I believe that we volunteer for our own gain AND to make things we believe in happen.
Our volunteering gives us a sense of purpose, camaraderie, and enjoyment. And we benefit by developing our skills, meeting new people and expanding our lives.
The best volunteering situations encourage volunteers to take on only what they can do in the time available ….. and they deliver. The organisation and the individual communicate openly and honestly and the individual can ask for help.
There are some people who take on voluntary roles for other motives, maybe because they want the status associated with the post or because they want to get a “toe in the door”. In my experience, volunteers like this do not fit in well. They don’t support the team as effectively as volunteers who are genuinely interested in what they are doing. And I’m sure they don’t derive the same satisfaction for themselves.
Volunteers are making a serious commitment to do a job – albeit an unpaid one, and should be treated as seriously and professionally as paid employees.
I agree with Matthew Taylor (RSA) in his “A Formula for Volunteering” that the word volunteer encompasses such a wide range from seriously responsible public roles to micro-volunteering that it is time that we developed a more helpful vocabulary. I would love to see a new word that recognises the professional nature of many volunteer posts and one that helps shake off the old, charitable “do goody” image. Please post any ideas.
This is my volunteering philosophy. Do you agree?
Be inspired by Simon Sinek’s view in How great leaders inspire action that ….
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
What applies to business is even more important for recruiting in the voluntary sector – so we should start with “Why”. Volunteers, Sinek says, buy into why you do something, not what you do.
Organisations looking for volunteers and volunteer managers everywhere – talk about what you believe in. Talk about your dreams if you want to attract those who agree with you.
In 2013, will you be selling “I have a dream” or I have a plan?
It is good news for volunteers that CRB checks are to become portable. So if you have a CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) check for one charity, school, club or job you can use it for another. This change will save volunteers time and inconvenience and save taxpayer money.
The CRB has now been replaced by Disclosure and Barring Service and so checks in future will be known as DBS checks.
See further information from the Home Office.
… by volunteering?
Forbes Ten Resolutions The Most Successful People Make And Then Keep
#4 Resolve to find your purpose
“Starting a career, a company or any kind of journey that is based firmly on your purpose is foundational to success and happiness. If you don’t know your ……purpose, finding one is the worthiest of resolutions.”
A good way to find your purpose is by volunteering. What are you passionate about? What do you care enough about to want to change? Could you volunteer to make something you believe in happen in 2013?
#5 Resolve to support a cause
“If you’re reading this, chances are you are one of the rare people who know how to start things. Fortunately, there are people like you who have already started causes that make the world better—they feed the hungry; they save the rain forest; they fight cancer; they do good things. There is virtually a cause for everyone, and contributing will make your year happier. Promise.”
Good causes need time as well as money. How about supporting your cause by donating some of your time in 2013?
Whatever you do, I wish you a happy and fulfilled 2013.
Can you tell the difference between your team workers and your time-wasters? Take a look at my volunteer matrix to help you identify the different types of volunteers in your organisation:
Can you tell your team workers from your time-wasters?
“The Chairman” I hear you cry!
“Or the Treasurer?”
Having been a chairman of a large PTA for a number of years, I actually think the most important job in any association, charity or amateur club is the volunteer manager. This is the person who inspires, motivates and nurtures the workforce – all the people who give up their time to take on responsibilities to help the organisation.
The volunteer manager could be anyone on the team. You might have a dedicated role, or you may have another post holder who’s particularly good with people and who takes charge. Particularly good with people – this is the key! You need someone who is easy to get on with, understands and cares about others and who knows the difference between what motivates and what dispirits. It helps if they are involved in the organisation so that they are familiar with what is going on – but everything can be learned. Lack of experience is not a barrier: lack of empathy is.
What should a volunteer manager do?
- Know who the volunteers are – especially the new ones
- Know where they have helped
- Know what they would like to do and have the skills to do
- Recognise their contribution
- Encourage them to take on new responsibilities if these suit the volunteer
- Keep in touch with the volunteers letting them know past successes and news of what is coming up
To sum up: recruit one good volunteer and you have someone who can take on one role: Recruit one good volunteer manager and you have someone can maintain a supply of volunteers to keep your organisation rolling.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buechner
Have you just taken on a new job – paid or voluntary – where you work with people who are doing their roles as volunteers? If so, this is for you:
Time and energy
When you are planning – whether its a project, an event, or a new direction – make sure you build in extra capacity because it will likely take more people and more time than you think you need.
