Often organisations are focused on recruiting volunteers and lose the emphasis on volunteer retention and volunteer experience with the organisation. In the 2019 report Time Well spent by NCVO. A national survey of over 10,000 respondents found eight key features making up a quality experience for volunteers;
Inclusive: welcome and accessible to all
Flexible: takes into account people’s individual life circumstances
Impactful: makes a positive difference
Connected: gives a sense of connection to others, to the cause and/or an organisation
Balanced: does not overburden with unnecessary processes
Enjoyable: provides enjoyment, people feel good about what they are doing
Voluntary: the volunteer has freely chosen to do it
Meaningful: resonates with volunteers’ lives, interests and priorities
Volunteering should be a social and engaging experience with a variety of task to keep in the volunteer challenged, engaged and most importantly feel a part of the team.
Strike while the iron’s hot; when a potential volunteer expresses an interest in volunteering for your organisation, it is important to get in touch (email or telephone) as quickly as possible. Many volunteers have put off volunteering when organisations take too long to get in touch. We understand that many of our colleagues are busy and often work part-time, but getting in touch, even just to knowledge the expression of interest via quick personal email, will make the potential volunteer feel valued.
Take time to get to know the volunteer; at the initial meeting, get to know the volunteer, find out what they want to gain through volunteering, their interest likes and dislike. Clearly, communicating what the role involves and the expectation you have from the volunteer will create mutual understanding and ensure everything is clearly set out before you and the volunteer embark on the journey.
Communication, Communication, Communication; Open and honest two-way communications will ensure to the building of trust and can head off any potential problems down the line.
Support; providing sufficient support for volunteers will ensure that they can carry out their duties successfully and gain knowledge and confidence.
Say Thank you! It’s a simple thing but easy to forget. Volunteers are hugely important to an organisation and a simple thank you goes a long way.
Make volunteers feel included; being a part of a team is one of the most popular reasons why people volunteer. We are often busy with the day-to-day tasks of our job, but it is important that different teams within the organisation take time to get to know the volunteers, and include them in team activities, discussions and general chit-chat around the office.
Let’s get together; Festive season is a good excuse to get all your volunteers together for a meal or drinks but getting together doesn’t have to be confined to the festive period. Get your volunteers together every three months or six months are a drink, quiz night or a meal out together. It doesn’t have to cost the organisation a vast amount of money; many volunteers are happy to contribute toward a get-together. It is a great opportunity to meet socially, have a laugh and connect with each other.
Expenses; make sure you explain your expenses policy before the volunteer starts volunteering at your organisation. Clearly explaining the policy will save potentially difficult conversations later on.
Remember they are volunteers; with increasing funding cuts we are more and more reliant on volunteers to help us deliver services, but it is important to ensure organisations don’t treat volunteers as employees. There is a defining line between volunteers and employees, it is imperative the line is not crossed, check out NCVO’s avoiding job substitutions and knowhow.ncvo.org.uk/volunteering-and-the-law for more information on volunteering and the law.
Diversify; With the increasing demand for people’s time, working longer, retiring later and looking after grandchildren, traditional retiree volunteers are becoming increasingly rare. Volunteers managers have to adapt their volunteer opportunities to fit in with the modern world. We don’t have the luxury to demand once a weekly commitment between 10-2 time slots from volunteers if we fail to adapt and diversify volunteering roles, it will be increasingly difficult to attract volunteers.
Visit knowhow.ncvo.org.uk for a comprehensive guide to volunteering