Volunteers are all unique and absolutely wonderful, and I am sure you have volunteers who are independent and happy to get on with things, whilst others need more support.
There is a real danger in not building a relationship with volunteers and keeping in contact with them though, as sometimes they may have queries, or they may be doing something they shouldn’t?
Here’s a cautionary tale!
A couple of years ago, an organisation running two busy day centres had a sudden pattern of volunteers leaving from one of the centres [in fact they lost 12 volunteers over a 4 month period]. Some long-serving volunteers were leaving, whilst new volunteers were starting and not staying, simply walking away.
The Volunteer Co-ordinator for the charity, who was also the Chief Exec was puzzled. They just didn’t have time to do regular support sessions with the volunteers, so assumed that as the volunteers didn’t contact them everything was fine. Volunteers suddenly leaving in droves was completely unexpected. They could not see that volunteers leaving was in any way their fault!
My comments that it would have been good to arrange some kind of support process, if only having a chat on the phone once a month, went down like a lead balloon. They were adamant that the volunteers leaving couldn’t possibly be their fault, it was
“the volunteers’ fault as they were unreliable and not prepared to make a commitment”. This despite the fact that two volunteers had been there for over 15 years since the centre first opened!
Apparently one of their longer serving volunteers had been bullying the other volunteers and rather than make a fuss, they just left. It only came to light as one of the volunteers was someone I had sent there and their mother was incensed about the treatment her daughter had received, at the hands of the bully. On investigation and talking to some of the clients, apparently they were frightened of the long-serving volunteer too and if they dared ask for something such as a cuppa and it wasn’t coffee time, they were given a good talking to.
The Volunteer Co-ordinator refuted the allegations against the alleged bully, refusing to dismiss the volunteer causing the trouble, as they had been there for years and tellingly, locked and unlocked the centre for them each day, saving them coming in to work early! They were in denial that any kind of misbehaviour had been going on and fortunately, the centres are now run by another charity, who are keen to do things properly with their volunteers.
This is the inherent danger of not keeping an eye on what is going on with your volunteers and making yourself accessible. It may be that you give them an email address or mobile number, as it’s better to keep communication channels open and nip any potential issues in the bud, than lose a volunteer or volunteers!
Here are some benefits to support/supervision for both the volunteers and the organisation.
Benefits for volunteers
- Makes them feel included
- Helps build their confidence
- Check whether they are doing things well
- Give them the opportunity to ask questions and express their opinions
- Help them develop skills
- Keeps them up to date with what’s happening, changes etc.
- Makes them feel important
- Find out if there are any problems
- Identify their training needs if appropriate
- Making sure the role is right for them
- Offers them opportunity to change their roles
Benefits for the organisation
- Access funding
- Helps efficiency – both sides happy
- Helps prevent issues/problems
- Help find out what skills your volunteer has got
- Help you define new roles/new projects
- Help you adhere mission and objectives
- Help you deliver a good service for customers
- Help enhance your service including your clients
- Helps with recruitment – positive image
- Helps with community representation/diversity
- Offers clients opportunity to volunteer
- Helps you find out what’s going on ‘on the ground’
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