Is it that volunteers are naturally inefficient? Not at all! Your supporting team will be fitting their volunteering around both work and family commitments and when unexpected things happen and take up their time, it is their volunteering that gets put on hold. Expect the unexpected! Get things done ahead if you can and allow a longer lead time to deadlines. And recruit a few more people – say 10% more – than you think you need It makes for less stress if you do.
What do you know?
Your volunteers probably know less than you think. Make them feel comfortable by explaining the system, showing them how things work and getting them started. They might be too shy to to ask you for help but they will thank you for putting them at ease.
Hello – how are you?
Keep in touch with your team. I don’t mean bombard them. But check how they are getting on and encourage them to talk to you regularly. You will enjoy hearing the progress updates and good news from them. And if there is bad news then it’s better to hear it sooner rather than later.
Make the most of a new volunteer’s initial zeal. Some people love a new project and will bring huge amounts of drive and enthusiasm at the outset. If you can harness this productively the volunteer will have a much better experience and be more likely to move onwards and upwards. If they experience frustration and barriers in their early days they may give up on you.
Have you got any suggestions you would like to pass on to someone just starting out working with volunteers? Please leave them in comments.
1. Keep them informed
Make sure your volunteers understand what their role involves and how it fits into the overall project or event. The need just enough detail to see the big picture – they don’t want to read a telephone directory-sized handbook! It is likely that different volunteers will need different levels of detail. Friendly, timely, informed communication is key.
2. Keep them busy
Volunteers will have made sacrifices – given up free time or taken leave from work – and will fee undervalued if there is not enough to do. Plan carefully to ensure they are actively engaged in a productive activity, or at least entertained if there is a temporary lull. You will need to monitor activity and encourage the workforce to be flexible so they can be redeployed if fewer numbers are required on certain tasks as the project evolves. Bored and frustrated people will vote with their feet. If they don’t have enough to do today, don’t expect to see them again tomorrow, next week or next time.
3. Keep them fed and watered
This should be obvious – but while volunteers are working for you they reasonably expect to be fed and definitely need to be kept hydrated. What you give them will depend on their shift, remoteness and your resources. A packed lunch or a meal voucher is common. For smaller roles, just a small snack and a drink is a good way to say thank you. Can your sponsors help by providing supplies?
4. Help them be properly equipped
Don’t forget to tell them what they need to bring. Mobile phone? Pen and notebook? A folding chair? Let them know if they will be inside or outside and advise them on suitable clothing. I’ve seen cold, wet road-junction marshals wearing suits and ties at a cycling event. I’ve turned up to a winter sports fixture dressed in thermals for sub-zero temperatures only to be given a job inside. Make sure you give them information to help them help themselves by arriving with the right kit.
5. Give them them opportunity to communicate
Have you ever been sent information from a “no-reply@…….” e-mail address. And then searched the Frequently Asked Questions page on the website in vain for the information you need? This way of doing business may be OK for big companies avoiding time wasters. But if your volunteer really needs to find out some information, they need a way of contacting the right person who can answer their question. If not they will get so frustrated that they will probably let you down. And how will they tell you they are not coming!
The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network held a live Q & A with a panel of experts today: The Olympic legacy for the voluntary sector. As both a volunteer manager and a Games Maker Team Leader, I think there are some very interesting points raised. Highlights for me are:
“the importance of getting it right; contacting people quickly, keeping them informed and making them feel valued.”
“the Olympics has raised the profile of volunteering in this country and empowered a lot of people to get involved and play a part in a unique event in London….I think LOCOG have been very successful in shifting perceptions that volunteers have real jobs and are senior, experienced professionals are not just being used for casual jobs.”
“LOCOG intentionally didn’t talk about volunteers but gave them a distinctive brand of Games Makers to reinforce they were the ones who made the Games happen.”
“the sense of pride and engagement people feel by being part of a movement is a great concept we should think about more when designing roles and developing programmes.”
See full questions and responses here.
1. Take on a role you feel happy to do
Start with a modest role that you can tackle confidently. You are aiming for something that gives you the right amount of buzz and avoids any sinking feeling of being overwhelmed.
2. Do it on time
Find out what the deadlines are before you say “yes” and then meet them. Other people will be depending on your timeliness and being late is being unfair to them. If something happens in your life that genuinely gets in the way, then let someone know early so they they can make other arrangements. Don’t put off giving bad news! Worrying and waiting until the deadline has passed and only revealing your problems when someone contacts you does not help anyone.
3. Enjoy it
Do your task with good grace and a smile. Enjoy the company of other volunteers and collaborate with them. This makes the job more fun all round. Feel a sense of satisfaction in what you achieve and do not allow yourself to be pressurised into doing more than you agreed and don’t feel guilty for saying “no”.