Sustainable Volunteering Resources

The following resources have been developed in response to sector need by our Sustainable Volunteering Officer; Eleanor Moore. Where appropriate, links are also provided to external resources recommended by our Sustainable Volunteering Officer.

We advise you check back at this page regularly as more resources are currently in development.

The Volunteer Framework for South West Museums : An Introduction

Careful planning is the key to successful participation by volunteers in any organisation and good management of volunteers requires an investment of time by other volunteers or paid staff. The Volunteer Framework for South West Museums provides you with a step by step guide to policies and procedures for volunteer involvement.

The ‘Where are you now?’ checklist will help you assess and review your museum’s current practice and identify any areas of improvement. Some areas of policy and procedure are subject to more frequent change than others and specialist advice should be requested where required.

Further training is available through the South West Museum Skills Programme and through local volunteer centre support, More information, templates and examples are downloadable through links on each page.

Volunteers are not covered by employment legislation but there are a number of areas where legal rights and commitments need to be incorporated into your policies and procedures. It is particularly important to understand the principles of job substitution when involving volunteers across an organisation. More information from .

Some organisations unknowingly create contracts of employment (written or unwritten) in the way they engage with volunteers which may make it possible for volunteers to consider legal action against the museum. The emphasis is on your working practices, policies and procedures; and these should be regularly reviewed to make sure they do not suggest a contractual relationship.

The Volunteer Framework for South West Museums : Planning Policies and Procedures : Volunteer Agreements

Volunteer Agreements

Volunteer agreements can be used to set out both a museum’s commitment to its volunteers and what it hopes from its volunteers. A volunteer agreement can act as a reference point for the volunteers and a reminder to the museum that it should meet the standards of good practice that it has set itself.

You may decide however to include the information in other places such as your volunteer policy, in which case, as long as your volunteers have read the policy, a separate volunteer agreement may not be necessary for your museum.

Care must be taken to set out what the museum expects from its volunteers and how it treats its volunteers in order to avoid the creation of mutual obligations that might be regarded as a contract.

Typically in an agreement a museum might commit to:

  • Providing volunteers with a written role description
  • Provide a full induction and any training necessary for the role
  • Provide a named supervisor or person the volunteer can go to for support
  • Reimburse out of pocket expenses where possible
  • Provide a safe working environment
  • Treat volunteers in line with its equality and diversity policy
  • Implement good health and safety practice
  • Provide insurance for volunteers
  • Sort out problems or disagreements fairly and in line with stated policies

Volunteers might be expected to:

  • Carry out their tasks in a way which corresponds to the aims and values of the museum
  • Work within the policies and procedures of the museum including health and safety, equal opportunities and confidentiality
  • Let the museum know if they are unable to volunteer for any reason

Volunteering England (part of NCVO since 2013) suggested using the following wording at the end of a volunteer agreement: “This agreement is not intended to be a legally binding contract between us and may be cancelled at any time at the discretion of either party. Neither of us intends any employment relationship to be created either now or at any time in the future.”

This wording has been used extensively on volunteer agreements across organisations.

It is advised against asking volunteers to sign volunteer agreements, as this can appear to be contractual, however you may ask a volunteer to sign to record that they have received an induction and/or volunteer handbook, which includes understanding the volunteer agreement and policy.


The Volunteer Framework for South West Museums : Planning Policies and Procedures : Volunteer Policies

Writing a Volunteer Policy

A volunteer policy will give an overall framework for volunteer involvement in your museum. Having a policy demonstrates commitment, consistency and clarity and should be consulted on widely to ensure that it is understandable by a diverse group of volunteers. A volunteer agreement may be included within the volunteer policy. Volunteer policies are often recorded as part of the complete volunteer handbook. Each museum decides what will work best for them.

What should a volunteer policy cover?

The volunteer policy will be the key document that sets the tone for volunteer involvement with an organisation and will avoid suggesting a contractual relationship by:

  • Making it clear that the roles of volunteers are voluntary, i.e. unpaid
  • Not using legal or employment jargon like ‘work’, ‘contract’ or ‘job descriptions’
  • Each area can be summarised with reference to other policies such as Health and Safety or all policies can be included under subheadings on the one volunteer policy.
  • Statement about the nature of volunteering
  • Introduction to museum vision, aims and objectives together with future plans
  • Recruitment – from advertising to final selection process
  • Your volunteer agreement (sometimes known as a volunteer charter) can be included in the policy or produced separately.
  • Induction and training – be clear that volunteers do not provide a service in return for training
  • Expenses procedure – only out-of-pocket expenses are appropriate although thank you events, for example, are fine as well
  • Support and supervision
  • Insurance
  • Equality and diversity
  • Health and safety
  • Safeguarding
  • Copyright, Data Protection and Confidentiality
  • Problem solving for both the museum and for volunteers

Volunteer Policy example – Bristol City Council –

Other Resources:

The Volunteer Framework for South West Museums : Planning Policies and Procedures : Health and Safety

Health & Safety Policies

Health and Safety legislation is designed to protect workers and employees and does not cover volunteers. Volunteers, however, should be covered by your organisation’s ‘duty of care’ which will be reflected in health and safety policies and procedures.

