New perspectives on measuring the health and wellbeing benefits. A new L&D event.

9th August, the Crypt, London E1 6LY, 10:30 -4:30 pm

Click here to book

We know that volunteering is beneficial both mentally and physically, but how can we measure the extent of that benefit? Can we quantify the benefits -‘put a number’ on the improvement in wellbeing? Is it possible to showcase the societal advantages of a particular programme?

This event brings together a range of organisations that have a particular interest in measuring wellbeing. We will hear from organisations that work with particular groups of volunteers, such as family groups, young people or disadvantaged communities, and why they targeted wellbeing and/or health as areas of particular interest. We will consider different approaches to measuring impact and how the resulting data can be utilised in various ways to translate the evidence into action.

We will also hear from organisations with a broader interest in measuring volunteer behaviour and wellbeing, how they bring together information from diverse sources to build up an overall picture of volunteer activity in the wider community, and how this can then be used to better understand more localised situations.

The day will include  presentations from: Ceris Anderson and Steve Welsher of StreetGames; Ruth Townsley of Happy City; Ingrid Abreu Scherer of What Works Centres for Wellbeing; Lee Ashworth of the “If: Volunteering for wellbeing” project and Dr. Ricky Lawton of Jump Projects.

With a combination of practitioners and researchers, this important issue will be addressed from a range of perspectives, and we welcome audience participation and involvement. There will be networking opportunities and round-table discussions to allow attendees to share and consider their own experiences.

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A new perspective on measuring health and wellbeing benefits.

9 August, the Crypt, E1 6LY

Click here to book


Annual conference: 18th October 2018, Royal National hotel, London:

Early bird tickets will be available in July.

With three exceptional keynotes confirmed and a choice from 8 workshops and seminars, this year’s conference is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet!

Watch this space and the ‘Upcoming events‘ page for information.

Building bridges between volunteering and research

This is a guest post by Shaun Delaney, volunteering development manager at NCVO, overseeing strategy for volunteer management and good practice. Previously, he was head of volunteering at Samaritans and is currently a volunteer trustee of Greater London Volunteering. This was first posted on the NCVO website

As a volunteer manager, I like my practice to be evidence-based. I think we all do. We’re forever evaluating, surveying, measuring and holding focus groups to make sure we are doing our very best by our volunteers. But as we know, there are some things we could do with knowing a bit more about.

On 7 June, the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM), Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) and the National Network of Volunteer Involving Agencies (NNVIA) held an event to plan how we can answer these questions – an event which NCVO was thrilled to support and host. This event brought together the researchers, practitioners and everyone in-between to ask ‘how can we better work together to advance volunteering research’. Get the full lowdown from AVM Chair Ruth Leonard’s blog and comments from VSSN’s Jon Dean.

Practitioners tackle the problems, researchers tackle the solutions

The day had a packed agenda. We started by hearing from the researchers and academics. Margaret Harris was quite clear – ‘if there isn’t a problem, why are we spending time on it?’ And I agree. While we perhaps all wonder why milk makes our cereal soggy, there are bigger problems to solve. As busy people with limited resources, let’s focus on the big issues we are facing. As one of our speakers said, ‘it’s not just about academic masturbation’.

This was my first main message of the day: Let’s be clear what problems volunteer managers face, then ask researchers to help us find the answer.

Practitioners and researchers speaking a shared language

After lunch, we heard from volunteering specialists. First up, Rachel Bailey tackling a key question of the day – ‘why don’t academics and volunteer managers work together more?’ Rachel helped us see something that we perhaps hadn’t noticed before.

Volunteer management isn’t an academic profession. You can’t do a GCSE in social action or a Masters in volunteering. In fact, as recent research suggests, volunteer management requires insight and skills in emotional labour – one of the key things that separates volunteer managements from staff management. So naturally, volunteer managers start their careers in people-oriented professions and may not know one end of a researcher form the other.

So my second take-away message: for practitioners and researchers to work better together, we need to better understand each other’s language.

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it

We finished the day looking to the future. How can we find the solutions we need, by better working together? We came up with quite a list. But the thing for me that came out was around communication. For any of this to mean anything, we need to have an audience that is receptive to research – and will actually read it! There is stacks of great insight out there. But if it’s impenetrable, it’s just another dusty book on a shelf. People rarely change how they do things after passively reading a single document too so this insight needs to be engaging.

