Volunteer Policy

When community members contribute to the work we do, everyone is richer for the experience.

For information on volunteer opportunities at Sistering, please see Become a Volunteer

Volunteer Philosophy

Volunteers are a valuable human resource who deserve the support and encouragement of Sistering participants and staff. They represent an unlimited potential for active social, political and economic change through their voluntary commitment to challenging the conditions that endanger the lives of women and trans people.

Volunteers are secondary only to the needs of participants and Sistering’s mission statement. Sistering does not exist to provide opportunities for volunteer involvement but rather volunteer participation is valued because it helps Sistering fulfill its mission statement and provide services to homeless, low-income and marginalized women and trans people.

Definition Of “Volunteer”

A Sistering volunteer is a person who, without the expectation of compensation beyond reimbursement, performs a task or tasks at the direction of, and on behalf of, the agency and its participants. A volunteer must be officially accepted and enrolled by the agency prior to the performance of their tasks. Unless specifically stated, volunteers are not considered as employees of the agency.

Special Case Volunteers

Sistering also accepts as volunteers those participating in student placements, corporate volunteer programs and other volunteer referral programs. In each of these cases an agreement is in effect with the school, organization or program from which the special case volunteers originate and responsibility for management and care of the volunteers has been identified.

In accordance with Sistering’s Board of Directors declaration of Workfare, Sistering’s volunteer program does not accept into its volunteer program those forced to participate in Ontario Works.

Process To Become A Sistering Volunteer

Volunteer recruitment efforts will target broad community involvement to ensure representative diversity of race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation and physical ability. This recruitment policy works in conjunction with Sistering’s hiring policies and procedures. All prospective volunteers must complete Sistering’s application form with accurate and complete information. Resumes can be attached to the application form but are not required.


All prospective volunteers will be interviewed by appropriate staff/board members for the position for the prospective volunteer is applying.

The purpose of this initial interview is to determine the qualifications, ability and suitability of the prospective volunteer to perform specific tasks on behalf of the agency.

Prospective volunteers will be informed in advance of the staff/board members attending the interview, and prospective volunteers are encouraged to use this opportunity to also assess Sistering for the volunteer’s needs.

Acceptance as a volunteer into the volunteer program is not automatic, and is based on the prospective volunteer’s qualifications, ability and suitability for the job for which the volunteer has applied.

Sistering currently does not require a Police Check of its volunteers.

Volunteers who are coming into Sistering to provide a service that requires professional or technical expertise (i.e. yoga, shiatsu, reiki) are required to provide Sistering with copies of their professional certification prior to beginning their volunteer placements.

Service as a volunteer with Sistering begins with an official notice of acceptance or appointment to a volunteer position. Notice may only be given by the appropriate staff member (usually the Coordinator of Volunteers). No volunteer shall begin performance of any position until they have been officially offered a volunteer position and have completed all necessary orientation, trainings and paperwork. At the time of acceptance, each volunteer will receive a copy of their job description, signed volunteer agreement form and signed confidentiality agreement.


Volunteers have a right to be fully prepared to perform their assigned volunteer duties. Sistering has a responsibility to provide the necessary training for satisfactory volunteer performance, and thus all volunteers are required to attend training/orientation sessions appropriate to their volunteer position.

All volunteers who are interviewed for a position will undergo an introductory orientation to the agency, programs and policies of Sistering. As well, during the interview process, volunteers will be given general information about the roles and expectations as a Sistering volunteer.

Sistering’s volunteer training is ongoing and staggered throughout the year. Volunteers are required to attend these on-going training sessions when they are offered.

Additionally, all volunteers, regardless of their volunteer role, are required to attend the earliest available Cultural Competency workshop (usually offered within six months of a volunteer placement).

This workshop will be provided by Sistering and dates will be given to the volunteer as far in advance as possible to allow for scheduling. The only exception to attending this workshop is episodic volunteers who are supporting Sistering for one day only. Examples of these volunteers are groups of students who support our Holiday Parties and one-time special events volunteers who help out at such events as Black History Month or International Women’s Day.


All volunteers must adhere to Sistering’s Confidentiality Policy. Additionally, volunteers are required to sign the Confidentiality Agreement Form stating they have read and agree to adhere to the confidentiality policy.

Volunteer Agreement Form

All volunteers must sign and abide by Sistering’s Volunteer Agreement.

Volunteer Expenses

Volunteers should not accrue expenses as part of their volunteer involvement at Sistering. There are two exceptions to this general rule:

Sistering will provide two TTC tokens per shift for volunteers who rely upon the transit system and cannot afford this out-of-pocket expense.

Sistering will reimburse volunteers for out-of-pocket expenses and mileage when prior arrangements have been made for these expenses. For example, a volunteer may need to purchase supplies for an art project. The volunteer is responsible for connecting with a staff person (usually the Coordinator of Volunteers or the Program Manager) prior to making those purchases.

Volunteers must not assume that their purchases will be reimbursed if prior arrangements have not been made with a staff person. Volunteers are required to produce receipts for all purchases, according to Sistering’s administrative procedures. Petty cash may be available for items under $25; a check will be issued for purchases above $25.