In terms of legal requirements, there are two main considerations for organisations with volunteers.

  • Firstly, the ‘duty of care’ is a common law duty which applies to all individuals and organisations and has been developed by the courts.
  • Secondly, health and safety legislation such as Acts of Parliament and regulations set specific duties for employers in order to limit the risks to anyone coming into contact with their organisation.

Duty of care

The duty of care is a general common law duty on all individuals and organisations to avoid carelessly causing injury to persons. It has been developed by the courts over many years. The duty is regardless of the size of the organisation, its income or whether the organisation has paid staff.

If your organisation asks a volunteer to do a task which results in them injuring themselves or anyone else, the members of the governing body may be liable. No matter what activities your organisation is involved in, you will have to consider the duty of care owed to your volunteers. Liability depends on establishing that the organisation failed to take reasonable care.

The notion of duty of care needs to be considered in all aspects of an organisation’s work and activities.

A duty of care can arise in many ways which may not always be obvious, for example:

  • loaning equipment to others
  • charity walks and sponsored runs
  • running fetes or fairs
  • organising day trips
  • selling food at a charity stall.

Source: Factsheet from Volunteer England

Risk Assessments or Safe Methods of Working

To demonstrate that you have exercised your duty of care you will need to assess any potential hazards or risks that volunteers may encounter in general and through specific activities. You should keep a written record of what you have done to minimise the risks and demonstrate safe methods of working. Each volunteer role should have an appropriate risk assessment which volunteers can consult.

Further Information in The Risk Toolkit: how to take care of volunteers in organisations.


Voluntary organisations and groups are obliged by law to have employers’ liability insurance to cover all volunteers and employees who are not family members.

Employers’ liability insurance covers the cost of compensating volunteers and employees who are injured at or become ill through work.

Museums should also have public liability insurance to cover both the organisation and the volunteer in the event that a third party is injured through the actions of a volunteer.

Depending on the type of work involved, your museum may also need professional indemnity insurance, which covers it for claims arising from loss or injury caused by services provided negligently or without reasonable care.

It is good practice to ensure that you have appropriate insurance for your volunteers and you should check that:

  • Your policies should explicitly mention volunteers as they are not always automatically added to your cover
  • Check to see whether your insurer imposes upper and lower age limits for volunteers
  • Ensure your insurer is aware of the type of activities that volunteers are involved in
  • Produce a risk assessment for each volunteer role
  • Ensure volunteers who use their own car as part of their duties inform their insurance company

Further information from the Association of British Insurers –

Volunteer Drivers (as part of their duties, not just to and from the museum)

  • Licences should be full not provisional
  • Volunteers should ensure their car is road worthy and they are fit to drive
  • Volunteers should inform their insurance company that they are using their vehicle for volunteering duties. It is not always necessary for volunteers to tell their insurance company.
  • May wish to keep copies of the licence, insurance certificate, MOT certificate if applicable

Further information

Lone Workers

Avoid lone working where possible but if anyone needs to work on their own have a lone worker policy in place that considers the safe ways of working.

  • Know that lone working is occurring and carrying out appropriate risk assessments for the specific volunteer, tasks and the site
  • Have contact arrangements in place so that someone knows the whereabouts and schedule of the lone worker and can start emergency procedures if necessary
  • Provide adequate first-aid equipment and know that the lone worker can use it
  • Avoid particularly hazardous activities, e.g. using dangerous equipment or unfamiliar tasks

Other relevant information

The Volunteer Handbook for the museum will hold all detailed information about exact procedures for fire evacuation; reporting accidents; first aid and contacts lists in case of different types of emergency.

Other Resources:

The Volunteer Framework for South West Museums : Planning Policies and Procedures : Equality and Diversity

Equality and Diversity

It is good practice to produce an Equality and Diversity Statement which is displayed clearly in the museum and on recruitment materials where appropriate. Equality and diversity is an issue for organisational health and a positive approach will be interwoven through a museum’s activities.

Clear advice is provided by NCVO through their website .

More information on the nine areas of protected characteristics as described by the Equality and Human Rights Commission available at:

The museum may be able to offer a wide range of volunteering opportunities to people with different needs.

Information on offering volunteering opportunities to ex-offenders can be found through NACRO (National Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders) . Whilst the information is not specific to volunteering it does give useful guidance on good practice. Specific information on working with young people who are ex-offenders is available: young-people-with-convictions-as-volunteers-vol-involving-orgs-briefing.

