Involving Young Volunteers #volunteersweek


With Volunteers Week a matter of days away, I thought I would focus on the benefits of engaging with young volunteers and put out a week of themed posts and the benefits of doing so!

Young people may want to get involved in volunteering for a number of reasons:

  • to increase their confidence
  • to gain knowledge, skills or experience
  • to develop social skills and other ‘soft skills’
  • as a route to personal development
  • to enhance their employability and gaining vital experience to increase their job prospects
  • to access further education

Your organisation could be missing out on the advantages of having young people involved who can bring their own fresh and youthful dynamic to organisations if you don’t involve them! 

Indeed, your project may be unintentionally discriminating against younger people volunteering.

So what do younger volunteers want exactly? 

  • Shorter term projects with more flexibility tend to be more popular
  • They may want to have more of a say in what they’re doing
  • Or be able to move around between different areas
  • If you can organise something where your young volunteers can work with their friends or in groups, then you’re more likely to keep them motivated for longer

Sound hard?

We’re not expecting organisations to go outside the aims and mission of their organisation to involve young people, just to think about the potential of involving younger volunteers and the possibilities they may generate.

It needs to be well thought out and planned before you involve younger volunteers. You also need to ask yourself if it would be appropriate for the services you offer, or clients you support. Many organisations simply don’t think of involving volunteers under 21, as they have never done so in the past.  It could be a real culture change to do so, but why not at least consider it and discuss it with your colleagues?

It may be that you have been thinking about doing a certain project for a while, but need some new ideas or volunteers to help it along.

It can be about involving young people in a role that suits the organisation, but the way you do it might be different.  For example, you might break up the volunteer role so it can be done in shorter slots. Say you have a Marketing Volunteer role, you could maybe break it down into various sub roles e.g. updating the website, producing a newsletter or social media.  Many young people have great IT skills, so why not put them to good use?  It’s not about thinking of completely new roles for young people, just adapting them.

The key to successful placements is matching interests to roles.  Use the young person’s interests as a springboard. If the young person has come to you, that’s even better. Find out what attracted them to your organisation in the first place, why they chose you in particular and what they are hoping to get out of it.  That’s the secret to a successful placement, making sure the young person is actually interested and you can maintain that interest.


OPP OF THE DAY: Branch Health and Safety Officer, The Samaritans

– To be responsible for ensuring that all safety policies and practises are adopted.
– To plan, implement, monitor and review the protective and preventative measures to minimise accidents and injuries.
– Carry out risk assessment and consider how risks could be reduced.
– Keep records of inspections findings, proposing suggested changes to the committee and developing plans for implementing agreed improvements.
– Keep records of incidents and accidents and producing statistics for the Director.
– Advising on a range of specialist areas, e.g. Fire regulations.
– Attend branch meetings as required.

– Opportunity to positively affect the work of Samaritans.
– Opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.
– Opportunity to use and develop skills.
– Personal development and training.

– To maintain confidentiality at all times.
– Approachable, organised and honest.
– Understanding of Samaritans Mission, Vision and Values.
– Some knowledge of health and safety regulations would be beneficial.

FOR MORE INFO OR TO APPLY please contact:

Pam Preston

Connect to other volunteer managers over a coffee on 13th June! @PSIAMs @DY1Venue @vcsandwell @One_Walsall

We have a friendly, informal network for anyone who manages volunteers and is open to people from across the Black Country and of course Dudley borough.

There are three connecting events a year in January, June and October. They are always a 9 for 9:30 start and we are usually done for 11:00 am, so why not come along.

At our next get together in June, we are glad to have Mark Ellerby from PSIAMS, so why not come along to make some new contacts, catch up with people you know and find out more? Our programme is below for you to download:

13-6-2017 coffee and connect

OPP OF THE DAY: Branch Publicity (Marketing) Officer, The Samaritans

To raise awareness of Samaritans in the local community by co-ordinating all publicity and public relations activities within the Branch in order to recruit volunteers, raise funds and develop caller awareness.

