WORKING WITH VOLUNTEERS
Volunteer programmes need to be well-organised so that the volunteers feel valued and appreciated. It is important to create rewarding and interesting volunteer roles so people continue to turn up and contribute to your project. Here are some useful steps for you to consider:
Step 1: The need for volunteers
It is important to ask yourself why you want to involve volunteers.
- Do you need help to complete tasks?
- Are you aiming to increase participation in your project from the local community?
- Do you want to increase diversity within your project?
- Or are you mainly looking for ways to save money?
Step 2: Identify your available resources
Even though volunteers are not paid for their time, they are not cost free. It is important to ensure you know what resources you have available before you start recruiting so that you can be honest with yourself and potential volunteers about what’s possible.
- Are you able to provide training?
- Can you afford to reimburse expenses?
- Is there a budget for recruitment materials?
- Will you need to purchase specialist equipment?
- And, very importantly, how will you manage and support your volunteers?
Step 3: Identify roles, responsibilities and other requirements
Once you’re sure that you want to involve volunteers, identify tasks that they could do and use them as a basis for developing a role description. It is good practice to have a volunteer policy or handbook that you can give to volunteers. It should include information about the project, and provide a framework for the management of volunteers. You can include the role description plus details of how to claim expenses and any other information that will be relevant to the volunteer’s role. Many community groups and organisations are run successfully by volunteers without having a policy, but they may find it useful to have one once they start to grow.
Step 4: Recruitment and selection, equality and diversity
Work out what your recruitment and selection process will be. Will volunteers need to complete an application form or just telephone or pop in for an informal chat? If your project involves young people or vulnerable adults, you may need to carry out background checks on applicants. You will need to demonstrate that potential volunteers are treated fairly and given equal access to opportunities and resources and that individual differences are respected and valued.
Step 5: Advertise
Create recruitment materials that reach out to different sections of the community. Identify where you will advertise for volunteers, such as Facebook, Twitter, and places such as Swansea Council for Voluntary Services (SCVS), libraries and community centres. You should also note that around two thirds of volunteers hear about their role by word of mouth. Promoting your opportunities to local groups and networks is therefore an important way of recruiting volunteers.
You might not want to limit yourself to online adverts, posters and leaflets. You could hold an open day for potential volunteers, or arrange to have a stall in a busy local place so you can speak to people directly. When advertising roles you’ll probably want to take into account that different sections of the community access information in different ways. Making information and opportunities accessible involves thinking about things like age, disability and ethnicity.
Step 6: Health & safety and insurance
For any arranged activity there are legal issues to think about, such as health, safety and insurance. These may seem a burden, but they can be vital. Not only do they protect the health of volunteers and the public, but they may help protect your organisation should anything go wrong. It is a good idea to have a written health and safety policy.You should also conduct risk assessments of the project’s activities and the activities of your volunteers. You’ll also need to make sure that you have sufficient insurance to cover volunteers in the event of an accident.
Step 7: A point of contact
Ensure that the volunteer has a named point of contact that they can go to for information and support.
Step 8: Valuing a volunteer
Identify ways in which you can say ‘thank you’ to volunteers. If people feel appreciated they are more likely to continue volunteering with you. You could present them with a certificate, a thank you card or a small gift. You could even organise a small event during Volunteers’ Week, which runs from the first to seventh of June every year. Another way of valuing a volunteer is to give them extra responsibilities, such as buddying up with new volunteers to help them feel at home and learn the ropes. You should, of course, always discuss this with your volunteer first.
Step 9: Problem-solving procedures
With the best will in the world, occasionally things can go wrong, so it’s a good idea to have a problem-solving procedure in place. This will provide you with a process to follow if a volunteer makes a complaint, or if someone makes a complaint about a volunteer. By having such a procedure in place, you’ll be able to ensure that anyone raising a complaint is dealt with fairly.
Some useful contacts
Swansea Council for Voluntary Service - provides advice on volunteering, funding, training, setting up groups and much more
Neath Port Talbot Council for Voluntary Service - provides advice on volunteering, funding, training, setting up groups and much more
Wales Council for Voluntary Action - offers guidance on safeguarding, risk assessment, safety, supervision and other topics
Keep Wales Tidy - offers basic insurance cover free to community groups formed and constituted in the last 12 months
Health and Safety Executive - provides guidance on managing risks for voluntary groups