My final piece of learning for the day: Research is great, but finding a way to bring it to life makes it even greater.

For more information, check out the AVM and VSSN blogs.

Member question: Training & induction for retail volunteers

AVM member Tracey Le Gallez, Head of Volunteer Development & Engagement at Sue Ryder Care, has plans to create a new suite of induction and development training for Sue Ryder’s retail volunteers.

Tracey would like to hear from anyone who is able to share how they have approached the following question.

How do you approach training of this type given the risk management climate we are now operating in (safeguarding, GDPR etc.)?

Tracey is aiming to continue involving a diverse group of volunteers and so is eager to have a robust process but one that doesn’t put people off. You can contact her on: tracey.le-gallez@sueryder.org

Building bridges – bringing together volunteer managers and voluntary sector researchers

Ruth Leonard, Chair of AVM, reflects on last week’s Building Bridges event.

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Angela Ellis-Paine (left) and Ruth Leonard (right)

On the last day of volunteers’ week 2018 I co-chaired with Angela Ellis Paine and Chris Wade, a long overdue day bringing together volunteer managers and voluntary sector researchers to better understand each others’ needs. A joint initiative between AVM, VSSM and NNVIA and kindly hosted by NCVO the day was a structured networking event, informed and challenged by recognised experts in either field – but with the understanding that we are all experts and the answer lies within the group.

After getting to know each other on our tables – and coming up with additions to the volunteers’ week playlist we started looking at what the current state of volunteering research was; hearing from 4 voluntary sector researchers: Howard Davies, Justin Davis-Smith, Margaret Harris and John Mohan.

It was clear that there was already a lot known on the who, why, what and where of volunteering – but less research on the ‘how’; including the role that volunteer management plays in the process. One of the areas which Justin identified as being not researched was that of when volunteering was not appropriate; such as the balance between state and the voluntary movement and where volunteering can’t deliver public benefits.

Perfectly exemplifying the spirit of the day Margaret emphasised that there needed to be collaboration and co-production between researchers and practitioners; as she put it researchers should “avoid binary approaches” and that just as volunteering shows that nothing brings people together as much as sharing problems together research needed to be developed through sharing collaboratively in order to work on projects where we can solve problems together. One of my favourite quotes from her is there is “nothing so practical as a good theory”.

After hearing from our speakers we discussed the issues raised as a group and some of our shared responses included that there was good knowledge in existence but a lot of it was out of date, and from other countries, and it was a challenge to know how we could collect information to update it, especially as there was little investment.

There was also interest in the effects of volunteer management – and managers – on the impact of volunteering and discussion on increasing diversity; including the role of current volunteers in welcoming people from different groups. Thinking about the future and how voluntary organisations didn’t seem to making changes at scale to prepare for it; we felt that it would be useful to have research which would help inform that so as a sector we could know how to remodel the ways we operate in order to engage and remain relevant to those who give their time. It was felt that it would be useful to reach out to other researchers looking at areas that weren’t specifically about the voluntary sector and piggyback on some of that.

The next session was to hear from ‘the practitioners’ and understand to what extent volunteer managers and their organisations engaged with volunteering research. We heard from AVM’s very own Rachael Bayley, Chris Reed, Tiger de Souza and Helen Timbrell.

A really useful base to start the conversation was Rachael’s honest discussion about how the busy volunteer manager who is not based in the theoretical background and doesn’t have time to wade through pages of words could be best supported to access the valuable nuggets of information. This resonated across the audience – whilst those who chose to attend this day were obviously interested in engaging and understanding the latest research it wasn’t very easy to access the relevant information to inform practice.

Tiger trailed an exciting piece of research which National Trust is carrying out on looking at the future and how volunteer managers and organisations need to equip themselves to align to themselves to where we shall be. I’m really pleased that Tiger will be one of our key note speakers at the AVM conference on 18th October, where he shall tell us more about the findings but the initial themes which they are uncovering are: citizenship, automation, nurture and grow, connection, marginalised, control and identity.

Helen challenged us all about the arbitrary split of researchers and volunteer managers – as she succinctly pointed out it – ‘we can all be researchers and all be practitioners’ and I think this emphasised one of the key take aways from the day; we need to be working together more and breaking down these divisions between us in order to answer the questions we want answering about volunteering.

