A volunteer’s eye view of … volunteers’ rights #tuneintuesdays




Much of the recommended volunteer management guidance focusses around good practice rather than legal requirements and ensuring you have these good practice measures in place helps minimise risk to both your organisation and the volunteers who support you.

Do volunteers have rights?

A few years ago the Volunteer Managers Network in Dudley were asked to write a Volunteering Compact to work across Dudley borough and we felt it was important to create a Volunteer Charter, which outlined both a volunteer’s rights and their responsibilities to the organisations they supported. This, we felt, would form the basis of a volunteer management programme for any volunteer-involving group.  To help I have marked where the various ‘rights’ and ‘responsibilities’ are good practice or a legal requirement.

Volunteers’ Rights


Good Practice

To be given a clear idea of their tasks and responsibilities within the organisation.  


To be given the name of someone in the organisation who will look after their interests and who will offer them appropriate support, and supervision on a regular basis.  


To be assured that any information shared with the organisation is kept confidential. [Data Protection]


To be given the same protection under health & safety regulations and public liability as paid employees.   [Health and Safety]


To be offered opportunities for training and skills development, appropriate for the voluntary tasks involved.   yes
To have a complementary relationship with paid staff, who should be fully aware of the role and responsibilities of a volunteer.   yes
To have access i.e. through volunteer meetings etc., and to play a part in the decision-making process of the organisation/project.  


To be informed about the agency’s policies relevant to the volunteer i.e. health & safety, grievance and disciplinary procedures.  


To be provided with appropriate equipment, tools and materials associated to their tasks.   yes
Volunteers may join a trade union relevant to the work in which they are involved. NUPE, MSF and UNISON currently welcome volunteers into their membership.   yes
To be supported when things go wrong and to be encouraged to learn from their mistakes or difficulties.  


Volunteers should not: –    
˜  Be used to replace paid workers [if they do so they may have employment rights]



˜  Have unfair demands made on their time  


˜  Be asked to do something which is against their principles or beliefs   yes
˜  Be subject to any discrimination e.g. on the basis of race, sexuality, age, gender   yes
˜  Be out of pocket through undertaking voluntary work – travel and other expenses should be reimbursed   yes

Volunteers’ Responsibilities

To support and embrace the organisation’s aims and objectives.   yes
To do what is reasonably requested of them, to the best of their ability.   yes
To recognise the right of the organisation to expect quality of service from all its volunteers.   yes
To recognise that they represent the organisation and therefore need to act in an appropriate manner at all times.   yes
To honour any commitment made to the best of their abilities, notifying the organisation in good time should they be unable to keep that commitment e.g. for holidays.   yes
To be willing to undertake appropriate training with respect to health & safety issues, insurance liability and general good practice as necessary for the voluntary work undertaken. [volunteers need to understand they are responsible for their own health and safety and to raise any health and safety issues they observe with the appropriate person] yes yes
To abide by any relevant policies and procedures.   yes
To offer suggestions for changes/improvements in working practices to the Volunteer Co-ordinator/Project Officer.   yes


When it goes wrong …

Good practice procedures around volunteer involvement are essential and should cover all elements of involving volunteers.  If a volunteer feels unfairly treated and the organisation does not have robust, transparent procedures in place to deal with problem solving around their volunteers, they may be tempted to attempt to go to an employment tribunal.

“I’ve been volunteering for XXXX for three years and receive a set sum every week for expenses to make sure that I am not out of pocket.  We also receive this when we do not come in due to being not well or away on holidays with our families.  I had to commit to work 12 hours per week as a ‘volunteer’ and receive £25 per week (subsequently increased to £40) ‘to cover expenses’.  When I became pregnant I was dismissed.  I have taken the organisation to court to claim sex discrimination and unfair dismissal due to sex.”

So has this volunteer been treated unfairly?  The tribunal had to decide whether she was working under a contract of employment in order to claim unfair dismissal. It’s quite clear that the organisation had unwittingly created an employment contract, so she was in fact considered an employee by the fact that she received a fixed payment for volunteering, which was even paid when she was on holiday or off sick, plus she was volunteering for a fixed commitment of 12 hours per week. She thus had rights to claim unfair dismissal.

