Part 6 - Volunteers and Board of Directors


At any orientation session for volunteers, make your organization’s mission, values and commitment to diversity clear. It should also be in any written orientation materials (which should also include policies addressing equity and diversity, AODA accessibility, health and safety, and harassment.) But don’t forget that you’re welcoming people! New volunteers will appreciate hearing from and meeting company leaders too.

Make sure long-standing volunteers are on board with these messages. People are apprehensive about change and may feel threatened or even undermined. Cross-cultural training can allay some of the concerns. Giving them a role in the development of the strategy, or in the training of new volunteers, will help strengthen their investment in the new strategy and activities. Encouraging diversity in volunteering will mean the whole organization can benefit from a wide range of experiences.

Plan ahead of time to address the accessibility needs of volunteers in your practical arrangements. If your facility is not yet adequate, consider meetings off-site to accommodate disability access, child-friendly arrangements and suitable food.

Regular training sessions should be designed with verbal and written instructions. It can be pretty overwhelming, so short but regular sessions can make people feel supported. A mentoring or buddying scheme can help new volunteers integrate more quickly and give experienced volunteers a chance to share their knowledge.

Get to know the individual goals of your volunteers.  Are they interested in professional development, improved language and work skills, professional connections and a broader network? Arts and culture volunteers often want the latter – so they might enjoy attending or being part of professional opportunities such as observing a film editing session, shadowing a digital producer for a day, or being part of final rehearsals or an opening party.

Professional development opportunities are always appreciated and often strengthen long-term relationships. Getting to know your volunteers will also help you think of new opportunities to keep them engaged and motivated.

Feedback helps volunteers grow and develop skills and confidence, but it also helps you to identify potential new leaders among your volunteers.  Feedback is always a sensitive subject, but especially so when individuals are contributing their time.  Still your expectations for the volunteer’s position and the consequences of not meeting those should be clear; then you can meet with the volunteer regularly, offering ongoing feedback.

Check in with the volunteer on how they want feedback to be given and be sensitive to the nuances of expression and values. Remember the ‘cultural iceberg’ (link to iceberg graphic) so you are thinking about reactions and nuances ‘beneath the surface.’

Just as volunteering is a two-way street (both parties are giving and getting something), feedback should also go both ways. You can learn as much from what volunteers tell you about your organization or arrangements as they can learn from your comments.

In your feedback though, remember to appreciate the volunteer – “because of your work, we were able to …”.  And give them an opportunity to provide feedback on their experience through informal conversations, or through written surveys or other ways they feel comfortable.If that feedback leads to changes, acknowledge it publicly.

Celebration and appreciation never go amiss:

  • a simple thank-you at the end of a volunteer shift
  • a note of thanks at the end of a term
  • public praise for a job well done (highlighting some of the qualities that make a volunteer good to work with)
  • volunteer stories in your newsletter or on your website
  • or a volunteer party to celebrate contributions

A volunteer who feels genuinely involved, supported and listened to is likely to stay motivated and return regularly. And that volunteer will be the best ambassador for your organization.


Hot Docs Guidelines for Volunteer Management – This extensive and detailed manual,takes you through the whole Volunteer Cycle, with tips, templates and resources. It is dedicated to the arts and culture sector.

Volunteer Toronto – Although a Toronto-based organization that connects volunteers and charities, Volunteer Toronto has a helpful set of services, free resource booklets as well as online and in-person training. Their booklets cover such areas as orientation and training, volunteer retention and recognition and giving feedback.