Volunteers who are in receipt of benefits have a responsibility to communicate the nature of the volunteering to government departments such as Job Centre Plus.

More information (produced in 2013) and in the booklet produced in 2010 by Job Centre Plus.

Volunteers from overseas and volunteers who are seeking asylum have a responsibility to contribute within the regulations associated with their stay in the UK. More information about volunteers who may be seeking asylum can be found here ( )

The Volunteer Framework for South West Museums : Planning Policies and Procedures : Data Protection

Data Protection and Confidentiality

All public and private organisations are legally obliged to protect any personal information they hold. This fact sheet provides guidance to areas and groups who work with members’ personal data. Personal data includes names and contact details.

The information in this factsheet is derived based on the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, the Privacy and Electronic Communication (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 and guidance issued by the Information Commissioners Office.

Data Protection legislation requires organisations to take care over the personal information that they hold on individuals and to use it only for relevant communication. The Act covers any information which is held on computer about living individuals that may identify them.

Data Protection Principles

  • Personal data shall be processed daily and lawfully
  • Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes
  • Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed
  • Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date
  • Personal data processed for any purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary
  • Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data Volunteers may come into contact with a range of sensitive information which might relate to individuals such as names and addresses or even information about people’s circumstances, families, health and other private matters. It might be about security or financial matters relating to the museum. It is important that information about the museum’s affairs is not shared inappropriately as this may impact on security of collections or funding applications for example. It is vital everyone understands what information they can and cannot share.The Museum (this may be lead volunteers or volunteers responsible for specific areas of activity) has a responsibility to all volunteers, to


  •  explain to them what information they can and cannot access
  • give guidance on what they can and cannot share.All volunteers need to be comfortable with maintaining confidentiality, and understand:
  • not to divulge any sensitive organisational information, or any information we have regarding others, to anyone outside the museum
  • Any personal data relating to individuals should be locked away when a task is finished or at the end of the day.
  • Information from database must not be used for any unlawful reason or copied in any way for that purpose
  • If photocopying information, volunteers should ensure they take it all with them and do not leave items on a copier or in a room containing a copierNo one should make assumptions about sharing confidential information with other staff, volunteers or organisations. If a volunteer is not sure about what information he/she may share, then the right thing to do is to talk to a manager/supervisor/lead volunteer.


  • Copyright is an automatic right protecting original work which falls under the category of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work (including illustration and photography). Sound, music, film and television recordings are also covered – including oral histories.
  • If you are working with volunteers who are carrying out work which fall under any of these categories – for example taking photography of museum objects, creating an output as part of a digitisation project, taking photographs or making films for publicity purposes or carrying out oral history recordings – it is advisable that you ask for a ‘Deed of assignment of copyright’ before they start their voluntary work. It might also be necessary to ensure that copyright in any previous work has also been assigned to the museum.

A template for a copyright form can be found here – Deed of Assignment of Copyright

Other Resources:

data protection and confidentiality_policy Community Action example

Data Protection Statement template

The Volunteer Framework for South West Museums : Planning Policies and Procedures :Volunteering with Children & Young People

Safeguarding: children, young people and vulnerable adults

The term ‘young person’ can refer to anyone who is between the age of 11 and 25 years old depending on the context of the definition.

Whilst there are specific requirements for young people under 16 years old and separately for young people who are 17 and 18 years old, ‘safeguarding’ is a practice that extends to everyone in an organisation. A vulnerable person could be a young person under 18 years old as much as an older person of 75 years old or a person with learning needs of 40 years old. It is only the legislation that is different.

It is good practice to gain parent or guardian consent for volunteers under the age of 16 years and you will need to check that they are also covered by your insurance. Additional permission should be sought if a young volunteer will be undertaking activities away from the museum.

Risk assessments of volunteering involving young people should reflect the nature of the task, the location of the volunteering, other people that the volunteer will come into contact with (including staff, volunteers and visitors), and any people the young volunteer may have influence over (for example in helping with family activities).

In general young people should:

Other Resources:

The Volunteer Framework for South West Museums : Planning Policies and Procedures : Involving Young Volunteers

Involving Young Volunteers

See also link – Volunteering with children, young people and vulnerable adults

Young people are increasingly looking for volunteering opportunities as a way of pursuing an interest and to improve their employability. Young people like to have short term volunteering opportunities that may be project-related and have a specific outcome. Young people can bring a new perspective; enable links to a different part of the community or visitor demographic and can introduce new skills. As with all volunteers, it is important that a museum knows what the young volunteer is looking for from their volunteering contribution.

Apart from young volunteers who respond to an advertisement, there are a number of other specific reasons why a young volunteer might support the museum.