 “Myself and the other volunteers sign a written agreement and we are expected to attend monthly meetings and induction training. There is no minimum time commitment by volunteers and XXXX reimburse actual out of pocket expenses only. We claim we are employees.”

What do you think about this grievance? Do the volunteers have employment rights?  In this case they don’t for the following reasons:

  1. “expected to attend” – means there is no obligation on the part of the volunteer to attend if they do not wish to
  2. “no minimum time commitment” – the volunteers are not signed up to volunteer for a fixed amount of time per week
  3. “reimburse actual out of pocket expenses only” – there are no fixed amounts

The organisation is clearly very careful to ensure they have good practice in place around involving volunteers, so do not create an employment contract with their volunteers.

Please don’t forget if you need any help or support I’m happy to help and that’s what I’m here for 🙂  Just contact me on eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk

A volunteer’s eye view of … recognition #tuneintuesdays


This really sums up volunteer recognition in a nutshell doesn’t it?  The simplest ways of appreciating what volunteers do are often the best way, but every volunteer is different and once you get to know them you will soon learn that there are those who want to operate under the radar, whereas others love to be in the spotlight!

“On the surface, saying thanks is easy – we all do it every day without thought. But saying thanks in an organisational context can be a very different prospect. Firstly, it can be easy just to forget. If, like many charities, your trustees and leadership team have an ambitious vision, then the pressure is on to always look forward, at the expense of reflection.

Or your charity may be characterised by a rigid hierarchy that doesn’t always encourage positive feedback to be filtered down. Because volunteers don’t get paid, you might think that we should naturally be more inclined to thank them. But it might be just as easy to take their generosity for granted, especially if they have been with you for some time. Perhaps worst of all, though, is the ill-judged thank you – too fleeting, insincere, or undeserved. At best it may fall flat; at worst it can anger and linger.

 So how, how often, and to whom you demonstrate gratitude should be as integral to your volunteer management strategy as their recruitment, training and retention. “

NCVO – Quick guide to thanking volunteers

Let’s get thinking now about how you can show your volunteers you appreciate them, which in turn will lead to your volunteers staying with you as they will feel happy and valued. Retention is a talent volunteer managers need to cultivate!

A simple ‘thank you’ or ‘you’ve been a star’ is a great way to show your appreciation, but as it says above, you should mean it and it should never be a token gesture.  Volunteers need to feel welcome, appreciated and part of the organisation and it needs to be an integral part of your volunteer management.

There’s also the question of who should thank volunteers.  It would be great if it’s not just the person who looks after the volunteers on a day-to-day basis, but the Chairman or Chief Executive. You could put on an afternoon tea or coffee morning for your volunteers and invite the Chief Exec to present certificates.

In Dudley borough we are very fortunate as part of the Mayor’s role is to be Volunteering Champion for their year in office. Our lovely local Mayors are always delighted to host visits for teams of local volunteers, giving them a tour of the Council Chamber, fascinating insight into the local history and also a cuppa afterwards.  They talk to every single invitee and are always happy to present certificates or say a few words of appreciation.

A nice gesture

“Every year we have a volunteer party and the Chairman gives us all a special certificate to show his appreciation for our efforts.  I love volunteering and would do it anyway, but it’s lovely to feel valued as it makes you feel like you’ve made a difference.  I really feel part of the team, we all do and it’s why we give our time every week.”

 Celebrating your volunteers need not cost a fortune and you could design your own certificates in house, or contact the Volunteer Centre who have lots of templates on file and will happily print you some off in colour on white card.  You could also have awards for length of service eg 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years etc.

To nominate or not to nominate – that is the question!

