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Staff and roles involved with Volunteers

Different organisations divide up these roles in different ways. In some cases several of these roles are held by one individual. In other cases a role may be shared by a team of people. This explanation is designed to give an overview of the different work areas that someone within the organisation may need to take responsibility for.

Work leaders/supervisors

These are the people who work with the Volunteers on a day to day basis, checking in with them each morning, assigning tasks, demonstrating how to do tasks where necessary, and being available to answer questions throughout the day.

A talk with the Supervisors/Work Leaders is recommended to check the flow of communication and identify who is responsible for which specific activities. 

If there is more than one team of Volunteers, e.g. a kitchen team, a garden team, etc. then there should be separate Team Leaders supervising each of those teams.

Volunteer Coordinators

The Volunteer Coordinators have an oversight over the whole volunteering programme, but don’t necessarily work directly with the Volunteers on a day to day basis. 

The Coordinator role is sometimes divided up into two roles: Project Administration and practical hands-on Management of the Project (in some organisations, these dual roles are held by the same person).

Practical, Hands-on Management involves:
  • Volunteer recruitment
    • Advertising for Volunteers
    • Designing and sending out application forms, processing applications and selecting and interviewing applicants. 

This can be time consuming, but it’s worth investing the time and energy to select Volunteers who are a good fit for the project and will be likely to stay for the duration (See Best Practices in second half for more details) 

  • Establishing relationships with Sending Organisation (the Partner Organisation in the country where the participant comes from, who help to ensure that ESC protocols are followed and who share responsibility for:
    • the participant’s well-being
    • exchanging of contracts
  • Pre-arrival communications with Volunteers: providing details about travel arrangements, what to bring, etc.
    Some organisations host online events for new Volunteers to meet each other before the project starts.
  • Organising accommodation for Volunteers.
    This varies depending on the accommodation available.

    In Cloughjordan this involves securing rental accommodation locally and liaising with Landlords (in this case accommodation consumes a significant part of their project budget).

    Other communities have their own accommodation on site – in this case the role may involve deciding how the accommodation is allocated (or liaising with whoever is responsible for accommodation in the community).

    Consideration should be given to the comfort and privacy needs of Volunteers, and potential interpersonal issues that may arise (expecting Volunteers to share a room for an extended period of time, e.g.for a project that lasts for a whole year, may be a recipe for more potential conflicts than if Volunteers have their own space).

  • Organising food for the Volunteers.
    In some cases the community already shares food and eats together and the Volunteers need to be factored into the existing scheme.

    In Cloughjordan, Volunteers live together in shared houses and take turns to cook for each other. In this case the Volunteers have free access to vegetables from the Community Farm and bread from the local baker, and are also provided with a monthly budget for their remaining food needs.

  • Welcoming New Volunteers. This includes tasks like preparing a Welcome Pack/Handbook for Volunteers Pack, planning and implementing an
    Induction Week/Induction programme, and supporting integration with the community.
  • Coordinating the Activity Plan. This involves overseeing the content of the Programme, managing the Volunteer work hours and ensuring there is a balance between work, education and free time within the Volunteer activities.
    In most cases this means liaising with Team Leaders and other relevant individuals, and in some cases organising activities and/or training sessions for Volunteers. Coordinators also need to keep track of things like the amount of holiday days taken by Volunteers.
  • Regular meetings with Volunteers. Assessing their progress, supporting their learning, and getting feedback on the project.
  • Practical information and support. This varies according to what is required. Examples include providing travel information, assisting Volunteers with availing of medical support, organising someone to fix a broken washing machine, etc.
  • Managing issues and grievances. In some cases this involves practical intervention to change something that isn’t working – this could be anything from changing the timing of working hours to creating cleaning rotas. In other cases it may involve organising for mediation or conflict support, or may mean following a more formal grievance procedure.
Project Administration involves:
  • Project Applications. Before running an ESC programme you need to complete a successful Quality Label application – these are long and complex, but only need to be completed once every few years.
    Once a Quality Label has been approved, organisations only need to fill in a much shorter budget request for each project they wish to run. 
    There are usually two annual deadlines for these (currently February and October).
  • Legal compliance.
    This involves managing the Beneficiary Tool (an online EU platform) and ensuring all information supplied about the Project is accurate
    • preparing contracts and ensuring they are signed by all parties, and
    • liaising with the National Agency (each country has its own National Agency which approves and oversees ESC projects).
  • Writing reports. Detailed midterm and final reports need to be written and submitted to the NA and the EU Portal for each project
  • Financial management. This involves creating and managing a budget for each project and tracking payments and cash flows.


The Mentor’s role is to support the emotional well-being of the Volunteers.

They should be someone that the Volunteer is familiar with and feels comfortable turning to if they have any problems that they can’t talk to the other team members about. 
For this reason, the Mentor should not be someone who works with the Volunteers on a day to day basis. 

In some organisations, one Mentor is assigned to all the Volunteers; in other organisations each Volunteer has a different Mentor (e.g. using a ‘Godparent’ or ‘Buddy’ system as described in Mentoring). 

Ideally the Mentor should have skills and experience in a field related to interpersonal care, human resources and/or mediating conflict – for example: in counselling, psychotherapy, non-violent communication.

Accountant/ bookkeeper

Someone also needs to manage payments – such as the payment of pocket money to the Volunteers, reimbursement of travel costs, and other expenses of the project – as well as filing invoices and receipts, and keeping the accounts.