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
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
All 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.
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.
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