– To liaise with the branch committee so that branch publicity is based on branch needs and is kept in touch with branch plans.
– To agree with the branch committee a plan for publicity activities each year and draw up a strategy to achieve this.
– To co-ordinate ALL forms of publicity undertaken for the branch by volunteers and ensure they are working effectively together.
– With the help of the branch, recruit publicity volunteers as required and to manage and support them.
– To ensure all publicity volunteers are given the opportunity to attend online training sessions organised by the General Office communications team within a region.
– To organise branch participation in organisation-wide publicity campaigns by liaising with the communications team at General Office and the Regional Marketing Officer.
– To disseminate publicity materials from the product catalogue to target groups.

To act as the Branch Brand Guardian and ensure branch publicity organised by and for the branch is in keeping with Samaritans policy, best practise guidelines, including our visual identity and editorial style guides.
– To ensure branch publicity is consistent with organisation wide publicity by liaising with the communications team at General Office.
– To liaise with the Regional Marketing Officer on a regular basis, attend regional publicity meetings and co-operate with other branches and the region as required.
– To encourage other publicity volunteers to attend regional meetings.
– To work with the branch volunteer recruitment team to ensure all recruitment is supported by appropriate publicity.
– To work with colleagues in the branch to ensure fundraising activity is supported by appropriate publicity.
– To strengthen the reputation of the organisation by utilising promotional and press resources prepared by the communications team at General Office to ensure Samaritans branding and materials are used consistently and appropriately
– To understand the importance of using prepared organisation-wide materials when promoting Samaritans to potential volunteers, callers and donors. To advocate the consistent use of Samaritans visual identity.
– After liaising within the Branch as appropriate, be responsible for any agreement with outside groups, companies etc. who may offer to undertake publicity activities for the branch.

– Develop meaningful relationships with local organisations – including press – to strengthen the reputation of your Branch in your community.
– An opportunity to make a real difference to the success of the Branch – using publicity channels to fulfil Samaritans vision, mission and values.
– Be part of a supportive regional and national team who will support your development.

– An outgoing person who will enjoy building up relationships with your local press, media and community.
– Someone with sound knowledge of Samaritans vison, mission and values are important.
– An excellent communicator – both oral and written.
– A natural networker with an ability to create and maintain relationships with various organisations and bodies.
– Someone who is IT literate.
– A person with experience of publicity, marketing, PR, media or advertising would be helpful.

FOR MORE INFO OR TO APPLY please contact:

Pam Preston

Don’t let this happen to you! A cautionary tale arising from poor volunteer management. #wiseupwednesdays

success-failureI was browsing some previous posts and I came across this excellent blog post by Rhonda McClung, talking about how charities use up volunteers’ goodwill and willingness to volunteer by not treating them well or appreciating them properly. It still seems so relevant and I thought I would share it again:

“The compassion and benevolence that generate the goodwill that initially brings volunteers through your door can easily evaporate if your volunteer has even one bad experience.”

This is so true and having spoken to volunteers who have left organisations, one of the biggest reasons is that they don’t feel appreciated/valued or they feel underused.

“How do organizations use up their volunteers’ goodwill? Mismanaging their time.  Asking them to take on roles in which they are not comfortable.  Failing to communicate the importance of the assigned role.  Leaving them without the training necessary to be successful in the tasks for which they are responsible. “

This got me thinking about Volunteer Retention.  Does the above sound familiar? Are you logging why volunteers leave your organisation? Do you use exit interviews or feedback forms to gather valuable information? If not YOU SHOULD!  Only by monitoring why volunteers are leaving can you tackle the underlying reasons behind it.

Planning is important when involving volunteers and there are things you could be doing from when they join the organisation to help prevent them from leaving [hopefully!]. There are some volunteers who are with you for a finite period such as students, but many volunteers are in for the long haul, unless something causes things to change.

