What is a job description?

The job description is typically a list that describes the general tasks, functions, and responsibilities of a volunteer position. It may often include to whom the position reports, specifications such as the qualifications or skills needed by the person in the role. Job descriptions are usually descriptive, but some may instead comprise a simple list of competencies needed.

A job description needs not to be limited to explaining the current situation, or work that is currently expected; it may also set out goals for what might be achieved in the future. Sometimes it is useful to have a distinction between the job description and the job specification or person specification, as illustrated in the picture below.

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In Scouting context, job description can be easily created by following a simple, three-step process: 1) identifying the organisations needs 2) identifying volunteer to be filled 3) identifying the benefits and investments for the volunteer

Identify the organisation’s needs

Before a job description is drafted, it is essential to identify the needs of the organisation. The organisation must determine exactly its needs before recruiting volunteers, rather than recruiting first and then scrambling to find motivating tasks for them.

You can set up a list of skills, attitudes and knowledge that is required for your organisation. You probably will not find the volunteer realising all your wishes. Choose the essential topics you like to see to be there by the start of the volunteer’s work and set up a programme of training to let the volunteer acquire other skills. Also discuss if the organisation can offer training for some of the required skills or should it look elsewhere?

Identify volunteer roles to be filled

Almost any work to be done to meet the objectives of your organisation can be done by volunteers. There is no rule that says that volunteers can do only certain assignments. The organisation will benefit from offering more challenging and interesting work and tasks for volunteers. Before recruitment, you need to develop clear volunteer job descriptions. This does not need to be a lengthy task. After all, simple is usually better than complicated.

A volunteer job description outlines the work that needs to be done by the volunteer. It is a very useful tool, a basis for your recruitment effort, because it defines the assignment, skills, abilities and interests necessary to perform the task successfully. A well-formulated job description can also function as a tool for mutual agreement and later evaluations.

When creating volunteer job descriptions, the organisation should define:

  • general tasks and responsibilities in the role
  • amount of time the volunteer is expected to commit weekly or monthly
  • any special skills, attitudes or knowledge that are needed or preferred
  • number of volunteers needed
  • anything else that would be useful for a potential volunteer to know

Identify the benefits for the volunteer and the investment required

To attract volunteers, you need to determine what you have of value you can give in exchange to the volunteers for their contributed free time. Why do people volunteer? What do they gain through volunteer service in the particular role that you have to offer?

Here are some suggestions why people may decide to volunteer:

  • because it is fun
  • to make new friends and affiliations;
  • to join peers and belong to a group or a community;
  • to acquire new skills (e.g. new career options by receiving “professional” experience or training);
  • To be creative and solve problems
  • To develop personally and explore new interests
  • To fulfil the service requirements of a club, school, church, etc.
  • To do something useful or enjoyable to improve the quality of life of the members of the community.

What kind of investments does the role require from the volunteer?

  • Time away from family and friends?
  • Less time for other hobbies and career-related pursuits?
  • Expenses for travelling, parking, childcare, meals and other expenses related to the position as a volunteer?

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Radu Stinghe
About The Author

Radu Stinghe

Radu comes from Romania and is the Director of Youth Programme in the European Scout Office. He is following the Region's work on Educational Methods and Youth Empowerment.

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