Our table conversations then concentrated on how volunteer managers engaged with research and what barriers there might be to doing so. One of the main reasons to engage with research seemed to be to check that volunteering programme works for beneficiaries and service users, though it was also reflected from a couple of tables that there was a sense of research only happening when there was a crisis. Research was also used to influence upwards or when writing strategy. It was felt that it would be easier for volunteer managers to engage with research if it was available in the right, accessible format though there was also a recognition that as practitioners we see what’s well publicised, visible, easy to digest – we won’t necessarily see a journal paper which contradicts those findings. There was a request to broker link between voluntary organisations which had similar research needs.

Throughout the day we collected thoughts on what questions about volunteering did we want answering; these broke down into 6 themes: volunteer management; volunteers; alternative forms of volunteering; government and infrastructure; impact and the future.  We chose groups based on out interest and started to explore some of the specific areas which would be useful in 3 of them

Volunteer Management

  • Is a lack of a defined career pathway for volunteer managers a problem – for individuals, organisations, volunteers’ experience?
  • Where does volunteering best sit within an organisation to be most effective?
  • What does a good structure which enables volunteering to thrive look like?

Impact

  • Value of gift of time because of not being paid
  • Value of closeness to community – does localism have an impact
  • Focus on experience of beneficiaries – including does their perception of volunteering have an effect

Alternative forms of volunteering

  • Micro volunteering – what’s the evidence around this
  • How do we connect formal and informal volunteering
  • Family friendly volunteering and childcare

Karl Wilding summarised the day by emphasising that dialogue was good and encouraging us to think about what the tools might be in enabling this. He emphasised that we know an awful lot, but the way we’re sharing just isn’t working and that this day was a start to fixing what wasn’t working in the feedback loop between researchers and volunteer managers.  He was clear that this was on both sides, and that volunteer managers needed to be more vocal collectively about what was needed and stop re-inventing the wheel. He encouraged us to think about where research would help us in understanding change and give us insight into how to make decisions; such as transitioning from a civic core model to one of social action.

We all jointly needed to get better at communicating just what this stuff was about to ordinary people – what is the language which people use to describe what they are doing?

Our closing conversation focussed on next steps –  what did the room want to do to follow on from this day?

  • More opportunities to come together in different ways – there has been a lack of interaction between voluntary organisations and academia coming together and AVM, VSSN and NNVIA were thanked at creating this opportunity
  • Repository for people to contact regarding research/commissioning – it was recognised that this could already exist but if so there needed to be improved communication about it
  • NCVO offered to bring together a consortium to hold a Seminar of diversity of volunteering; which would include exploring where current volunteers themselves may be creating an unwelcoming environment
  • In NCVO’s centenary year they could create a regular digest of Government interventions – Voluntary Action Notes
  • AVM to convene a way to consider research priorities for volunteer managers which could be shared to academics via VSSN

It was agreed that Angela, Chris and I would meet to discuss the next steps but it was clear there was an overwhelming desire to continue to build the bridge and AVM, VSSN and NNVIA were committed to ensuring that happened.

Reading list

Rachael Bayley, AVM Board member, shared the following reading list at the event.

The New Alchemy

UK research and a major report on volunteering published in 2015. This report tracks the changes of many things in the world of volunteering, charities and the wider economic, social and political climate and compares from 2005 to 2015.  The report is based on surveying over 500 volunteer managers and carrying out more than 20 in-depth interviews. Written by: NFP Synergy

http://nfpsynergy.net/free-report/new-alchemy

21st Century Volunteer

UK research about volunteer management and volunteering, published in 2005.  This report shows how the current volunteering environment is changing. In particular, it disseminates the ways in which volunteer management will need to develop in order to accommodate the changing external environment. The original report is great and makes valuable points.  It was written in 2005 and the authors in 2015 released a new edition (above).  It draws challenging and though provoking links between the fundraising and the volunteering function in an organisation.  Written by: NFP Synergy and commissioned by the Scout Association

http://nfpsynergy.net/21st-century-volunteer

Bridging The Gap report and subsequent papers

How can we bridge the gap between what Canadians are looking for in volunteering today and how organizations are engaging volunteers? A pan-Canadian research study. The 2010 research gathered practical information for use by volunteer organizations to attract and retain skilled, dedicated volunteers among four specific demographic groups: youth, families, boomers and employer-supported volunteers.  The report was updated with Bridging the Gap II in 2013.  There are also fact sheets, presentations and different version of the report available.

