Our first deadly sin is DISORGANISATION – involving volunteers with no planning. As we all know, planning ahead is the key to ensuring success in what we do and involving volunteers is no different. Although you may desperately need volunteers to help you out in your group or organisation, it’s best to think about a few things first!
- Talking to staff team/other volunteers – if it’s the first time you’ve involved volunteers, make sure you discuss it with your staff team first, to ensure they understand that the volunteers are not there to do them out of a job, but are taking on a complementary role, such as helping them to better support clients attending a day centre. If you are an existing team of committed volunteers who’ve been together for a long time, discuss together why you may need to involve other volunteers, so they are welcomed and made to feel part of the team.
- Who will support them – volunteers should have support, so you need to think who will do so and if they have the right skills. The Volunteer Centre runs training called ‘Essential Volunteer Management’, so it may be a good idea to enrol them on the next course.
- Where to put them – do you have physical space for them to volunteer? If they are for example helping with an admin role, is there somewhere to sit and do their tasks?
- Finances – volunteers are not free and require at least an investment of time. Do you have the resources to support them properly? Also, ideally volunteers should not be out of pocket, so do you have a budget for volunteers expenses? If you can’t afford to pay volunteer expenses and you tell them this, it’s their choice whether to volunteer for you or not. If you are looking at a funding bid, it’s always sensible to factor in volunteer expenses where possible too.
- Training – are your volunteers going to need training? If so do you have a budget and/or a member of the team to deliver it?
- Role and role description – every volunteer should have one of these, so they know exactly what their role and responsibilities are. We have some great templates if you are not sure where to start.
Plan recruitment process – you need to consider:
- Where you will look for volunteers
- How you will promote the opportunities
- Various stages of the recruitment process, including looking at the interview process and how you’ll assess skills.
- Have you got an application form?
- Do you need to make special arrangements for volunteers who may have a disability, not have English as a first language etc.?
- Can existing staff volunteer?
- How to manage service users who want to volunteer
- Again the Volunteer Centre can help you with this if you need support.
Policies/procedures and statutory responsibilities – you will need to look at the following:
- Will you take volunteers through Job Centre Plus? Do you need guidance re: benefits?
- Risk assessments
- Screening e.g. DBS check/references
- Health and safety
- Data protection
- Confidentiality agreement
Other good practice to plan ahead!
- How are you going to value volunteers? – although this may not involve formal planning as such, it’s important to recognise and value each and every volunteer.
- Induction – every volunteer should have an induction so they understand their role, meet colleagues and know important information such as health and safety considerations, their rights and also where the kettle is!
- Handbook – is another important tool when involving volunteers. This a useful resource for them with essential information about their organisation, role and practical things like how to claim expenses.
- Exit strategy – although this may seem a strange thing to plan, you need to consider how you will support volunteers who wish to leave and it’s essential you know why they are leaving where possible, as it may indicate problems within your organisation, or with other staff/volunteers.
I need help!
The Volunteer Centre can help you with any area of good practice when involving volunteers, so please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or 01384 573381 and ask for Eileen