Volunteer policies review - May 2013

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This is a open text conversion of the locked file File:Volunteer policies review - May 2013.pdf and has been created for ease of access, readability and to make it easier for members to comment on this report. -- (talk) 08:15, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

Report title
Review of volunteer Author: Katie Chan policies
11 May 2013 Status: For Information & action
Report description
A review of the volunteer policies and compliance.

The central principle underlying our charity and the Wikimedia movement is that it is volunteer-led and that staff are there to support and coordinate volunteer activities. This was most recently highlighted in the Wikimedia Funds Dissemination Committee recommendation to WMF Board of Trustees for 2012-13 round 2 funding, where they stated “We encourage entities to focus on balancing the work done by staff and volunteers in line with the Wikimedia movement’s ethos of volunteers leading work, and to focus on having staff coordinate volunteer activities.”

This principle is reflected in our current Volunteer Policy, where the first bullet point states “staff should only do things that volunteers either cannot do or do not want to do”, with much of the rest of the policy an expansion of this point. My experience both as a current member of staff and as a volunteer previously is that all employees of the charity are fully aware of this principle and keep it in mind when planning or carrying out their work. I know of no instance or genuine complaint of a Wikimedia UK staff member or staff in general taking over functions that volunteers are capable and willing to do. In fact, I would argue that Wikimedia UK in general can sometimes take an over-cautious approach in this regard, whereas some of its projects might have been more successful or at least actually have taken place if staff were more willing to push things along rather than patiently and unsuccessfully waiting for some volunteers to step up. This is something to bear in mind and think about, but not necessarily something that can or should lead to a change in the wording of the volunteer policies.

One issue that came to my attention during my review of our volunteer policies are that there are no clear indications to a potential or current volunteer as to which of our policies apply to them, unlike for staff policies where they are clearly listed as such on the Constitution page. Unless one were to go through each and every policy, there would be no way for one to know that for example the Diversity and Equalities Policy, which is listed and categorised as a staff policy, also applies to volunteers. An ideal volunteer policy “acts as a central hub from which other policies and procedures spring”.[1] In this sense, in addition to the existing content, the Volunteer Policy should summarise and link to the other applicable policies that applies to a volunteer such as the Diversity and Equalities Policy, Volunteer Conflict of Interest Policy, and the relevant section of the Finance Policy on reimbursement of expenses. Volunteering England's guidelines[2] also encourage inclusion of information on induction and training of volunteers. We are in the beginning of improving in this area including our training the trainers program and the review of that. Once the review is completed, more information will be available, which can be summarised and linked to in the Volunteer Policy.

One area that is not explicitly covered in any of our current policies is grievance procedures for volunteers. This exist for staff in the form of the Grievance Policy and Procedure, and tangentially for volunteers in the Whistle-blowing Policy. However the latter does not cover grievance that volunteers may experience.


We revise the Volunteer Policy to include a short summary of and link to other policies applicable to volunteers, and either a revision of the Grievance Policy and Procedure to make it also applicable to volunteers or the drafting of a new grievance policy specifically for volunteers.

[1]: http://www.volunteering.org.uk/component/gpb/handbooksorpolicies
[2]: Get it Right from the Start: Volunteer policies – the key to diverse volunteer involvement, Volunteer England