Idea 15: Provide an orientation and a code of conduct.

An orientation is a general introduction to your organization. Its purpose is to give people an understanding of the who, what, when, where, why and how of your organization, and how what they are volunteering to do fits into the larger picture.

Topics can include:

  • description and history of organization,
  • description of programs and clientele,
  • organization chart and introduction of key staff,
  • orientation to facilities and equipment,
  • description of volunteer program(s),
  • description of volunteer procedures (record keeping, benefits, training, supervision, etc.) .

The orientation should be reasonably concise and occur within the first month of a volunteer’s placement in an organization. Some organizations have orientation modules online which can be reviewed before face-to-face meetings.

Volunteer handbooks may be included as part of orientation. Fader (2010) suggests that they include the following:

  • welcoming message (official thanks),
  • organization’s mission statement,
  • introduction (e.g. history, scope of services, geographic area served, accomplishments and goals),
  • organizational structure,
  • contact information,
  • role of board of directors,
  • financial structure,
  • volunteer’s rights and responsibilities,
  • what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviour,
  • description of volunteer training programs,
  • confidentiality policies,
  • safety and risk management policies,
  • explanation of recognition programs,
  • volunteer severance policies.

Voices from the field:

  • Provide a Code of Conduct and a list of expectations – this gives credibility and also an air of professionalism and seriousness (all the while recognizing that tutoring is the primary focus and that record-keeping and reporting requirements should be streamlined and simplified).
  • Ensure volunteers know and value the whole program or organization they are volunteering for through a thorough orientation.
  • If I knew then what I know now: I would have spent more time ensuring that all volunteers know about and feel a part of the big picture that their good work is supporting.

To learn more:

Barrie Literacy Council. (2007). Volunteer handbook. Retrieved from
» An example of a volunteer handbook that could be used for orientation.

Edwards, H.C. (2012). Orientation: welcoming new volunteers into the organization. In T. Connors (Ed.), The volunteer management handbook: leadership strategies for success. (2nd ed.) (pp. 55-80). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Fader, S. (2010). 365 ideas for recruiting, retaining, motivating and rewarding your volunteers: a complete guide for non-profit organizations. Ocala, Fla.: Atlantic Publishing Group.
» Has advice on creating a volunteer handbook.

Graff, L. (2005). Best of all: the quick reference guide to effective volunteer involvement. Dundas, Ont.: Linda Graff and Associated, Inc.
» Includes a chapter on orientation.

Harwood, C. (2002). Literacy volunteer resources. Ottawa, ON: Ottawa-Carleton Coalition for Literacy.
» Includes a section in ‘Managing the volunteer process’ on orientation.

Literacy Victoria. (2011). Literacy Victoria online information session for volunteers. Retrieved from
» This online information session is mandatory for all volunteers and offers some of the information that would be presented in an orientation session.

Last updated: November 12, 2015