Nominating volunteers for local and national awards is a great way to recognise your volunteers, but not every volunteer is happy to be in the spotlight. You have some volunteers who just want to turn up and help, happy with their ‘thank you’ and attending a low key volunteer gathering, whereas others would love to be the centre of attention and have their evening dress/dinner suit on standby as soon as they receive an invitation to a volunteer awards event.  They have probably prepared an acceptance speech too just in case!  I’m sure you can identify volunteers you know from both these descriptions.  Not everyone likes to stand out and over the years we have had some very shy volunteers receiving awards at Dudley Volunteer Awards, who are really not comfortable with taking to the stage. That’s human nature and that’s why we love our volunteers isn’t it, because they are all unique with different personalities?

I’ve actually written a guide on this topic, which you will hopefully find helpful and get you thinking about how you can celebrate your amazing volunteers. A volunteer is for life, not just Volunteers Week!

Volunteers rarely give their time for the joy of recognition, but that doesn’t mean it won’t drive them to perform at higher levels or keep coming back to volunteer in the future.

In their own words …

Every year Dudley CVS run Dudley Volunteer Awards and this year’s #dva19 will celebrate and recognise amazing local people who give their time to make Dudley borough a better place to live.  Anyone can nominate an individual or group of volunteers and we launch the awards in Volunteers Week each year, with the closing date in early September. Each volunteer who is nominated receives an invitation to this wonderful celebration and have their name called out on the night, so they can be presented with a certificate. Here are some lovely snippets from #dva18 so you can share the pride of these outstanding volunteers.

Please don’t forget if you need any help or support I’m happy to help and that’s what I’m here for 🙂   Just contact me on eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk









A volunteer’s eye view of … development and training #tuneintuesdays

Some volunteers will be happy to come in and carry out the same tasks week in and week out for years, but others may need a fresh challenge, or will have specific aims that they want to achieve through their volunteering. If you don’t take this into account your volunteers may end up leaving before they otherwise might, or at the very least will not be giving as much time and effort as they could. For many people the benefits that volunteering can bring around work experience, confidence building, learning new skills and trying new things are exactly what they are looking for, so it makes sense to highlight and enhance these aspects where appropriate. Ultimately, the more you put into volunteering, the more you will get out of it

However, not all volunteers want to develop their skills or attend training and I can attest to that as I have memories of trying to persuade two octogenarian volunteers that they needed to attend child protection training during one of my numerous volunteer roles. That’s the challenge though don’t you think? Striking a balance between essential training for a voluntary role, such as child protection, food hygiene, dementia awareness etc. and offering training which could be considered not relevant, possibly unwittingly creating a contract with your volunteers.  You have to be careful with offering volunteers opportunity to develop beyond that which is relevant to their role for the same reason.  I think the secret is possibly about managing expectations and offering appropriate development, and training should a volunteer require it.

I had a full skills analysis when I started my role

 “As part of my induction I was encouraged to do a skills analysis myself, then discussed the results with the volunteer co-ordinator. It was a bit scary and I don’t think I have many skills, as I left school with poor grades and haven’t worked for years.  Mark helped me identify skills I did not realise I had and also talk about new ones I would like to learn. The skills are a real mix and include things like dealing with telephone calls, learning how to use the photocopier and also personal things like feeling more confident about my own abilities.  We have a plan which we’ve worked out together and I record what I’ve learnt in my volunteering journal. When we have support sessions we sit down together and see how I’m doing with my plan. There is no pressure and I can do as much or as little learning as I like, but I feel it’s really helping me identify the skills I need to get back into employment and push myself.  This is really helping me with my self-esteem”

 This sounds like a really good thing for a volunteer to do doesn’t it? It’s offering the volunteer the opportunity to go at their own pace and the journal is a great way to log what they have learnt, which in turn will help them with job applications.  It’s also really clear that the organisation is offering tailored development and training opportunities. Unlike employees, volunteers should not be saddled with too great a burden. This is not meant to belittle the volunteers, but rather to present them with realistic goals. Provide volunteers with clear, accurate, and concise goals from the beginning so they have direction and can produce quality results from the start.

“Training means different things to different people and there are many ways that people learn. Volunteers may need less formal training than paid staff as they may be doing very specific roles for limited periods. However, it is important that they be given opportunities to get feedback on how they are doing in the role.

