Employee, consultant or volunteer? The decision is about more than a paycheck. Consider the level of commitment you need and whether you’re flexible about the timing. Always evaluate your funding; even unpaid volunteers require an investment in management and training.

Define the Volunteer or Employee Role

Defining roles and setting expectations increases your likelihood of success. For employees and volunteers, this means writing accurate and detailed position descriptions. For consultants (considered independent contractors), this means spelling out the scope of work, terms of engagement and contract.

A position description details the duties, responsibilities and expectations of a specific role. It is the foundation for recruiting and hiring. Position descriptions can be specific to a single role or cover multiple people doing the same work. Typical components include: title; responsibilities and duties; deliverables; qualifications; compensation and benefits (if applicable); reporting structure; hours and work location; and information about the organization. Add enough detail in the position description to appeal to the encore demographic.

Appealing to the Encore Demographic

Suggestions from; view the full worksheet for additional ideas.

  • Title: Design captivating titles (example:Team Captain might appeal more than Committee Chair).
  • Responsibilities: Help applicants see themselves in the role.
  • Impact: Show how the position connects with mission.
  • Sustained Outcomes: Explain the benefits to those you serve.
  • Training: Highlight training and skill development.
  • Support: Realistically portray expected commitment.
  • Qualifications: Be direct about needed qualifications, and consider transferable skills.
  • Benefits: Describe benefits for the volunteer (e.g., connecting with people, learning new skills).

Should you Hire an Encore Consultant?

The encore demographic is well-suited to the consultant role, with their years of experience, knowhow and flexibility. Consider these issues before engaging a consultant:

  • Define deliverables.
  • Solicit multiple proposals for the work.
  • Identify who will manage the consultant.
  • Determine how you’ll measure progress and completion.
  • Structure the work so the consultant doesn’t become an employee.

Source: Strengthening Nonprofits Working with Consultants guidebook

Determine Consulting Roles

A consulting contract includes terms that clearly define aspects of the arrangement, such as confidentiality expectations, time commitment and end products. The contract represents a formal agreement defining the working relationship goals and expectations. Typical components include:

  • Scope of work
  • Benchmarks and deadlines
  • Payment terms
  • End product expectations/deliverables
  • Work expectations for consultant and organization
  • Confidentiality agreement, if applicable

Launch an Encore Initiative

You explored options, assessed readiness, developed a plan and designed work. The next sections will help you Tap Volunteers and Hire Encore.

Get Started



Distinctions between volunteers and employees can be subtle. If you decide to create a new volunteer role, use these resources to understand the issues.