Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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Working in the voluntary sector

2.2 Volunteer role descriptions

If you have applied for a job before, you will have read a job description. This is a list of the activities, duties and responsibilities the job entails, as well as the skills and knowledge required. Not all volunteer roles will have a written job description, but it is good practice to have one so that people know what they will be expected to do in the role. In addition, the person who coordinates or manages the volunteers will know what the team should be doing.

If the role involves particular requirements that not everybody can or wants to do (such as heavy lifting, outdoor work, working directly with members or service users), then this can be made clear in the description.

Box 2 gives an example of a job description that outlines clearly all the tasks involved, the skills and experience required and who will be managing the role.

Box 2 A volunteer role description

Volunteer Retail Assistant

We are an animal conservation charity and our busy shop sells second-hand and new goods to raise funds to help endangered animals. We need an enthusiastic assistant to help sort, select and sell our goods. You’ll gain experience in a retail environment and the profits you generate will help animals around the world.

What’s in it for you?

  • Helping animals in need
  • Becoming part of a friendly and dedicated team
  • Meeting people from all walks of life and making new friends
  • Improving your retail and customer-service skills
  • Developing your knowledge and enhancing your CV

What’s involved?

  • Helping customers and answering the phone
  • Selling products and working a till
  • Restocking the shop floor
  • Promoting Gift Aid
  • Maintaining a clean and tidy shop

What skills and experience do you need?

  • Excellent people skills
  • Friendly and well-presented
  • Reliable and enthusiastic
  • Basic numeracy skills

You need to be at least 14 years of age to work in our shops.

Time commitment: Flexible to suit you but usually sessions of 3 hours.

Reporting to: Shop manager

Activity 4 Writing a role description

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Watch the following video in which Sas talks about volunteering for a charity that offers overnight accommodation during the winter months for homeless and vulnerable people. This gives you some context about the work of the charity and why Sas is drawn to this volunteer role.

Using the example in Box 2 to guide you, write some ideas for a role description for someone volunteering with this charity.

Download this video clip.Video player: volb2_sas_extra.mp4
Skip transcript


I started volunteering at the homeless charity a few years ago. And I think one of the primary reasons I was drawn to that particular charity is because homelessness is very evident and very immediate and you can’t walk through a major town or city without seeing homeless people. And I think you have a lot of questions about, oh, how did they end up in this situation?
And I think homelessness is very polarising and a lot of people are like, on some level, maybe, you’ve put yourself there. And what are the reasons? If you really want the help and support, can’t you get yourself off the streets? And some people are always very willing to give money, and others are adamantly against it, depending on what they might choose to spend the money on.
So I think it was really interesting. So I kind of had a lot of those questions in my mind, as well, and preconceptions about what homelessness was about. So I think being part of the charity and talking to homeless people, well, the first thing you realise is, there are any number of reasons why anyone could be homeless.
But I think there’s an immediacy to homelessness. You know, a lot of these guys, two or three months ago, had homes. And, through circumstances beyond their control, they found themselves on the street. And it’s something that can happen to anyone.
So I think because it feels like there’s a very quick, slippery slope to being quite contented and living an everyday, happy life and then finding yourself on the streets, I think maybe because it’s something that can happen to anyone, I felt, like, more drawn to that particular charity than a lot of the others.
End transcript
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You might include similar points from the description in Box 2. For example, under ‘What’s in it for you?’, you might add something about ‘making a difference to people’s lives’.

In terms of ‘What’s involved?’, we don’t know from Sas’s description what activities are involved. However, given that the charity provides overnight accommodation, it is likely to include tasks such as:

  • preparing food
  • serving meals
  • interacting with guests
  • cleaning duties.

Skills and experience might be similar to the description in Box 2, such as:

  • excellent people skills
  • reliable
  • understanding about homelessness.

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