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

Don’t leave me this way! #wiseupwednesdays

Another important aspect of managing volunteers which is often overlooked, is how to retain your volunteers. You need to hang onto them once you’ve found them!  The reasons for losing volunteers may be the result of external or internal factors:

retainingExternal – factors over which you have no control:

·             Your funding has changed, or come to an end
·             Your project/organisation has to close
·             They have been offered paid work
·             Childcare responsibilities
·             Long-term sickness
·             Moving out of the area

Internal – factors which you may have control over:

  • Lack of support
  • Being taken for granted
  • No training
  • No opportunities for development
  • Not feeling welcome and part of the team
  • No opportunities to be involved in decision-making
  • Lack of stimulation
  • Under-utilised skills
  • Feeling their efforts are wasted
  • Stressful
  • Tiring
  • Lack of variety
  • Not being given opportunity to express their views and make suggestions

What can I do to retain volunteers?

Ask them!  There may be simple things you can do to stop the volunteer leaving.

The following are basic elements of volunteer management, which are all important for volunteer retention:

  • Induction – make it informative and interesting – get off on the right foot
  • Initial Development & Training Plan for the volunteer – if they wish to progress. (Not all volunteers will wish to do so, but it must be offered to those who do)
  • Development & Training Plan review and regular supervision sessions at 3 months, 6 months and every 6 months thereafter
  • Team/volunteer meetings on a regular basis (these may be social or work-focussed)
  • Consultation and communication
  • Ongoing support from the volunteer’s mentor/supervisor

Regular supervision and support are essential for ALL volunteers.  Even if they only have supervision sessions every 3 or 6 months, they should be encouraged to contact their supervisor/manager if they have any problems or queries, rather than leaving them until the next supervision session.  This can prevent minor issues developing into larger ones and the volunteer deciding to leave.

Below are some suggestions from local volunteer managers on what works for them!

  • Feel included, valued
  • Thank them!  Pampering/events
  • Pay expenses where possible
  • Support them
  • Opportunity to progress if wanted
  • Respect
  • Group volunteer meetings
  • Have just enough to do, not too much
  • Include in Christmas meals
  • Ask them for ideas
  • Be aware of friction between volunteers
  • Publicising achievements – newsletter
  • Other support available if you’re not there!


Lean on me! #wiseupwednesdays

Supporting Volunteers

Organisations should take a personal interest in their volunteers.  If they phone in to apologise for absence due to illness, bereavement etc, ask them how they are.  Building links can help prevent crises from developing.  Volunteer Co-ordinators need to have clear systems stating when they are available to offer support, however, there are other practical methods Volunteer Co-ordinators can take to support their volunteers:

  • new volunteers can be buddied with established volunteers
  • regular volunteer meetings can be held, with or without staff being present, they could perhaps start their own support group
  • regular social events, allowing volunteers to get together either on their own or with staff, trustees etc
  • newsletters can be produced as a support method to highlight good practice and inform volunteers what’s new


If the Volunteer Co-ordinator/Manager is to be absent for a period of time, always ensure another person is designated to support volunteers as required.


The Volunteer Co-ordinator or member of staff responsible will, normally carry out supervision of volunteers.

Levels of supervision required may vary and will depend upon:

  • how often you see the volunteer personally
  • how often you are in contact with them personally
  • how long they have been with you (you may see new volunteers frequently or have a probationary period when you see them at defined stages)
  • what type of work they do and where their voluntary work is carried out
  • whether the volunteer already has extra support needs

Personal Contact

A designated member of staff should supervise volunteers but all members of staff/volunteers should offer support when the need arises.  It is vital to make all staff aware of the role volunteers play – volunteers are not a threat, their support is vital to an organisation and they should be treated and supported accordingly.

Issues to Consider

Always put the volunteer at their ease and select the venue carefully:

  • Ensure that you will have privacy and not be interrupted
  • Does the volunteer have issues they wish to raise?
  • How are relations with staff, other volunteers, service users, Management Committees?
  • Are the communications systems within the organisation adequate?
  • Are there practical problems emerging in relation to expenses, health & safety, basic equipment needs etc?
  • Are there any policy issues over which the volunteer or supervisor has concerns e.g. equal opportunities, introduction of new legislation?
  • Would the volunteer benefit from training to develop, refresh or enrich their contribution?
  • Are there comments on the way the agency operates?
  • Does the volunteer have any personal matters they wish to raise?


Organisations with specialist roles may employ external supervisors for staff and volunteers for example, if volunteers are dealing with extremely sensitive issues, it may be good to obtain the assistance of trained counsellors to further support them.

The diversity of people wishing to volunteer is extremely beneficial to organisations, as they will ultimately always bring a multitude of skills together with new and refreshing ideas.  However, when in support of volunteers do not forget their diversity – support each volunteer (practically/emotionally) according to their needs and/or requirements.

For more info on managing volunteers, please look at: guidelines-on-managing-volunteers

Getting to know you … getting to know all about you! #wiseupwednesdays

trainingAll volunteers need induction into an organisation – it gives you the opportunity to explain how, why and where you operate.  Not everyone however requires training, but they do require knowledge regarding how your organisation ticks.  Thorough induction coupled with targeted and appropriate training, is an essential part of good staff and volunteer management.

Every organisation operates differently; even moving from one CAB to another will require some induction.  Introducing/inducting all new volunteers ensures that everyone understands systems and operates at the same level.  Include a written induction sheet in the Volunteers Information Pack, this will enable them to systematically learn your procedures and be introduced to a variety of staff and other volunteers.

Things to include in your induction programme:

  • What is your organisation’s role/purpose? Provide written information regarding what your organisation does, your aims and objectives and if necessary how you differ from similar organisations in your field or area of activity.
  • Background e.g. when was it founded, where does it operate, what services does it offer, how many staff and volunteers does it have?
  • The role of Volunteers within the organisation – this can be a useful opportunity to go through the task outline for the specific role and give the volunteer an opportunity to ask questions. It can also be helpful to tell the volunteer about other voluntary roles within the organisation, so they may think about future development opportunities if they wish.
  • Support for Volunteers – who will be responsible for supporting the volunteer and dealing with any queries or problems? If the volunteer is to be allocated to a particular department and managed by someone other than the Volunteer Co-ordinator, it is helpful for them to meet the Volunteer Co-ordinator too.
  • Procedures relevant to their role e.g. how you log phone calls, what resource books you use etc – these are all important.  Write down and explain everything – always explain that you may have to explain the obvious.
  • Housekeeping – toilet facilities, refreshment facilities, where to leave personal belongings etc.
  • Health & Safety – is vital, particularly if you have fire drills at certain times, which means that some volunteers are never present when you need to go through it with them! Tell the volunteer where the fire exits are situated, how to sound the fire alarm and the procedure to follow for evacuation.  It would also be useful to tell the volunteer about First Aid arrangements.  This sort of information is often displayed on notice boards around a building, so it is useful to show the volunteer where the information boards can be found.
  • Relevant Policies e.g. No Smoking Policy. Tell the volunteer about allocated areas if they wish to smoke.
  • Expenses – how to claim expenses and complete expense forms, show examples.
  • Introductions – to members of staff, other volunteers and service users.  If you recruit volunteers from outside your neighbourhood, give them information that is relevant to your organisation/project i.e. number of elderly people visiting the day centre.

Updating Volunteers 

Update volunteers on all changes, i.e. new legislation, contacts etc.  This can be done in a variety of ways:

  • a newsletter or regular letter to your volunteers
  • if you have a small team of volunteers, then tell them individually
  • update them at Volunteers Meetings, which if held regularly, are useful
  • include relevant changes in written updates for the Volunteers Information Pack

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.

Training Volunteers 

There are a number of voluntary organisations that offer (some with NVQ) their own training.  If you are starting a new project then we can suggest groups to contact for good practice models.

For more info, why not read our guidelines-on-managing-volunteers



Take a chance on me! #wiseupwednesdays


Depending on the nature of your organisation, information, application forms etc can either be sent beforehand, or the interviewer can complete application/registration forms during the interview.   Some organisations may require that informal and formal interviews take place.  Other pre-selection ideas may include regular open days, videos, slide shows, presentations or tours of your premises.  Why not consider involving existing volunteers when new volunteers come along to your organisation?  Perhaps they could take part in any events and chat to prospective volunteers about their voluntary experience.

It is recommended as good practice, from a health & safety and lone working point of view, that there should always be two interviewers, rather than interviewing a potential volunteer alone.

Who will deal with enquiries? 

It is always best to ensure that any members of staff or volunteers who may be taking enquiries from potential volunteers, have adequate information about the voluntary roles available and note any relevant information down, to enable information to be sent on to the applicants.

Application Forms

Application forms should be simple, easy to read and understand.  Keep them as brief as possible, as lengthy forms can deter potential volunteers who do not feel comfortable with writing and may not have English as their first language.  If you are unsure about what to include in application forms, it may be helpful to contact another organisation or ask your local Volunteer Centre to source sample forms for you.

Before the Interview

  • Respond quickly to a volunteer’s request for an interview.
  • Send out information about the organisation.
  • Give the volunteer a reasonable amount of notice of the appointment, in case they have to arrange a lift or arrange time off work.
  • Be as flexible as possible about time, date, venue e.g. does the volunteer have a disability which may make it difficult for them to climb stairs, or needs wheelchair access.
  • Give clear directions to the interview venue; it may be helpful to include a map.

for more guidance, why not read our guidelines-on-managing-volunteers

How can I make my organisation a volunteer magnet? #wiseupwednesdays

recruitSocial Media

The growth of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs, means that these are potential tools to reach out to new volunteers. If you don’t know much about social media or want to learn how to use the tools, Dudley CVS runs a number of free social media surgeries, which you can attend to develop your skills in this area.

Local Advertising

Many supermarkets have community notice boards as do Churches, Mosques, Temples, Community Centres, Schools and Leisure Centres, Libraries, Newsagents, corner shops and garages.  Ensure that it is a clean poster (change regularly if dog-eared or covered in graffiti) with up to date information on it.

Notice boards are very useful if you want local volunteers.  They may be a rich source for one-off events like fun-runs or fetes.  Remember to have interesting posters etc., and remove them when they are outdated.   If possible put a sign outside your own organisation or in your shop window, saying what kind of role(s) you are currently seeking volunteers for.

Local Newspapers

Local newspapers are approachable, sometimes free and helpful, particularly if your volunteer needs could link to something that is photogenic and of local interest.

Press Releases

Producing press releases and building links with the media has spin-offs for your work.  Often press releases are free of charge however, some organisations e.g. the Guardian (cheap volunteer ads on Wednesdays) may charge.

With a press release, keep the message simple.  Get someone who is not too involved to check your promotional literature, to check it is clear and free of jargon.

Remember: The most effective way to attract more volunteers is through word of mouth.  Volunteers tell other volunteers about their roles and this often encourages family, friends and colleagues to come forward to volunteer.   Through supporting and valuing your current volunteers you could ultimately attract more volunteers.

Places to Advertise for Volunteers

As mentioned research indicates that most volunteers will come by word of mouth however, below is listed a range of outlets/organisations, which may also complement the services you provide:

  • Local Schools, Student Community Action Groups at Colleges
  • Community Centres, Youth Clubs/Centres and Tenants Halls
  • Pre-retirement courses and links with local businesses
  • Clinics, Doctors Surgeries, Dentists and Opticians
  • Job Centres, Job Clubs, Rehabilitation Centres etc
  • Lions Rotary Club etc
  • Churches, Gurdwaras, Mosques, Temples etc
  • Libraries, Borough Council Offices, Hospitals, Police & Fires Stations
  • Specialist Organisations, self-help groups and professional agencies in your area of work
  • Post Offices, Garages, Supermarkets and Corner Shops
  • Sporting and Leisure Clubs
  • Advice and information organisations like the CAB.
  • Local Radio & TV e.g. the Community Channel
  • Talks to specialist/relevant audiences, religious groups, schools and colleges, youth clubs/organisations
  • Exhibitions either static in a library or shop, or mobile for a school or club
  • Leaflets, which can be for wide circulation or customised for different audiences
  • Open days at your centre or project
  • Devise a fancy dress or other promotional stunt
  • Distribution of leaflets to promote your organisations and for the recruitment of volunteers


A little respect! #wiseupwednesdays

volunteer policyWhat is a Volunteer Policy

A Volunteer Policy is the foundation on which your organisation’s involvement with volunteers should be based.  It forms the basis of your entire volunteer programme, giving cohesion and consistency to all elements in your organisation that affect volunteers (i.e. recruitment, expenses, health & safety etc.)  Volunteer Policies are the key to involving a diverse group of volunteers, because they help to define the role of volunteers within the organisation, and how they can expect to be treated.

Why do we need one?

A Volunteer Policy demonstrates an organisation’s commitment both to its volunteer programme and to its individual volunteers.  By having a policy in place, you are showing that care and thought has gone into the volunteer programme.

Volunteer Policies help to ensure fairness and consistency.  Dealing with volunteers, means dealing with a diverse range of people, being able to refer to a written policy ensures that decisions are not made on an ad-hoc basis, and that all volunteers are treated equally and fairly.

A policy enables volunteers to know where they stand.  It offers them some security, in that they know how they can expect to be treated, and where they can turn if they feel that things are going wrong.

Volunteer Policies also help to ensure that paid staff, senior management and trustees fully understand why volunteers are involved and what role they have within the organisation.

Drawing up a Volunteer Policy is the ideal starting point when considering how to involve volunteers.  Once the Policy is written it should be reviewed annually in consultation with volunteers, staff and trustees, perhaps a representative steering committee.

for more info, please look at our: guidelines-on-managing-volunteers