Helpers/volunteers are a vital part of most charitable, voluntary and sporting organisations.
At a recent event held by Groop, we had a great discussion about how volunteering needs to change to reflect the busy lives we lead. People are interested in task-based volunteering, perhaps over a short period of time or a very flexible basis, as well as a regular weekly role. All perfectly understandable, however it does give local groups a whole new challenge to rise to.
For most people, the whole purpose of volunteering is to participate and feel they are contributing in their chosen area of interest. The most important thing is for the organisation/service to be ready for the volunteer and have the tasks and work ready and waiting for them.
Be ready to ‘fast track’ a volunteer
If someone shows interest, get them actively involved as fast as you can. There is nothing worse for a new volunteer than sitting around watching and waiting to start.
Show respect to volunteers
We all like to feel welcomed and appreciated, volunteers are no different. Unlike paid staff, who receive a salary for their endeavours, volunteers respond best if their time is being used well and are recognised for their efforts.
‘People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.’
When you plan well, communicate effectively and train appropriately, volunteers will know what is expected of them, understand what is going on and acquire the skills to achieve their expected outcomes.
Communicate with your volunteers
Volunteers love to know what’s going on in the organisation. Regular communications are essential; using the secure GroopChat social media feed highlighting the activities and achievements of the organisation can help towards this.
A volunteer meeting is also a good place to share news, showcase successes and even give out appreciation awards.
Ensure a volunteer’s role is clear from day one
Retaining and utilising volunteers relies on having a clear role or task description.
Preparing existing volunteers and paid staff, as well as spending time supporting them in their early stages, is essential. Remember to factor this into paid staff’s work-plans prior to the volunteer’s start date too.
You can use the Groop Volunteer Management Platform to enable each volunteer to track their time and the activities they are involved with. It will also allow them to receive regular communications from the organisation leaders to maintain motivation.
Be aware of their workload
Remember not to take advantage of a volunteer’s willingness to help. This is hard, especially when you are short of time and you have a willing volunteer offering to take on more and more.
If a volunteer is overloaded, just remember they are more likely to burn out and move on.
It’s easily done, but don’t let your hectic schedule stop you from working with your volunteers.
I cannot reiterate enough how important showing appreciation is to volunteers. If you are really busy set some reminders on your phone or outlook to remind you to take time out to talk with your volunteers and say thank you.
Just a few minutes of your time will have a huge positive impact for your volunteers.
In Groop Resources, you will find a whole host of useful information and advice. The ‘Recruitment, Management and Development of Helpers and Volunteers’ policy, for example, outlines expectations of volunteers and how they can support the organisation.
Whilst volunteers give of their time freely, remember they will take time to induct, train and support. They may also require ongoing support, information and advice.
When they enjoy what they do and feel appreciated, they will provide an invaluable free resource for your organisation, service or enterprise over and over again.