Retaining volunteers at Sue Ryder Care

Sue Ryder Care currently has 6,000 people nationwide volunteering in its 370 shops, 17 fundraising teams, 14 care centres and support service teams.

Through volunteering, individuals can not only gain invaluable work experience and develop skills needed to thrive in a work environment but can also support charities such as Sue Ryder Care.

Volunteers are essential to charities like ours. Every year Sue Ryder Care needs to raise £13 million in voluntary income to continue to deliver expert and compassionate care at its six hospices and eight neurological care centres, as well as community based services, nationwide.

The additional income generated from our fundraising and retail divisions, as well as savings on employment costs, through the recruitment of volunteers has helped us maintain our existing services for the people we care for.

To ensure we maintain our strong and effective volunteering team, attention to volunteer recruitment and retention is vital.

Recruitment of volunteers

Changes in society and the changing face of volunteering mean that we need to look at new ways to attract the type of volunteers who have not traditionally worked with us.

Creating and promoting volunteering roles that are mutually beneficial has enabled us to attract volunteers of all ages with different skills to offer.

We actively promote over 450 volunteering roles on our website, the widest selection of volunteer roles within the volunteer charity sector, and develop bespoke roles for people where relevant.

Over the years volunteering has evolved and become much more diverse and professional. Creating roles that will provide the volunteer with transferable and useful skills to enable the volunteer to secure paid employment will help you appeal to school leavers and parents keen to return to work. In today’s increasingly socially responsible environment, volunteering is viewed in a positive way by prospective employers too.

We also utilise our relationships with companies who have selected us as their charity partner to secure volunteering support. For a company, supporting a charity in this way is a great way to demonstrate its commitment to corporate social responsibility.

Another way we recruit volunteers is through our Prisoner Volunteer Programme. Last year the Programme placed 71 carefully selected prisoners in volunteer roles in our shops, providing 36,000 hours of valuable support and saving the charity £216,000 on employment costs.

Induction and Retention

To ensure volunteers’ skills are put to the most appropriate use we have a Volunteering Policy which endeavours to match volunteers’ interests, skills and aspirations to the roles we assign to ensure a positive and rewarding experience.

Whether people want to give something back because they have been touched by a charity or to add essential experience to their CV there is a role for everybody.

The Policy also standardises the induction of volunteers, a process which mirrors the induction process for our paid employees though adapted to accommodate our diverse team of volunteers.Whilst developing our induction for volunteers we found the Investors in Volunteers’ Standards a good bench mark.

Once a role has been identified and assigned, to ensure it is right for the individual we offer taster sessions. Following these sessions, ongoing role specific training is provided and we provide volunteers the opportunity to gain an NVQ in retail and customer service.

To review training measures and obtain feedback on potential further need we have in place a Volunteer Steering Group who meet on a regular basis.

We also have a separate Retail Volunteer Communication Group who address issues and discuss and put forward development and training suggestions from our retail volunteers.

At Sue Ryder Care, a number of our volunteers have gone on to become paid employees with us, which has been great to see. And, for those that are volunteering whilst looking for paid work, we are happy to be referees.

Another important part of retaining our volunteers is ensuring they know how valued they are. To help us do this we have introduced Long Service Awards to thank volunteers for their longevity and commitment and we send thank you cards to all of our volunteers each year on CSV’s Make a Difference Day.

To ensure any potential issues or grievances volunteers may have are heard and dealt with appropriately and in-line with the charity’s employment and arbitration policies, we have in place a Volunteer Problem Solving Process.

With the support of our volunteers we can continue to make a real difference to the lives of the thousands of people we care for each year living with conditions including Cancer, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis and Huntington’s Disease.

To ensure our volunteers know why their support is so vital, and to develop them as powerful advocates for us, we write to them four times a year with news and information on the charity.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity once again to say thank you to all our volunteers whose hard work and commitment really is outstanding and so very much appreciated.

This article originally appeared in Volunteering Magazine – April 2009 issue.

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