Without being too formal, supervision and support sessions can provide these opportunities. Volunteers can think about their work and how they contribute to the organisation’s objectives. Volunteers like to know about any changes coming that are likely to impact on them! “

NCVO effective-volunteer-training

Ongoing training

Volunteers obviously need to be trained to carry out their role, but there is no reason for training to stop there. Opportunities for ongoing learning mean volunteers have the chance to grow and develop. This does not have to be whole day training courses – you could run short workshops as part of a volunteer meeting for example. Training must be relevant to the role however. Training that is merely offered as a perk and not to support or develop what the volunteer is doing could affect the legal status of the volunteer, giving them access to some employment rights. Ask the Volunteer Centre if you want to know more about this issue.

In Service or Core Training

Look at your organisation to see whether there are core elements which apply to all new volunteers, and which you do not think are currently included in your induction programme. Volunteers may require training in respect of their tasks, together with additional training in relation to:

  • equal opportunities – everyone is entitled to expect equal treatment
  • rights and responsibilities of volunteers
  • basic listening skills (if in times of emergencies/busy periods, you require all volunteers to answer telephone enquiries)
  • Health & safety, first aid etc.

What have I done? I’m now trapped with expectations I can’t manage!

“So I started volunteering for XXXXXX 2 months ago and when I first started I was told I could take my time to work through the various training modules I need to do to be a fully-fledged volunteer. Unfortunately I’ve now been told that I have to complete all 7 modules in my first 6 months and up by commitment from 4 hours a week, to 8!  I can’t do that many hours as I work part-time and have caring commitments. It seems really unfair and they have also made me fill in a holiday form for when I need to take time off, plus I have to ring at 9:00 am to notify them if I can’t come in.  Last week I was really poorly with a bad cold and they were texting me every morning, asking when I was coming back.”

Reading this through this voluntary role it’s starting to look like an employment contract – completing training in a fixed amount of time, having to make a fixed larger commitment and also having to fill in a holiday form – don’t you think?  It sounds like the training and development goals set when the volunteer started have suddenly been changed without consulting the volunteer.

I was offered this great training but it’s been a disaster and I’ve now been slapped with a bill for £1200!  Should have read the small print!

“I’ve wanted to be a counsellor for as long as I can remember but the training courses are quite expensive, so I could not believe my luck when I found a charity who offers a training course as part of the role for free.  I had been on the induction, they had sent off my DBS Check and I had one more session to go on the training when we were told that if we did not commit to 250 hours of counselling support in the six months after qualifying, we were liable to repay the cost of the training – £1200!  When I worked it out that’s 10 hours of counselling support a week and that does not include supervision for us, which we have to pay for ourselves!  What am I going to do?  I have two little ones and work three evenings a week.”

Sometimes things are too good to be true and some organisations are so desperate to recruit trained volunteers to support vulnerable clients that they unwittingly end up creating a contract with their volunteers. Insisting that volunteers have to offer 250 hours of counselling over a 6 month period, or have to repay their training costs, is creating a contract with any volunteer who commits to undertake the training, which could result in the organisation being sued for employment rights!

I’m moving on

“I’ve really grown whilst I’ve been volunteering with XXXXXX and I now feel confident enough to start applying for paid work again.  The things I’ve learnt have all helped me grow as a person and the training I’ve attended such as listening skills, mental health awareness and basic first aid, means that I no longer have great gaps in my CV.  I can’t thank them enough for giving me a chance to volunteer in the first place and I am more than happy to tell my story to help encourage others to volunteer there too.”

An argument against putting effort into volunteer development could be that you will lose some volunteers as they use their skills and confidence to find work. This is true, but it should be seen as a success, not a drawback. By their nature, volunteers come and go. If they leave having had a good experience, they will tell friends and family – good word of mouth is a valuable recruitment tool. In addition, they may still wish to support your organisation in future, through donations or one-off/occasional volunteering.