Written by: Volunteer Canada, in partnership with Manulife Financial, Carleton University Centre for Voluntary Sector Research & Development and Harris/Decima

http://volunteer.ca/content/bridging-gap

http://volunteer.ca/content/bridging-gap-summary-report

Pathways through Participation – What creates and sustains active citizens?

Pathways through Participation is a research project that aimed to improve our understanding of how and why people participate, how their involvement changes over time, and what pathways, exist between different activities. The project ran from 2009 to 2011 in the UK.

Written by: National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) and Involve

http://pathwaysthroughparticipation.org.uk

http://www.pathwaysthroughparticipation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2011/09/Pathways-Through-Participation-final-report_Final_20110913.pdf

Future Focus – What will our volunteers be like in five years time?

Published in 2009 this examines how volunteers are changing – who they are, what they do and what they expect – and suggests ways to use this information to retain, recruit and manage volunteers successfully.  Published as part of the Future Focus series, a segment of the stats are England only and some are UK wide.

Written by: The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in partnership with the Charities Evaluation Services (CES).

https://www.ncvo.org.uk/

http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/uploadedFiles/NCVO/Publications/Publications_Catalogue/Quality/FF2.pdf

The New Breed – Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century volunteer

Not a report but a great book, available on Amazon.  The authors are father and son and based in the USA. They also have a website with more volunteering information.  A really good text book on volunteer management best practice.  Written by Jonathan McKee and Thomas McKee.

http://www.volunteerpower.com

London Volunteer Health Check: all fit for 2012?

The study was commissioned with the aim to provide evidence on the nature of volunteering in London, the provision of support for volunteers and the capacity of the local volunteering infrastructure, ahead of the 2012 London Olympics. The report, published in 2009, also includes a view on the state of volunteer management in London.

Written by: Institute for Volunteering Research with Greater London Volunteering and commissioned by the London Development Agency.

http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/london-volunteer-health-check-all-fit-for-2012

http://www.ivr.org.uk/images/stories/Institute-of-Volunteering-Research/Migrated-Resources/Documents/L/LDA_FINAL_report_08_12_08.pdf

Research Centres

Institute for Volunteering Research

The Institute for Volunteering Research is an initiative of Volunteering England (recently merged with NCVO) in research partnership with Birkbeck, University of London

http://www.ivr.org.uk/

Third Sector Research Centre

TSRC works to enhance our knowledge of the sector through independent and critical research. We aim to better understand the value of the sector and how this can be maximised.  Hosted at Birmingham University.

http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/generic/tsrc/index.aspx

Cabinet Office

The Community Life Survey has been commissioned by the Cabinet Office to track the latest trends and developments across areas that are key to encouraging social action and empowering communities.

http://communitylife.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/index.html

Further reading

Brodie, Cowling & Nissen, (2009). Understanding participation: A literature review. http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/understanding-participation-a-literature-reviewSummarising previous research done across all forms of volunteering to understand:  historical context; motivations; barriers; benefits and activities.

Brodie, E., Hughes, T., Jochum, V., Miller, S., Ockenden, N., & Warburton, D. (2011). Pathways through participation: What creates and sustains active citizenship? Retrieved from http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/Pathways_through_ParticipationTwo year qual study exploring why people get involved and stay involved with volunteering, from the individuals perspective rather than an organisational perspective like previous research.

Crosby, M. & Elliot, M. Volunteer Journey Process stream. Volunteer Management Framework, Version 1.0.

Gaskin, K. (1999), Valuing volunteers in Europe: A comparative study of the volunteer Investment and Value Audit. http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/valuing-volunteers-in-europe Measures the monetary value of volunteers in eight large voluntary organisations in Netherlands, Denmark and England.

Gaskin, K. (2008) The economics of hospice volunteering, http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/the-economics-of-hospice-volunteering -Measures the monetary value of volunteers across three different hospice organisations.

Low, N., Butt, S., Ellis Paine, A. and Davis Smith, J. (2007) Helping Out: A national study of volunteering and charitable giving, http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/helping-out-a-national-survey-of-volunteering-and-charitable-giving -Understanding the motivations behind why people formally volunteer, why they stop volunteering and the relationship between giving time and money.

Nazroo, J., & Matthews, K. (2011). The impact of volunteering on wellbeing in later life. http://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/Uploads/Documents/Reports%20and%20Reviews/the_impact_of_volunteering_on_wellbeing_in_later_life.pdf Compares the wellbeing of older volunteers and older non-volunteers over a two year period.

