Organisations should take a personal interest in their volunteers. If they phone in to apologise for absence due to illness, bereavement etc, ask them how they are. Building links can help prevent crises from developing. Volunteer Co-ordinators need to have clear systems stating when they are available to offer support, however, there are other practical methods Volunteer Co-ordinators can take to support their volunteers:
- new volunteers can be buddied with established volunteers
- regular volunteer meetings can be held, with or without staff being present, they could perhaps start their own support group
- regular social events, allowing volunteers to get together either on their own or with staff, trustees etc
- newsletters can be produced as a support method to highlight good practice and inform volunteers what’s new
If the Volunteer Co-ordinator/Manager is to be absent for a period of time, always ensure another person is designated to support volunteers as required.
The Volunteer Co-ordinator or member of staff responsible will, normally carry out supervision of volunteers.
Levels of supervision required may vary and will depend upon:
- how often you see the volunteer personally
- how often you are in contact with them personally
- how long they have been with you (you may see new volunteers frequently or have a probationary period when you see them at defined stages)
- what type of work they do and where their voluntary work is carried out
- whether the volunteer already has extra support needs
A designated member of staff should supervise volunteers but all members of staff/volunteers should offer support when the need arises. It is vital to make all staff aware of the role volunteers play – volunteers are not a threat, their support is vital to an organisation and they should be treated and supported accordingly.
Always put the volunteer at their ease and select the venue carefully:
- Ensure that you will have privacy and not be interrupted
- Does the volunteer have issues they wish to raise?
- How are relations with staff, other volunteers, service users, Management Committees?
- Are the communications systems within the organisation adequate?
- Are there practical problems emerging in relation to expenses, health & safety, basic equipment needs etc?
- Are there any policy issues over which the volunteer or supervisor has concerns e.g. equal opportunities, introduction of new legislation?
- Would the volunteer benefit from training to develop, refresh or enrich their contribution?
- Are there comments on the way the agency operates?
- Does the volunteer have any personal matters they wish to raise?
Organisations with specialist roles may employ external supervisors for staff and volunteers for example, if volunteers are dealing with extremely sensitive issues, it may be good to obtain the assistance of trained counsellors to further support them.
The diversity of people wishing to volunteer is extremely beneficial to organisations, as they will ultimately always bring a multitude of skills together with new and refreshing ideas. However, when in support of volunteers do not forget their diversity – support each volunteer (practically/emotionally) according to their needs and/or requirements.
For more info on managing volunteers, please look at: guidelines-on-managing-volunteers