Volunteer Responsibilities

Frontline volunteers are expected to maintain appropriate boundaries with program participants. It is not appropriate to become friends with participants, to exchange personal contact information such as telephone numbers or addresses or to spend time with participants outside Sistering or after program hours unless it is work related.

This is not to say that volunteers cannot be friendly, caring and supportive. However, volunteers are privileged to far more information about participants than participants are to volunteers. Additionally, volunteers are privileged in a power dynamic due to their position within Sistering. Hence, participants are in a more vulnerable role in the volunteer-participant relationship.

It is normal for some participants to want to establish friendships or relationships with volunteers outside of Sistering, as some participants may (quite rightly) view volunteers as caring individuals who listen and provide supportive feedback. It is the responsibility of the volunteer to clearly establish the relationship boundary in a supportive manner, using this policy as the reason.

Participants can be referred to the Coordinator of Volunteers for more information or explanation if necessary.

If volunteers have a prior personal relationship with a participant, the volunteer is expected to inform staff as soon as possible, so, if necessary, special arrangements can be made in order to protect the safety and confidentiality of the participant in question.

Use Of Organizational Affiliation

Volunteers may not use their organizational affiliation in connection with partisan politics, religious matters or community issues contrary to positions taken by Sistering as a whole.

While on assignment for Sistering, volunteers must not represent themselves as other than a volunteer with Sistering.

Prior to any action or statement that might affect or obligate Sistering, volunteers must seek prior consultation and approval from appropriate staff. These actions may include, but are not limited to, statements to the press, coalition or lobbying efforts with other organizations, letter writing campaigns or letters to the editor, or any agreements involving contractual or other financial obligations.

Alcohol Or Drugs

While on Sistering property and/or while performing Sistering business, volunteers are prohibited from being under the influence of, using, possessing, selling or otherwise being involved with alcohol or illegal drugs.


Dismissal of volunteers will be a last resort, applied only when other available and appropriate approaches have been attempted and failed. Dismissal, whenever possible, will take place only after consultation among staff, the Coordinator of Volunteers and the volunteer themself.

Dismissal of volunteers will normally follow a progressive discipline process that:

Includes a sequence of verbal and written warnings
Can involve progressive disciplinary action
 Can, ultimately, result in the termination of the volunteer’s placement with Sistering

Volunteers have the right to expect:

Supportive and constructive criticism
 Clear details regarding inappropriate or unsatisfactory performance/behavior
Suggestions regarding what and how to improve, and time and opportunity to demonstrate improvement after each stage
Written record of unsatisfactory performances
Volunteers may be discharged without warning for just cause.

Sistering has the right to request a volunteer leave immediately for:

Gross misconduct or insubordination

Other grounds for immediate dismissal may include, but are not limited to:

Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while performing volunteer assignments
Theft of property or misuse of agency funds, equipment or materials
Lies or falsification of records
Illegal, violent or unsafe acts
Abuse or mistreatment of participants or co-workers
Failure to abide by agency policy or procedures

Participants And Sistering’s Volunteer Program

Board and Committee volunteers

Participant members are welcome on Sistering committees (except Human Resources) providing there are positions available on the committee. Participants interested in committee work will not be required to go through the usual volunteer process but will be expected to meet with the committee chair or committee staff support for an interview.

Participants who are interested in joining the Board of Directors will go through the process of the Board Development Committee and election at the Annual General Meeting.

Frontline volunteers

Participants may not apply to become volunteers with Sistering until they have completed a two-year hiatus from program use. Even after this time has elapsed, it may still be in the current participants best interest that the former participant applying for a volunteer position be placed in a program other than where they received service, should they be accepted into the volunteer program.

Current program participants can connect with frontline staff about helping out in the program, but this involvement will be separate from the volunteer program.

Former staff who would like to apply for a volunteer position must wait a two-year hiatus before returning to Sistering to begin an ongoing volunteer position whether they are applying for a committee, Board or frontline volunteer position.

Staff Becoming Volunteers

Former staff

If a staff’s role on a committee is of “staff support” prior to ending their staff position with Sistering, then that staff person should resign from their committee position at the time that they resign from their staff position.

Current Staff (Including Relief Staff)

Joining the Board
Current staff is ineligible for Board service.

Becoming a frontline volunteer
Current staff are ineligible for volunteer work at Sistering on their days off. There are many organizations who need volunteers and a resource list can be made available to staff looking to volunteer.

Volunteering on a committee and participating at special events
Staff are not considered volunteers when participating on Sistering’s committees. Staff are encouraged to get involved in committee work and can discuss committee involvement, additional work hours, and lieu hours with their supervisor.

Volunteers Becoming Staff

Board of Directors accepting employment
Board members cannot accept any remuneration, contract or paid employment from Sistering. Board members must resign from the Board if they wish to pursue employment at Sistering.

Additionally, any committee, support or special events volunteers who become a Sistering staff member, need to terminate their volunteer position before beginning work at Sistering.