Current Partners


Agency Description/Update Form
Placement Offer Form
Student Performance Evaluation
Warning Form
Service Learning Timesheet

Assistance and Resources

Tools and Templates


Orientation answers the basic questions: who? where? when? and what?

Click here for a sample checklist of orientation topics. While different agencies need to cover different sorts of information during volunteer orientations, the most important goal is to educate your service learners about your agency and be sure they have all the information they need to start volunteering successfully. Don't assume any prior knowledge.

  • Give some background and big-picture context for your agency: mission, history, purpose, goals.
  • Explain your agency's dress code to service learners before their first shift.  If your agency has other conduct/behavioral expectations (eg, privacy/confidentiality, use of cell phones, etc.), explain these as well.  Students cannot be held accountable for adhering to policies which aren't clearly communicated to them.  Also explain why these policies are important.
  • Provide each service learner with a specific "report to" location.  This should include an address and, if necessary, a floor, suite or room number and other necessary instructions (for example, ringing an entry buzzer).
  • Make sure students have full names and contact information for any supervisors and staff they'll need to contact.  Make sure they know the name of the person to whom they should report for their first shift.
  • Make sure students know where to find things they'll need at the service site (restrooms, water fountain, storage room, supply closet, refrigerator, etc).
  • Notify other staff at the agency when students are coming so students are welcomed and greeted with enthusiasm, especially for their first shift.  
  • Clearly identify the expectations you have for service learners.
  • Understand that an initial one-time volunteer orientation almost never provides all needed information.  Work with colleagues and other agency staff to find additional opportunities early in the volunteer relationship to orient students to topics you can't cover in an initial orientation.

Tasking and Training Volunteers

In order for a volunteer placement to be successful, volunteers must have a clear sense of what their assigned tasks are each time they come. 

They must also receive adequate instruction on how to perform these tasks to the agency's standards.  While orientation answers the questions: who? where? when? and what?, training answers the questions: how? and why?  Training is a form of teaching.


  • Ask students about any special skills or talents they have. If possible, match them with tasks that capitalize on these skills.
  • Be sure students know what they're expected to do, especially if the tasks change from day to day.
  • Explain why certain tasks are important to the agency and its clients.
  • Task for learning. This means describing tasks in a way that emphasizes their learning value.  Examples »
  • Give volunteers meaningful tasks. While the best volunteers are willing to chip in wherever needed, constantly being assigned menial busywork is one of the most common sources of negative feedback from volunteers.
  • When asked what volunteer tasks they enjoy most, students list the following:
  • Interacting with people
  • Developing relationships
  • Working with groups/teams
  • Using existing skills for a good cause and learning new skills
  • Getting real-world experience
  • Make the volunteer's first shift a "shadowing" shift.  Have them observe an experienced volunteer or staff member doing tasks similar to the ones the volunteer will be expected to do.  This is training by example.
  • Understand that training is ongoing.

Scheduling and managing service hours


  • Know volunteers' availability. Ask them to provide a copy of their schedule. If necessary, distinguish between times when the volunteer is truly unavailable and times when the volunteer prefers not to serve. Do not offer placements to volunteers whose availability is not a good match for your programs.
  • When you offer a student a placement at your agency, make it for a regular weekly shift. Hold them to it.
  • Familiarize yourself with Loyola's breaks and holidays. Students are not required to serve when Loyola is not in session during breaks, holidays or evacuations. However, a student may volunteer during these times if they wish, but it must be by mutual agreement with your agency.
  • Adopt a clear absence and notification policy. Explain it to students. Use our sample absence policy as a template.
  • Be sure to tell service learners at least a week in advance about any cancellations, closures, or disruptions to regular programming.
  • Students' time must be verified by agency staff for accuracy. You must keep accurate account of students' service learning time in order for someone at your agency to vouch that a student was actually present during times they submit. 
  • Devise a sign-in/sign-out or hours tracking system that works well for your agency. Methods can vary, but be sure students know what your system is.


Supervision and performance management

It is not a good idea to train volunteers, assign them tasks, and then ignore them for the remainder of the volunteer relationship.  Managing and supervising volunteers is an ongoing task.  When done well, it will maximize the value of volunteers to your agency. 


  • Schedule brief check-in meetings with volunteers every 3-5 weeks.
  • Recognize the power of the positive: praise good work; celebrate achievements; thank students for their time.
  • Get to know your volunteers.  Talk to them about their interests, goals and backgrounds.
  • Provide constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement throughout the service experience. 
  • Don't wait until the end of the voluntee relationship to provide positive or negative comments.
  • Be sure service learners know who will be evaluating their performance at the end of the semester.
  • Address problems as they arise; don't let them build up.  Be honest about needed improvements.
  • Treat volunteers as adults, and don't coddle underperformers. 
  • Adopt a clear, step-by-step performance management system. This spells out expectations and the consequences for failing to meet expectations. Use our template as an example, and then customize it to your agency's needs.
  • Meet with service learners face-to-face during a final shift. Ask them to give feedback about their experience. Have an honest conversation about how well they performed. Share your performance evaluation with the student, or go through it together during your final meeting.

Increasing Volunteer Satisfaction

TELL THEM WHY: Make sure they know how their tasks—both big and small—are contributing to the mission of the agency

BE VISIBLE: Pay attention to them and be accessible in case they have questions

COMMUNICATE: Try to give ongoing feedback, be available to talk as well as listen

INCLUDE THEM: Introduce them to staff, invite them to events, share agency’s triumphs with them

SAY THANKS: Sometimes a simple handwritten note or a just saying, “Thanks” can be even better than a gift. You can also post your thank-you on your organization’s facebook page

NOMINATE THEM FOR AWARDS: We award one star student every spring

GIVE GIFTS: A great way to show your appreciation is with a small gift; some simple gift ideas follow:

  • Ornament or card with a picture of the volunteer and clients or staff members
  • Movie passes
  • Starbucks gift card (often you can get gift cards at a reduced price from community minded vendors)
  • Food - a simple snack, candy, pizza, etc.

‚ÄčMore great ideas on the blogpost “Engaging Volunteers”

Dress Code

Dress codes should be developed with the safety of service learners and agency clients in mind. Dress codes should follow work place safety standards and should be adjusted to fit your agency’s needs. Please be descriptive in your dress code policies and state consquences for dress code violations. Click here for a sample dress code policy.