Our next series of #wiseupwednesday blog posts are going to be around good practice when involving volunteers. Hope you enjoy them and don’t forget we are happy to help with any queries you may have 🙂
I often have enquiries from organisations asking for some general good practice guidelines when involving volunteers, so I have taken the list below from our guidelines-on-managing-volunteers
- Volunteers should be recruited to enhance a service not to replace paid staff
- Before recruiting, be clear why a volunteer is wanted or needed
- Organisations should provide clear written task outlines for their volunteers which are skills based – meaningful tasks with opportunities for personal development
- Provide the volunteer with an induction and preparation/training programme, and where appropriate, additional support for volunteers with disabilities
- Be clear about what volunteers are seeking from the placement
- Make sure the volunteer has appropriate line management and knows whom to contact about problems or difficulties
- Establish a simple and easily accessible process for volunteers to claim out-of-pocket expenses and ensure funding incorporates volunteer expenses
- Ensure that health and safety standards for volunteers are in place, including risk assessment of the work volunteers will be doing
- Ensure that volunteers are covered by appropriate insurance
- Ensure that a range of policies are in place and applied equally to volunteers e.g. Diversity and/or Equal Opportunities, Policies on harassment including race, sexuality, disability, age and faith, Complaints and Grievance policies for volunteers, Disciplinary policies, Confidentiality policies
- Organisations should meet the costs of necessary training for volunteers
- Encourage volunteers to participate in the organisation’s wider decision- making processes
- Where appropriate, provide opportunities for volunteers to acquire or develop new or existing skills, and support volunteers who want to gain accreditation towards recognised qualifications
- Monitor and acknowledge the contribution volunteers make to the organisation to funders, other volunteers and the wider public
- Ensure that the work and contribution of the volunteers adds value and quality to the organisation’s aims and objectives
- Ensure that the organisation’s working practices do not create obstacles for volunteers, or for potential volunteers from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds
- Ensuring that staff are involved and informed so that volunteers are integrated within the staff team
- Organisations should ensure that their working practices offer appropriate protection to volunteers, as well as paid staff e.g. Health & Safety.
Many people take writing for granted, but there are children and adults who struggle with their letters. Why not look at helping in a school or adult learning centre, or informally with any family, friends or neighbours, who may need a helping hand?
You could also help reading letters and explaining their contents to an older person or someone with a visual impairment or poor literacy.
Come along to one of our friendly and informal Social Media Surgeries in Halesowen on 25th July 2017. If you can’t make that one, why not visit http://socialmediasurgery.com/ and search for the nearest one to you in Dudley, Stourbridge or other areas.
Before a volunteer leaves or thinks about leaving, there may be some signs to give you a clue that things aren’t going well. Some volunteers may already display some or all of these as their natural disposition though, so be observant! Just remember that having a good relationship with your volunteers, keeping in regular contact and scheduled support/supervision sessions, should pick up on all of these!!!
- Not turning up regularly / unwilling to commit – if they don’t turn up when they were previously very committed, something is wrong.
- Making excuses – if there’s always an excuse for not coming or doing something, be on the alert, it could be a sign things aren’t going well.
- Moody – upset, angry – when a normally sunny volunteer suddenly becomes grumpy, you’re going to notice. It may be something personal that’s nothing to do with their volunteering, but try to find out why the change.
- Not joining in/lack of interest – another sign that all’s not well, when previously they were exuding enthusiasm. Try to dig out the reason.
- Moaning – for some volunteer this can be a natural demeanour, we are talking about excessive moaning or volunteers complaining, who have previously been content.
- Service users notice/making comments – your service users can be a great indicator of potential issues with volunteers and they may spot things that you don’t.
- Other volunteers/staff notice – just like service users, volunteers/staff are a great gauge of how other volunteers are doing and may spot the signs before you!
- Not doing what’s expected – when Mavis suddenly decides no-one is getting a drink today and locks herself in the kitchen, something’s wrong. Anything that’s not usual behaviour for a volunteer needs to be investigated, but be sensitive and empathic. Confrontation could result in a high speed exit!
- Asking for a reference – this could be a genuine request as the volunteer has found a job or is looking at a college course, but could also be a sign that things aren’t going well.
- Body language – if you understand body language and a volunteer is standing with their arms folded and exuding a truculent manner, things aren’t good.
- Ignoring attempts to make contact – this one is a fairly obvious one in some cases. If a volunteer’s mobile number is suddenly permanently not available, it’s not a matter of needing to buy credit, there’s a good chance they’ve changed it.
- Asking about other roles – a subtle way of saying that the volunteer is either bored or unhappy in their current role.
- Not communicating with you/vols/clients – when a sociable/chatty volunteer suddenly clams up this could be a sign of personal issues, but equally be a sign of a deeper malaise with the volunteer. Approach delicately and try to fish for reasons for their change in behaviour.
- Health deteriorates – this may be really obvious, but there are lots of hidden health conditions such as depression, stress or other illnesses that don’t show. Again this will need to be handled delicately.
- Turned down for paid role – a common result of this is a volunteer exuding dissatisfaction and their behaviour changing. It’s a difficult situation and it may be that the volunteer was wholly unsuitable, but needs to be handled with the ultimate of tact and diplomacy to avoid any fallout.
- Being negative – this is another tricky one and may be a result of the above issue. Then again, it may be a matter of a volunteer feeling disillusioned – not always with their volunteering role, but because of things going on outside the volunteering environment. Get those kid gloves out and try to coax the reasons from them.
- Confrontational – something’s wrong if your normally placid volunteer suddenly argues about everything and seems to want a fight. Something has obviously happened to upset them. Just remember it may not be to do with their volunteering and approach with care. If it’s a large, well-built volunteer, it may be an idea to have back up!
- Wants to keep swapping roles/days – this could be for several reasons eg they are unhappy with their current role, or something is going on outside the volunteering environment and they are struggling to fit everything in.
- Other volunteers leaving -this is very serious and must be tackled immediately. It could be that a long-serving volunteer doesn’t like new people coming, feels threatened by them, or has unpleasant personality traits. Whatever the reason you need to get to the bottom of it and tackle it squarely, or you could lose volunteers!
Lots of us chat on the phone to our friends and family, and it’s great to keep in touch, share the latest gossip and see what they’ve been up to. However, for many older people their phone seldom rings, unless it’s someone trying to sell them PPI! If you’re a chatterbox, why not think about ringing people who are lonely for a chat? Ring your older neighbour, friend, uncle or granny to see how they are and let them know someone cares.
I’ve got no-one to talk to and I need some help!
The Silverline provides volunteers to offer 24 hour helpline support to isolated older people and they can’t offer their service without people like YOU giving up a couple of hours a week, so why not get in touch.
Hanging on the telephone!
To conclude this series of posts on assessing if volunteering is the right option, here’s what to do next!
If you and the person that you are supporting decide that volunteering is the right option, please get in touch with the Volunteer Centre to discuss options prior to referral.
Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre
Tel: 01384 573381
Please be aware that we like to manage expectations and if a client wishes to volunteer in a particular area, it does not mean there will be an appropriate role e.g. a post office, construction site, retail shop or accountants would not be a volunteering placement as they are profit-making businesses.
There are also some popular areas we don’t have roles for such as animals or catering.
Just give us a ring and we will do our best to help.
To assist in an appropriate referral ensure the Volunteer Centre is given relevant information. (With your client’s permission)
There is also a WEB SITE where you can see what benefits there are to volunteering and get some ideas about the types of volunteering opportunities out there. Just CLICK on: