Our seventh and final sin is DETACHMENT. I’m talking about detachment by those who manage your group or organisation, who may well be a team of volunteers.
Prime examples of this deadly sin are:
Refusing to engage with volunteers – seeing themselves as separate from, or better than volunteers, which is never a good thing. Strong organisations are those were everyone is treated equally be they a volunteer or the Chief Officer. Mingling with volunteers at events and taking time to chat to them is important and a great way to build strong relationships.
Management not seeing the relevance of volunteers – this could include ignoring volunteers’ contributions, refusing to make time on agendas for meetings to discuss volunteering issues, or even not supporting the person responsible for volunteers e.g. bringing in unrealistic targets or expectations for the volunteer co-ordinator or volunteers.
Management not seeing the value of volunteers – not seeing any value in the time and input from volunteers, or what they bring to the organisation.
“We don’t need to thank our volunteers or treat them well, they’ll turn up anyway!”
is not a good attitude but this was a comment from a Volunteer Co-ordinator I met. They didn’t see the value in any kind of structured support for volunteers either. Hmm I wonder why they couldn’t keep volunteers?
Not resourcing volunteers – we are talking about time not just money here. Volunteers are not “free labour” although I’ve heard them be referred to as exactly that in the past. Resourcing volunteering is not just about finding funds to pay out-of-pocket expenses, fund training or purchase special polo shirts, although these are important things to factor into funding bids: it’s about investing time to ensure that volunteers are involved in the organisation, following good practice guidelines. Nominating someone to be responsible for volunteers and ensuring that person has the time, and capacity to do it as part of their role is essential. Giving volunteer management responsibilities to someone who is already over stretched is never going to work! Have you assessed their skills? Do they need mentoring from another member of staff, or do they need some training in volunteer management skills?
Not seeking their views – overlooking volunteers’ views and opinions may not seem like a sin to those who manage an organisation, but it’s a useful exercise to seek them and volunteers have come up with ideas to develop, or improve services/projects in some organisations. It’s useful to remember too that if you work with clients/service users, volunteers are often the people with time to sit down and chat with them, which puts the volunteers in a unique position of spotting issues and ways to improve the service.
Not recognising and celebrating their volunteers – see 6th Deadly Sin post
Being resistant to new volunteers – where some purely volunteer-led groups have developed and needed to recruit volunteers who are not board/committee members, this can become an issue. New volunteers joining the group may not be made welcome as existing volunteers have their own way of doing things and don’t want to change. One group I supported, closed with £26,000 in the bank, as new board members would not stay with the group due to the Chairman’s attitude to ‘outsiders’! The existing board had been together for many years and chose to close the group rather than change.
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