NCVO (2011). Participation: Trends, facts and figures http://www.ncvo.org.uk/images/documents/policy_and_research/participation/participation_trends_facts_figures.pdfSummarises the trends and demographics of all types of volunteering behaviour.

Paine, A., & Donahue, K. (2008). London volunteering health check: All fit for 2012?

http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/london-volunteer-health-check-all-fit-for-2012 Understand who volunteers in London, what are their motivations and what support they are given, including the infrastructure available.  Multi-method: Secondary analysis of previous research, qual interviews with volunteers and quant analysis of structures currently in place.

Staetsky, L. & Mohan, J. (2011). Individual voluntary participation in the United Kingdom. http://www.bhamlive3.bham.ac.uk/generic/tsrc/documents/tsrc/working-papers/working-paper-6.pdf Compares the methological differences in the level of volunteering in the UK reported in a number of studies.

Teasdale, S. (2008) In Good Health, Assessing the impact of volunteering in the NHS, http://www.ivr.org.uk/component/ivr/in-good-health-assessing-the-impact-of-volunteering-in-the-nhs Understanding who volunteers for the NHS, their motivations and the benefits to the organisation and the patients.

TNS BMRB (2013), Giving Time and Money. http://communitylife.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/assets/topic-reports/2012-2013-giving-time-and-money-report.pdf Tracks developments in demographics of formal, informal and social action volunteers, interviewing over 6,000 adults across the UK.

Volunteer Canada, (2012). Bridging the Gap. http://volunteer.ca/content/bridging-gap Understanding Canadian volunteering motivations, needs and benefits by four groups:  youth, family, baby boomers and workplace volunteers.

Volunteer Now (2013). As good as they give: Providing volunteers with the management they deserve.  http://www.volunteernow.co.uk/fs/doc/publications/workbook3-managing-and-motivating-volunteers-2013.pdf

Zurich (2013). http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/1208600

Saying Thanks

Originally posted on the NCVO website.

Saying Thanks

Whether we’ll admit it or not, we all love to receive a genuine ‘thank you’ for something we have done. There is something that makes even the most cynical of us (guilty as charged) at least feel a little warmth inside us. Even if we don’t always show it.

And it’s for that reason that Volunteers’ Week exists: to publically and collectively get together one week in the year and say thank you to the millions of volunteers across the UK.

Volunteers’ Week doesn’t mean you need to save all your thank you’s for this week (after all, as a dog is for life not just for Christmas, volunteer recognition is for every week, not just Volunteers’ Week). Rather its aim is to amplify and magnify that recognition, and to celebrate all the awesome stuff volunteers are doing. And in the age of social media: to get it trending on Twitter!

This year, NCVO and AVM decided we’d try out a Twitter chat for volunteer managers to talk about saying thanks to volunteers. Using #SayingThanks, this was an opportunity for volunteer managers to ask questions and share how best to thank volunteers. It’s the first time we’ve ever done a Twitter chat, so we were a bit nervous, but it was great to see people joining in, answering and asking questions. You can see the Moment on Twitter.

Cultivate an attitude for gratitude

What really struck me during the chat was how passionate volunteer managers are about thanking and recognising volunteers. But how some struggle to get the rest of the organisation to feel the same way. I’m not surprised by this: when AVM surveyed volunteer managers for International Volunteer Managers’ Day 2017 we found one of the biggest challenges was lack of buy-in from their organisation for volunteering. This is something AVM wants to work on with NCVO and the rest of the sector, to try and empower volunteer managers to bring about a culture of volunteering in their organisations.

The chat also confirmed what I long suspected: volunteering runs on a cuppa and cake! Food has always been a way of bringing people together and celebrating, across all cultures and countries. I don’t think we’re going to see an end to the celebratory tea any time soon.

Two slices of cake

So what did we learn from during the chat? Here are some thoughts I’d like to share with you about how to thank and recognise the valuable contributions volunteers make every day and night.

Don’t go overboard

I once heard of a group of volunteers who asked what terrible change an organisation was going to bring in, because so many members of staff thanked them during Volunteers’ Week. What a sad reflection on the organisation’s attitude to recognising volunteers. While Volunteers’ Week is a great time to specifically thank volunteers more formally, regular thanks should be part of everyone’s everyday interactions with volunteers.

