2.5 Managing Human Resources


This section will help you think through some of the human resource management issues that VOPEs typically have to deal with, whether the VOPE relies exclusively on volunteers, or a combination of staff and volunteers. Resources on how to recruit VOPE leaders and documenting role descriptions are referenced as resources.

Board Effectiveness

A VOPE is usually governed by a volunteer Board or Governing Body as set out in the constitution of a VOPE. This Board may have multiple roles (according to the community toolbox http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/structure/organizational-structure/board-of-directors/main):

  • Doing the VOPE Work – where the Board helps with the functioning of the organization by carrying out tasks;
  • Providing credibility – where they show members that the organization is legitimate;
  • Providing relevant experience – e.g. where an accountant or lawyer is brought in for their special expertise;
  • Assisting with fundraising – where the networks of Board members help the VOPE to secure financial or other in-kind resources; and
  • Safeguarding the VOPEs mission and philosophy – by providing oversight and guidance to activities.

Ensuring that the Board works effectively at all of these roles is a typical challenge that VOPEs face. Volunteers usually start with good intentions, but if they are not clear about expectations up front, or if they don’t have the necessary skills or time to commit, or if they never get an opportunity to reflect on their contributions, it is possible that the goodwill of the volunteer Board may not be realized into measurable effects. Lobbying for the right Board members to be nominated to the future Board is one of the most important tasks that a current Board would have. The “right” Board members would typically add a diversity of skills and experience to the Board (e.g. fundraising, networking, web management or financial management skills), while ensuring that important representivity criteria (e.g. gender, sector specialization) are met. Most importantly, however, Board members’ work and life circumstances must be such that they would allow them to invest the extra time and effort into Board activities. It is not unheard of that volunteer Board members could spend as many as 2 hours per week just to keep up with email communication among Board members. If a Board involves non-board members in sub-committees, these sub-committees might provide an appropriate place to identify possible future Board members with a track record of working constructively.   

Once a Board has been selected, it may be useful to:

  • Develop a Board code of conduct that stipulates minimum levels of participation in Board meetings and other Board activities (e.g. if a Board member misses three consecutive Board meetings, he / she may be asked to resign). This will help Board members to realize when they are no longer able to meet the needs of the VOPE, and it will help the VOPE to hold Board members accountable.   
  • Develop a description of generic roles and responsibilities for all Board members, and those applicable to each Board member’s portfolio.
  • Appoint a smaller group of the VOPE board to make some of the day-to-day decisions on behalf of the Board – a small executive consisting of a chair, treasurer and secretary may be required to meet and communicate more frequently than other Board members.
  • Institute an occasional reflection process during which Board members are asked to reflect on their own and their peers’ performance on the Board against a set of pre-selected indicators. A VOPE may also consider instituting a special award to recognise the quality and significance of specific Board members’ contributions.
  • Develop a process through which previous Board members could be kept involved in the activities of the VOPE (e.g. through involving them as members or coordinators of special sub-committees).

It is typical for VOPE Board members to have a limit on the time period that they are allowed to serve on the Board. This is usually stipulated in the constitution, bylaws or founding documents of the VOPE and ensures that there is a constant flow of new energy on the Board. The effects of losing institutional memory when Board members leave a Board would, however, have to be managed carefully. It is advisable to develop a plan to ensure that all Board members (especially those who hold key board positions, such as secretary, chairperson, and treasurer) do not rotate off the Board at the same time. Some VOPEs also have a system where an incoming chair and outgoing chair support the work of a current chairperson.  

Recruiting full-time and part-time staff

The Board might recruit volunteers and administrative or program personnel on a part-time or full-time basis to assist the VOPE to deliver on its mandate.  Personnel may be appointed as consultants or as permanent staff members; each kind of employment would have certain legal implications for the organization.

Having a clear set of guidelines and policies in place will make the recruitment process easier and more efficient. It will also increase your chances of recruiting the best person. According to Chapter 10 of the Community Toolbox (http://ctb.ku.edu/en//tablecontents/sub_section_main_1103.htm), the typical activities for hiring and training of staff are as follows: 

  • Identify the needs of the VOPE in respect of administrative staff and volunteers.
  • Refine the organization structure for the VOPE by including all employees who are not part of the governing body but who will be employed by your VOPE.
  • Develop a plan for staff hiring and training which will address questions such as:
    • What kind of people do you want as staff members? 
    • What can you afford?
    • What will the hiring process look like? 
  • Develop Personnel Policies (Hours of work, leave, administrative requirements).
  • Develop Staff Orientation Programs.
  • Prepare the Job Descriptions and Criteria for selection.
  • Decide on the level of remuneration to be offered.
  • Advertise the position(s).
  • Shortlist suitable candidates.
  • Interview for position(s).
  • Develop a training program for each staff member.

 If your organization wants to make use of volunteers, you need to plan and develop guidelines for how the volunteers will be involved, how they will be recruited, orientated and trained. It may also be useful to have a code of conduct for volunteers and a written undertaking which outlines the mutual expectations in terms of efforts required, handling of confidential information and processes when a volunteer is no longer able to assist.

It is imperative to keep in mind that selecting the right people and training them well are some of the most important things you can do to ensure that your organization is effective. 

Human Resources, Staff, Board Members

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