Developing volunteers is about helping them to achieve their aspirations, both personal ones about how they want to develop and mutual, where their development will help the organisation they volunteer for.

Please don’t forget if you need any help or support I’m happy to help and that’s what I’m here for 🙂  Just contact me on eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk

A volunteer’s eye view of … motivation #tuneintuesdays

So you’ve found the perfect volunteering role and you are enjoying the experience, but what keeps you coming back every time?

I’m not a number

“Feeling valued and respected is really important to me.  I’ve worked at numerous places over the years and never felt valued or respected, but volunteering has changed all that and I love the fact they make me feel like I matter and my contributions make a visible difference.”

Isn’t this great? I hope you volunteer in a happy and welcoming environment, where you feel appreciated too.  So let’s look at what motivates you to volunteer shall we?

The perfect fit

 I was so lucky to find my perfect role and it really matches my skills, personality and motivations.  It’s made me feel so passionate and positive about the difference I can make”

Matching a potential volunteer to a role is a talent that anyone who manages volunteers needs to learn – fast!  It’s just like most other relationships in your life, you either enjoy it and want it in your life, or you want to get out of it fast if it’s not working for you.  When you find the perfect role you will know, but sometimes there are other factors that help make it the right one for you.  Does it fit in with your personal values and do you feel a real connection?  Can the time commitment fit what you can offer?  Is it flexible if your plans need to change?  Are there options to try other roles if you wish?

Don’t stop me now

“I’m really loving volunteering with these community outreach groups. Chatting to a range of people who have experienced mental ill-health and helping signpost them to other support is very rewarding. I love the fact that my session flies by and enjoy helping the staff research new opportunities our clients can benefit from.”

This volunteer is clearly relishing their role and loving the fact that they are busy and stimulated.  They’ve really taken ownership of their role and the impact they can make.  However, one of the top ten reasons for volunteers leaving an organisation is that volunteers feel overwhelmed or at the other end of the scale, underutilised.  Watch out for getting over involved and taking on too many tasks or too much responsibility. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but you can end up doing too much.

A square peg in a round hole

Feeling bored and not being given an opportunity to use your talents can be very demotivating. Do you just feel unfulfilled when you have so much more to offer?  It’s probably making your volunteering experience less than enjoyable let’s be honest.  Maybe it’s time you tackled this with your volunteer manager and try to get your mojo back!   I’m sure there are other roles available and hopefully you will find your perfect match.

One of my clients has got a job!

 Marcie my volunteer manager has just told me that attendance is up for our Monday afternoon session, I thought it was busy but didn’t realise we’d doubled our numbers.  Lawrence has managed to do an on-line job application for the first time ever and attended an interview yesterday. They’ve offered him the job and he’s over the moon!  All her support and encouragement has really made me feel I can tackle new challenges.”

This is the kind of feel-good moment which really encourages you to keep volunteering doesn’t it? You’re making a difference and changing lives. Isn’t it great to get feedback on how you are doing? Doesn’t it motivate you too?

Return to sender

“My volunteer co-ordinator is great and loves to keep in touch with his volunteers.  We all get a personal email every week to check in, make sure things are going ok and see if he can help in any way. I changed my email address and forgot to tell him, so when it bounced back he came to find me to make sure I was ok and was I trying to tell him something lol.  Liam is great and he’s so supportive”

“My organisation has a special volunteers Facebook group which we have the option to join so we can all keep in touch.  Sarah shares details of free training, volunteer coffee meet-ups and anything she thinks we need to know about.  We love the fact that they make an effort to keep us informed.  I’ve had a few weeks off to look after my Dad following his surgery and love the fact that I can keep up-to-date with what’s happening.  Sarah rings the volunteers who don’t want to join the group too, as my friend Beryl I started with doesn’t do social media.”

Keeping in touch and feeling connected makes you feel like you belong and are part of something doesn’t it?   Regular support sessions and knowing how to get in touch with your volunteer manager is a big plus too isn’t it?