Keep it regular

Volunteers are part of the team and should be treated as such. Making thanks at the end of a shift part of how you engage with volunteers is as valuable as an annual party. Remember to share thanks genuinely, regularly and as soon as you can. Don’t save it all up for an annual Volunteers’ Week event. When you get feedback about an individual volunteer, share it with them immediately.

Make it personal

We all know the volunteers who have their collection of length of service pin badges, or who will be interviewed for local press at the drop of a hat. But what about the volunteer who’d rather not get up in front of a room full of people? There is no ‘one-size fits all’ way to thank a volunteer. When it comes to those extra special thank you’s when someone has gone above and beyond expectations, make it personal to them. After all, nobody wants to be the volunteer manager who gives a bunch of flowers to a volunteer who has hayfever!

Shout about it

That doesn’t mean you need to drag every volunteer who does a great job on a stage to shake hands with the local Mayor (though, if they’d like that, bring it on!). There are other ways you can shout about what volunteers. Social media and local press are a great way to spread the message. But equally, let the rest of the team know too. After all, you know what difference volunteers are making, but do your colleagues in Finance or IT know?

Share the love

Share the thanks you get from clients who’ve been helped by volunteers. (Yes, you can do this, even with GDPR, just make sure you know how can you do this!) You can put a copy of a letter on a noticeboard, or include snippets in your volunteer newsletter or email. It’s far more powerful to share thanks in the words of the person who is giving it.

Share the goodies

Almost everyone loves some branded goodies. You can also make it useful if you think about what volunteers need. Do they have to carry around paperwork? How about a branded bag. Do they travel a lot? Then a travelcard wallet is a great idea. You could always ask a local business to fund it if it’s not something you would normally produce. Or see if you can give them early access to the latest fundraising goodies. If it’s really good, you could always pull names from a hat!.

These are just a few things I’ve picked up from talking with other volunteer managers. We’d love to continue this conversation on Twitter so please share your questions, thoughts, ideas and suggestions using #SayingThanks.

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

By Claire Knight
AVM member and mentoring scheme participant; Strategic Partnership Manager, Macmillan Cancer Support

When I was a child, this phrase was imbued with meaning far beyond its words.  What the adult saying it really meant was “you, young lady, are too big for your boots”.  It was intended to cut me down to size… the proper size, not the size I thought I was in that moment.  Which clearly, in their opinion, was TOO BIG.

I have recently changed jobs, and four weeks in I have found myself reflecting on where I am today.  It’s exciting. I am learning. I am contributing. But also, I feel unsure of what I am doing…was I too big for my boots when I put myself up for this job?  It doesn’t matter where we are on any ladder, being outside of our comfort zone is quite simply, uncomfortable.

The truth is, as we develop in our careers (and in our lives outside of work too), we evolve and build on who we are.  We don’t always know what we have in us until we put ourselves out there and try. We certainly don’t know what we will achieve in the future, or who we will become.  What’s important is to bravely step out of the comfort zone in the first place. The really great thing is that we can help ourselves and we can look to others for help too.

One such source of help is a mentor, someone who is more experienced, or “bigger”, we could say, than we are.  We know that they won’t laugh us out of the room. They can help us navigate our own learning through trial and error.  And the experience and perspective they have can provide priceless insight into our own situations.

Perhaps a less appreciated source of development is to become a mentor.

Picture1

I have had the privilege of being a mentor for two people in the past few years.  I’ll be honest, initially I wasn’t sure I had the skills or experience to do what it takes. In my head, a mentor was someone who had earned the right to be on that pedestal…a “bigger” person than me. But I like to think I made a difference to my mentees’ development in the time I supported them.  They have both moved on in their careers, that’s for sure.

Importantly, I learnt from the experience too.

I deepened my understanding of two specialised job roles; this broader perspective later proved helpful in securing a more senior position. I discovered who in my organisation could use their technical knowledge to help my team; this prompted me to experiment, measure and improve our web content. I improved my questioning technique to result in richer conversations; this helped me improve my line management skills and resulted in greater development for my own team.  I began to appreciate the ways my professional and personal experiences could be useful to others; this built my self awareness and confidence. Finally, on a personal level, I enjoyed getting to know two interesting, talented individuals.

In short, I am convinced that being a mentor helped me to develop in new ways, be better at my own job and ultimately to progress in my career.