Nominate someone to be responsible for volunteers – who has the right skills and experience. If they haven’t, help them upskill.   It may be that you have someone looking after a team of volunteers who needs training or skills in managing volunteers, perhaps they have HR experience, but volunteers are totally different. If this is the case, discuss it during their supervision sessions and approach your local Volunteer Centre, who may be able to offer them the training they need.

Ensure your volunteers have regular support or supervision sessions – ensure you have frequent opportunities to chat to your volunteers and see how things are going. What’s going well, what’s not going so well, are there any issues to be resolved etc.  Other reasons a volunteer may leave could be difficult clients, conflicts with other volunteers – perhaps those who have been there for years, do things their way and don’t like change?  If you are seeing a volunteer regularly, hopefully these issues would have been picked up and resolved.

Develop a good rapport with your volunteers – if volunteers feel they can talk to whomever may be looking after them and they have an easy, relaxed relationship, they are more likely to talk when things are troubling them or something has gone wrong.  Many issues causing volunteers to leave have escalated because either the volunteer was frightened to discuss them, or the person managing them, swept them under the carpet and hoped they would go away.

A cautionary tale …

A prime example of this was a local day centre where female volunteers kept leaving for no apparent reason.  The issue only came to light when one of them [let’s call her Sarah] came into the Volunteer Centre with her mother, who was adamant that I be told of the issues there. Apparently a long-standing male volunteer [let’s call him Clarence] was responsible for locking and unlocking the centre, laying out the chairs/tables etc and generally being indispensable. He had an issue with younger women and liked to bully them, making comments laden with sexual innuendo and generally treating them poorly.

Sarah had been volunteering there for approximately 4 weeks and loved it. The old people attending the centre adored her and Bill, who never spoke to anyone, suddenly started chatting to her and enjoyed doing the crossword together.  Clarence resented the fact that Sarah was popular with the older centre users and infuriated that Bill would talk to her and not him.  He decided to keep her busy in the kitchen, so she wouldn’t have time to talk to anyone!  Sarah spent ages helping to prepare lunch, cleaning the kitchen – the oven was her weekly treat!  She did so much washing up, she developed very dry skin on her hands, but Clarence said she would need to buy her own rubber gloves if she wanted them.  When Sarah did this, he cut the fingers out of them!

The final straw was when Sarah dared to ask another volunteer why Clarence didn’t like her. He was incensed and threw her brand new mobile phone in the washing up bowl.  This was the final straw for Sarah who fled the centre in tears. She had to confess to her Mum what had been happening, expecting her to be very angry about the phone. Her Mum was more angry about how she’d been treated and marched down to the Day Centre.  Clarence was summoned and told her that Sarah was lazy, upset the centre users and was unreliable!

Mum then marched down to the Volunteer Centre, justifiably incensed about Clarence’s slanderous comments.  When I investigated and spoke to other volunteers at the Centre, many of them were frightened of Clarence and didn’t get involved because they feared the repercussions and his temper.

Next stop was the Centre Manager who initially accused Sarah of being exactly as Clarence had described her.  When challenged about this they declared that they were glad she’d gone as she was a troublemaker!

Having run this situation by my Chief Officer, I tackled the next stage of management for the organisation, who summoned the Centre Manager to their office for a chat.  It transpired that Clarence was indispensable and they put up with volunteers leaving as they needed him. The Centre Manager refused to get rid of him!

Not surprisingly the Centre no longer gets volunteers from us and I heartily advise any prospective volunteers to give it a wide berth.

So what have we learnt from this and why would it never happen in a well-run organisation?

  • the person managing the volunteers did not have the right skills to do so
  • the volunteers did not have a good relationship with the person managing them, so daren’t raise their concerns
  • there was no support or supervision sessions with volunteers, which would have flagged up the issues
  • Clarence was allowed to run the Centre as he chose, which should have been tackled by the volunteer manager
  • the manager did not investigate why female volunteers were leaving

This could easily have led to the Centre gaining a poor reputation as somewhere bad to volunteer. Sarah’s Mum was going to the local paper as she was dissatisfied with the outcome and Clarence being allowed to remain at the Centre!