Volunteer Protocols


The Vancouver Community Network is committed to providing a respectful, harassment-free, professional and positive work environment for everyone.  This Volunteer Manual is designed to inform volunteers of their rights and responsibilities and to express the seriousness with which we treat our relationship and commitments.

The Vancouver Community Network’s primary goals are to provide public access to the Internet and a community space online. VCN’s users, members and non-profit partners rely on volunteers for support and technical help. VCN has 7000 individual users, 700 non-profit groups and many members of the community accessing our services. The VCN greatly appreciates the time and efforts of all our volunteers, and could not provide the level and range of community service it does without you.

Hours and Time Commitments

Volunteers are asked for a minimum four month commitment of at least four hours per week, with additional time to meet in person and collaborate online with co-workers and staff.

User Support Volunteers cover a regularly scheduled four-hour shift onsite at VCN or at Community Access Sites. Volunteers are asked to find a substitute if they are unable to make their shift, by sending a request to other volunteers on the vcn-volunteers mailing list.

Volunteers should make every effort to attend the regularly scheduled meetings of their teams in order to make effective contributions and efficient use of everyone’s time.

Phone calls to users should not be made before 10:00am or after 4:00pm.

Confidentiality and Privacy

Everyone working at VCN is responsible for protecting the privacy of its users, members, staff and volunteers.

All information about users is confidential and is to be used only for the purposes of helping them within the mandate of VCN.

No information about members, users, volunteers or staff is to be released to any individual or organization without authorization from the person to whom it relates, unless VCN is served with a court order. In this case, the VCN co-ordinator shall be informed and will consult with the president of the Board.

Volunteers shall keep confidential any information relating to the VCN’s business which is clearly designated or described in writing to be confidential.

Conflict of Interest and Non-Commercial Activity

Volunteers will abide by the terms of the VCN User Agreement in all their activities with VCN, including the clauses relating to non-commercial activity:

d. I do not use the system for commercial purposes, including conducting business and advertising or selling commercial services.
e. I do not seek to establish a doctor/patient, lawyer/client, or similar professional relationship with any of the information providers or other users of the system.

Volunteers will not charge a fee for work they perform on behalf of VCN.

VCN does not provide access to proprietary software. Volunteers should make efforts to enable access to non-proprietary and free sources of help and products where appropriate, and where unable to do so should make broad referrals to other possible sources.

Conflict Resolution

Where a volunteer is experiencing a conflict with another member of VCN’s volunteer team or staff that they are unable to resolve directly with the person involved, they should approach a staff member for help in resolving the conflict.

Where the conflict involves a staff member, the volunteer can approach the Co-ordinator or the Board directly for help in mediating the conflict.

The Board, on receiving a grievance in writing from a volunteer, will follow the standard grievance resolution procedures as dictated by VCN policy.

VCN’s Vision Statement:

The Vancouver Community Network strives to be an inclusive, multicultural, community-based organization which ensures the free, accessible electronic creation and exchange of the broadest range of information, experience, ideas and wisdom.

The Vancouver Community Network subscribes to the principles and policies encoded in national and provincial Human Rights Codes. We strive for equity, respect and fairness in treatment of all staff, volunteers, users and members of the general public.

Security of VCN’s System

Everyone working at VCN is responsible for maintaining and protecting the security of the system.

Volunteers are responsible for carrying out procedures as instructed in the Volunteer Orientation Session, the Volunteer Manual and User Support procedures as distributed.

Credit for Work

VCN acknowledges the contributions of all volunteers in working toward its mission and goals.

Software projects and products developed by VCN and its volunteers will be open source products. VCN and its volunteers respect the licenses of the various software components in any development of these open source projects or products

VCN will acknowledge volunteer team members in the release or presentation of such projects and products.

Volunteers will acknowledge the VCN and other volunteer team members in further development or presentation of such projects.

Neither VCN nor its volunteers will use the name or logo of the other party in publicity releases, promotional material or advertising without securing the other party’s prior written consent.

VCN’s Expectation of Volunteers:

  • Identify themselves as VCN Volunteers when interacting with a user.
  • Respect the policies and procedures of partner organizations when working on their premises or with their users and members.
  • Use a designated VCN signature when sending e-mails in the course of VCN work, and not use personalized logos of any kind.
  • Be clear with users about any limitations they may have in providing help.
  • Explain that as part of a team of volunteers, they are only one of many who may work on the user’s problem or project, so that the user feels comfortable asking for help from others.
  • Refer users in need of additional help to free sources: e.g. free online sources of information/professional assistance, online discussion/buy-sell groups, the person who sold/gave them their computer, yellow pages, Free Geek, etc.
  • Refer users to VCN’s tech|team as source of professional assistance. Volunteers can also offer their technical expertise to users who need technical help as contractor. But be clear that VCN has no involvement in the deals between contracting parties.
  • Seek authorization before signing for or requesting delivery of any information or materials on behalf of VCN.

Ongoing Training and Support

VCN offers a variety of training for the general public and community partners’ volunteers and staff, and is pleased to offer this training to VCN volunteers as space allows. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to attend these training sessions to enhance their satisfaction with their work and ability to provide volunteer support.

VCN staff will attempt to support the learning efforts of volunteers as necessary by recommending training and resources appropriate to the volunteer’s needs.

Volunteers are responsible for reading procedural materials and updates as they are distributed, for keeping themselves informed of developments that affect their work and the VCN, and for accessing training and resources offered to enhance their ability to perform their work.

Volunteer Job Descriptions

General Position Descriptions are found online at:

Specific work assignments and team projects are documented in the shared Help Desk Drive. Volunteers are asked to make regular progress reports.

Volunteer Job Descriptions do not authorize volunteers to make visits to individual users’ homes and/or to work on users’ equipment on- or off-site. Volunteers should explain VCN’s mandate as being to enable access to the Internet through VCN accounts, and help the user find alternative, free sources of help for hardware and software problems that are not directly related to connecting to a VCN account.

Space, volunteer time and expertise is unpredictable and sometimes limited, so users should be discouraged from bringing their equipment into the office.

Where a user brings their equipment into the office, the volunteer should be clear about their status as a volunteer, level of expertise, and set a time limit of no more than half an hour, after which they should refer the user to alternative sources of free help.

Volunteers may receive authorization on request for special site visits or to work on equipment, and will be given a Waiver to be signed by the volunteer and the user prior to any work being carried out.

Volunteers should approach a staff person if they are unsure of their job or have difficulties or questions about policies and procedures.