The pilot mentoring scheme being developed now by the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) is looking for people to become mentors. This exciting opportunity involves a matching process to help pair mentees with mentors, and comes with guidance, support and the chance to network with other mentors too.  

If I can share my mentoring experience with you, I would suggest it is not about being “bigger”, older or earning more. It is about having an enquiring mind and a fresh perspective. This could come from a simple difference such as being in another team, area of work, or position in a hierarchy.  If you are looking to progress your career, consider being a mentor. You would learn as much by giving as by receiving, I promise you. So go on….give it a go.

Simply tell us who you think you are and we’ll take it from there!

If you work in volunteer management and are interested in finding out more, please let us know here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/8TGXLWH

Measuring the health and wellbeing benefits of volunteering

By Laura Hamilton, Laura Hamilton Consulting  and Gareth Williams, LGBT Foundation
Discover more opportunities to learn about this subject, including the four videos from our Manchester event, at the end of this blog

We were super-excited to be attending AVM’s first learning and development event in Manchester and it was great to see a room packed with volunteer managers from a mix of organisations. Conversations seemed to be flowing right from the start, which we’ll put down to the double whammy of northern friendliness and being in such a beautiful venue.

Manchester1

What prompted us to attend this event? To learn from others’ experience of measuring volunteer wellbeing and to network and make links with volunteer managers from the North.  Gareth is fairly new to volunteer management, so he was really keen to get to know others working in the field.

The event was packed with content; much more than we could possibly cover in this blog. So, rather than give a blow by blow account of the day, we’ve decided to focus on the top 5 things we learned:

1. Look at the whole person
The event kicked off with a fantastic presentation from Emma Horridge and Lee Ashworth; sharing the learning from the “Inspiring Futures: volunteering for wellbeing” (IF) programme.  The programme ran across 10 heritage venues in Greater Manchester and was specifically designed to “support participants into volunteering and away from social and economic isolation”. We were so impressed by this programme and the positive outcomes and progression routes for volunteers.

We particularly liked the fact that the programme recognised the individual nature of progression and their evaluation aimed to look holistically at a person’s life, rather than just focussing on one area of impact. Interestingly, they gathered information from family members and health practitioners, as well as from the volunteers themselves. You can read and hear some of the volunteer stories from the IF programme here and learn more about their evaluation here.  

2. Time and resources matter
Whether it’s taking the time to think through your approach to measuring wellbeing, customising monitoring tools for your own programme, or securing funding to support evaluation, you’re going to need to commit some sort of resource to measuring wellbeing.  Both the IF and Kirklees Museum programmes had involved specialist organisations in the design and delivery their monitoring and evaluation around wellbeing.

Investing time and energy in measuring wellbeing does, however, help you create a powerful case for resourcing volunteering. Using a Social Return on Investment model, the IF programme was able to demonstrate that for every £1 invested in the programme, £3.50 of social and economic value was generated. Kirklees Museum used evidence of the health and wellbeing impacts of volunteering to raise their profile with their Local Authority and build links with both public health and social prescribing.  The event gave us a clear understanding of how evidencing health and wellbeing impacts helps make the case for funding and resources for volunteering.

3. It can be simple or complex
Using a Social Return on Investment model to measure wellbeing seemed like it had been a pretty complex and resource intensive process.  We were also struck by the amount of funding that had clearly been secured to support the evaluation process for the IF project and wondered whether it would be feasible to engage in this type of monitoring and evaluation with less resource available.

Kirklees took a different approach to SROI; using NEF’s “5 ways to wellbeing” as the basis for their evaluation and then undertaking semi-structured interviews with volunteers. This seemed to yield insights into the personal impact of volunteering on wellbeing and, interestingly, they found that direct health benefits were more apparent in longer term volunteers.

For those on a tight budget, there are lots of free resources available:

  • The What Works Wellbeing Centre has loads of resources around wellbeing, including a customisable questionnaire builder.
  • The IF programme website includes a whole section on good practice where they share the learning from their work.

4. Partnerships support progression

Manchester2

We were both inspired by how the IF programme had developed extensive partnerships and how these seemed to support volunteers to develop a wide range of skills and opened the door to new opportunities and progression routes. It was a helpful reminder that we can achieve great things when we work collaboratively and that creating pathways between different organisations and opportunities can be really beneficial.