Honesty is the best policy

Have you been promised something by the organisation you volunteer for that did not materialise?  How did that make you feel?  Hopefully your volunteer manager was frank with you and explained that your training was cancelled because the funding bid failed and they could not afford to run it otherwise.  How important is honesty to you?   Even receiving bad news such as the organisation closing is better known in advance, rather than turning up to volunteer and finding the front door boarded up!

Everyone is equal and we all have a say

“Every 6 months we have a volunteers meeting when we all have the opportunity to say what we think and raise concerns about what we do.  This has worked really well and after our suggestions were discussed by the Board, we have implemented new systems that work much better for our clients.  We also have regular support sessions with Andy our volunteer manager, who encourages us to talk about our volunteering and if there is anything we think needs changing.”

Do you feel like you have a voice?  Is your feedback sought and valued? Isn’t it great to feel like your opinions matter? It makes you realise this is a great place to volunteer and you will keep coming back.  Is your volunteer manager accessible?  Do you feel comfortable going to them with questions, concerns and making your input?  Do they try to check-in with you regularly to make sure everything is ok?

“I love the fact that our Chief Exec comes to volunteer get togethers to see we are all enjoying our volunteering.  He comes to help out in the centre too and does the tea trolley, which is great. It’s good to know that he sees us as equals”

We are family

“There’s a real feeling of being part of a family where I volunteer and that’s what I love about it.  If anyone has a problem and Liam our manager is not there, we can talk to Claire from the front office and she always tries to help us out.  I love the fact we all support each other and if one of us is having a bad day, there’s always someone who cares.  If we don’t go in for a few days and forget to phone Liam, he or Claire texts us to check we are ok.  They really care.”

Isn’t it great to feel you belong and people care about you as a person?  This is the kind of feel-good factor you can get from volunteering and feeling part of something special.

The simple things in life

“My volunteer manager Karan sends us all birthday cards and if we are volunteering, we all bring cakes in to celebrate each other’s special days.”

The simple things are the easiest to make you feel part of the team and motivated to do your best as a volunteer aren’t they? Birthday cards, Christmas cards, volunteer get togethers or meals are all great ways to celebrate being part of an amazing team.

Positive experience

This is the secret to keeping volunteers motivated isn’t it?  Anything that helps to make your volunteering experience a positive one. There are lots of different elements to keeping volunteers happy and all of you are different, so we hope your organisation is doing its very best for you.

Please don’t forget if you need any help or support I’m happy to help and that’s what I’m here for J  Just contact me on eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk

Let’s connect and see where we can go

Good morning.  I think that spring may be on the way, as the sun is finally shining in Brierley Hill.

I’m looking at re-running my popular training sessions – ‘Volunteers and the Law’ and ‘Tools to manage volunteers effectively’ – you can find our more info about the course content by following this link  If you would be interested in attending could you please drop me an email to eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk as I have to have a minimum of 10 attendees to make hiring a room worthwhile.  Normally we charge £10 for the ‘Volunteers and the Law’ which is a half day and £30 for the ‘Tools to manage volunteers’ as it’s a longer session and we need a more comfortable room [which costs a little more, but is better]

Also I am thinking of starting up a monthly catch up session for local volunteer managers and moving it around the borough. Nothing formal, just a catch up over a cuppa in Halesowen, Brierley Hill, Dudley and Stourbridge, so there would be three a year in each area, but anyone can come to any of them. I was thinking that if I moved it around people who would struggle to attend would hopefully have a local venue to come to. Do you think this is a good idea, helping volunteer managers feel more connected to other people in the same role?  Would you be interested in hosting a session? Please drop me an email to eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk

Linking volunteers to the right opportunities is what we do, but don’t just take our word for it. Why not ask @DCTTrips

Helping an organisation and a volunteer build a great relationship is something we love to do, and also helping to ensure that people who manage volunteers have access to a wide range of appropriate support.  This lovely story from Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust has been featured in this year’s Dudley CVS Annual Report, so we thought we would share it with you.  Why not see how we can help you support and recruit the right volunteers?  We hope you enjoy Becci and Ben’s video stories here