrying out any aspect of your role, you should seek advice from your supervisor.
Showing RespectWhether its work colleagues or people you are trying to help, it’s important that you show respect to all those with whom you come into contact with whilst performing your duties. Treating people as you would like to be treated yourself is a good basic philosophy to follow. Show consideration and be prepared to compromise occasionally if it’s in everybody’s best interests and seek to resolve any conflicts or disputes quickly before they escalate.
Dress AppropriatelyFind out what the dress code is for volunteers before you begin your work and abide by it. This is even more important if you are working in certain locations overseas where customs and culture can be very different to what you’re used to back home and inappropriate dress can often be seen as disrespect towards the people you are working with.
Conduct and Well-BeingEnsure that you conduct yourself properly, behave in the right manner, don’t use bad language and make sure that any external activities you engage in are acceptable. Once again, if you are volunteering overseas, you’re likely to be living as well as working within a local community so it’s important you find out the local customs and traditions and behave in the appropriate manner.
Take good care of your health and report any sickness to your supervisor immediately. Also, remember that drink and drugs use and their after effects can not only impair your ability to carry out your role but that they can have serious legal implications in certain countries. Also, no matter how passionate you might be about a particular cause, be very wary about lending your support to local protests or demonstrations in countries overseas. Not every country has the same democratic rights of free speech as the UK has and you could end up being imprisoned and even endanger your life if you get caught up in local protests.
Timekeeping and ReliabilityMake sure you know your exact shift patterns and the days on which you are expected to be working. Just because you’re a volunteer, this doesn’t mean you can turn up when you want or take time off without giving notice. If you do need to take time off, make sure you discuss it with your supervisor first so they have time to find a replacement to cover your shift, if need be.
Giving FeedbackBe prepared to be pro-active in your work. Voluntary organisations expect you to offer your opinions and suggest new ways in which projects can be approached and challenges overcome and don’t be afraid to seek advice either.