5. There can be ethical issues
There was some discussion around whether volunteers find questions around wellbeing overly intrusive and whether certain questionnaires and approaches might not be suitable. It highlighted the importance of having a well thought out approach, being clear about why you are gathering information, how it will be used and stored, and being able to communicate this clearly and sensitively to volunteers and ask for their consent. It is also worth thinking through how you might signpost volunteers to other services if the questions you are asking around wellbeing bring up issues around mental health or other aspects of personal wellbeing.

Our final thoughts…
It was great to meet so many people with a passion and appreciation for volunteering and volunteers. The event helped us to build some really good links and opportunities for future partnership work. It was also great to hear the perspectives and voices of volunteers, both in the presentations and during the interactive session at the end of the day.

We also valued the fact that the event included a focus on diversity and a reminder that there is still work to be done in terms of making volunteering (and all the associated health and wellbeing benefits!) accessible to all. Since the event, we’ve been reflecting on how to make volunteering opportunities more inclusive and how to reach out to new groups and demographics.

We look forward to the next AVM event up north next year and to being part of big, strong and diverse network of volunteer managers in the North West!

The four presentations from our March event are available to AVM members, using the password in your latest AVM event email. Visit: https://volunteermanagers.org.uk/member-support/talks-and-events-archive/

Be the first to discover our new Learning & Development Days, including the ‘Measuring the health and well-being benefits of volunteering‘ event in London on 9th August:

Emotionally challenging situations for volunteer managers: what to do.

Including: emotional resilience, compassion fatigue and having difficult conversations with volunteers.

Join us for this L&D event on 10th July, 2018 at Hanbury Hall, London. Click here to book.

Managing volunteers can be an emotionally challenging experience, for a variety of reasons. We could be called upon to support volunteers in stressful situations, or to deal with uncomfortable situations caused by volunteers. These could be foreseeable or completely unexpected, but either way, are we given the support and guidance needed to cope effectively?

Having difficult conversations with volunteers can encompass everything from saying ‘No’,  to offering support and sympathy in dealing with personal crises. Being properly prepared can significantly reduce the stress involved.

This event brings together some very experienced presenters and practitioners to both discuss these challenging issues and consider some practical guidance. It is relevant to all volunteer leaders and managers and will address a broad range of potential situations, with both seminars and interactive workshops. Attendees will have plenty of opportunity to share their own experiences and discuss solutions.

Click here to book.


Other AVM events:

There are still some places left for “New approaches to involving and engaging volunteers, 12 June 2018, BRISTOL.

Click here to book or for further details.


Save the date: 18th October, 2018, AVM Conference.

This year’s conference will be the biggest and best yet! Look out for announcements about speakers and early-bird tickets.

Volunteer management and HR: a marriage of convenience or a match made in heaven?

Where should volunteer management sit within an organisation? Should it be front and centre of an operations department, firmly placed in a people directorate or simply be overseen by HR?logoPrint

What are the similarities and differences between managing volunteers and paid staff and what can HR learn from volunteer managers and vice versa?

We have teamed up with the CIPD to offer you an interactive session to explore these questions. Join Elizabeth Wigelsworth, Branch Development and Volunteer Manager of CIPD and Ruth Leonard, AVM Chair and Head of Volunteering Development, Macmillan Cancer Support on the evening of Wednesday 20 June in London.

The panel of speakers from a variety of backgrounds will address these thorny issues and answer your burning questions on the relationship between volunteer management and HR – no question is barred so hopefully we’ll be in for a lively debate!

If you have questions you would like to submit for the panel, please contact the organisers before the night. You’ll also have the opportunity to put your question forward on the evening where we have time.

Secure your ticket by visiting: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hr-and-volunteer-management-a-marriage-of-convenience-or-a-match-made-in-heaven-tickets-45405459953

Building bridges: Volunteering research and practice workshop

joint event logsWe are pleased to invite you to a workshop on volunteering research and practice, co-hosted by the Voluntary Sector Studies Network, Association of Volunteer Managers and the Network of National Volunteer Involving Agencies and supported by NCVO, on the 7th June 2018, 10:30-15:30, London.

The aim of the workshop is to bring together volunteer managers and researchers to strengthen collaborative working. We will share thoughts on: the state of the existing evidence base for volunteering; how research is used in volunteering management; and priorities for future research. The workshop will include brief presentations from some of the leaders in volunteering research and practice, but the emphasis will be on collaborative working through group discussions.

This is a free event but places are limited to one per organisation, and you must register to attend.

You can see the programme further details and register at Eventbrite.