Build your confidence in 2021: become a mentor

Is 2021 the year you could make a difference to another volunteer manager?

AVM’s mentoring programme is seeking more members to join us as mentors. If you have experience of leading volunteers, then to be a mentor you may not need as much experience as you think.

What you do need is to have had that experience of taking on a volunteer leadership role, and having the confidence to support another to tackle their learning curve. You are probably still learning yourself (who isn’t?) every day, but know how demanding the role of volunteer management can be and have worked out how to meet many of those demands.

Helping another person can be a hugely rewarding experience for mentors, as well as mentees. We often find that our mentors learn as much as their mentees through the mentoring experiences, and helps them gain confidence.

If you’re already a mentor, why not encourage someone to sign up as a mentor, and give them that confidence boost?

Find out more

One of our current mentors has shared their experience how being a mentor has helped them as much as it has helped their mentee. Read why they signed up to be a mentor.

AVM Director Neil Monk shares his thoughts on why you don’t need as much experience as you might think you do to be a mentor. Read his blog now.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor for a volunteer manager, you can find out more, and sign up today.

The mentoring programme is only available to AVM members. Find out more about AVM membership.

Why I signed up to be an AVM mentor

“[Being a mentor] has really helped my imposter syndrome
AVM mentor, 2020
An anonymous blog from a current AVM mentor

A while ago, I realised I liked mentoring – the sense of learning from the energy that new recruits bring, and sharing a longer term view of an occupation. As I work part time at school, I am not best placed to support new trainees or teachers, but I like supporting and coaching volunteers in the roles I have with Samaritans. I recently mentored a new Samaritan as they took their first calls, and I was blown away by how much I learned from the process and how refreshing it was to work with someone who saw everything we do from a new perspective. Feeling connected is also a huge motivator in my volunteering, so I was delighted to try a role that lends itself to building a relationship quickly. There is a vulnerability that I think comes from learning together and sharing expertise that can be a real bonding experience.

The first meeting

From my first emails from my mentee, I was really excited to be involved in the programme. She is a bubbly, proactive individual and the process helped us be clear about how much time we will spend together and how often. We are both organised, and have a lot to fit in, so this worked well. I was thrilled at how well-matched we are. As a teacher, it has been really interesting to see how someone else has used their education background in the third sector, and it has helped me understand the development of organisations much better. My mentee is part of a relatively young, youthful organisation with humorous yet serious messaging and it has helped me to reflect on how Samaritans has evolved.

It was great to meet my mentee – via Zoom – and the meeting lit up my whole week. We really hit it off. I just love listening to how other organisations work and what solutions different teams come up with for our common challenges. It has really helped my imposter syndrome to be able to offer solutions that have worked for our volunteers at a branch, regional or national level and reflect on my own volunteer management journey and learning.

It was really straightforward to make a few notes on what we’d discussed for both our reference, and to email these with a Zoom invite for the next meeting that we arranged together.

The second meeting

I was excited to find out what my mentee had been up to in the interim: she had worked on some of the things we’d discussed, and much more besides! So far, the things I have most appreciated about being a mentor have been:

  • A practical use of my listening skills;
  • Sharing mutual enthusiasm;
  • Fits easily within a busy week – doesn’t take too much brain strain or time and gives such a lot back;
  • Has clear benefits for me and my mentee – we can be clear in sharing what we are gaining for ourselves and for our organisations;
  • In 2020 – a year that could seem like many doors were closing and avenues closed – a good way of getting to know someone I wouldn’t otherwise have met.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor for a volunteer manager, you can find out more, and sign up today.

The mentoring programme is available to AVM members. Find out more about AVM membership.

Thank you for your help in 2020

We are the membership association we are thanks to those that join us as member and get involved. Without this collective contribution we wouldn’t have been able to do as much as we have achieved in the last 12 months.

Thank you to everyone who joined an event, our conference, or one of our network calls.

Thanks to our members who become mentors, mentees, or took part in our AVM Connect events (formally randomised coffee trials).

A particular thanks to the following people who have helped shape our offer, shared their knowledge and expertise and generally enhanced the AVM offer.

Our People

Conference VolunteersCarly Benton
Emma Capon
Jen Happe
Nuria De Miguel 
Jess Lloyd
Sally Seddon
Events VolunteersAntonia White
Cass Kamara
Tony Gibney
Membership VolunteersTony Gibney
Website Development
Volunteers
Andy Broomhead
Tony Gibney
Volunteers’ Week
Volunteers
Andy Broomhead Catherine Rose
Caroline Kendall
Sarah Merrington
Tiger de Souza
DirectorsAlan Murray
Andy Broomhead
Annabel Smith
Angela Riches-Heed
Alex Beaumont
Jennie Mann
Jo Keller
Jolene Moran
Karen Ramnauth
Neil Monk
Rachel Ball
Ruth Leonard
Sarah Merrington
Shaun Delaney
Thomas Ball
StaffJo Gibney, Head of Business Development

Helen Birchall, Membership and Events Administrator

Our Contributors

Conference Workshop
Hosts, Keynote
Speakers and Panellists
Amira Tharani
Amy McGirr
Bryan Precious
Chris Freed
Claire Booth
Ingrid Abreu Scherer
Jarina Choudhury
Laura Hamilton
Martha Awojobi
Matt Murray
Martin Houghton-Brown
Morven MacLean
Rachael Bayley
Rebecca Kennelly
Sherie Olmstead
Stephen Hill
Victoria Dickinson
L&D Event
workshop speakers
and BiteSize contributors
Alan Murray
Ami Davis
Andy Broomhead
Claire Ross
David Robinson
Donna Bennett
Emily Hughes
Hadji Singh
Helen Timbrell
Kirsty White
Lucy Gower
Morven MacLean
Neil Monk
Nichole McGill-Higgins
Rachel Clark
Rob Jackson
Shaun Delaney
Sue Jones
Tiger de Souza
Wendy Halley

Our Friends

PartnersHVG
IVR
NCVO
NNVIA
VSSN
Voluntary Voice (Do IT Foundation)
SponsorsTeam Kinetic
vHelp

We are looking forward to offering more opportunities for our members to get involved in 2021 and support us to meet our community’s needs.

2020 AGM and Update from the Board of Directors

A recording of our 2020 AGM and the associated documents are now available in the members’ area of the website.

As agreed at the AGM, all our fully elected board directors have had their terms extended by one year; Ruth Leonard’s term was extended by two years and both Rachel Ball and Tom Ball were co-opted for a further two years

At our November board meeting, the directors approved the Co-option of Jo Keller and Andy Broomhead until the 2021 AGM.  Both Jo and Andy have been involved with AVM in the previous 24 months and we look forward to working with them further.

Also at the same board meeting, the Directors voted in Shaun Delaney as Company Secretary. Rachel Ball has now stepped down from this role but will remain on the board, focusing on business development.

All of these changes have been reflected on our website.

We are looking forward to seeing what this newly structured board can achieve and wish those in new roles all the best for this new adventure together.

Themes from Covid-19 networking calls

AVM has hosted a number of networking calls to discuss and share how people working with volunteers are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic. As similar themes and suggestions have emerged across all calls, we have pulled these together with  links and resources generously shared by those on the calls. We have loosely grouped these into parts of the volunteer journey.

If you would like to add resources or suggestions to this resource, please get in touch.

Please check back for updated information.

Page last updated: 17 April 2020. 

Supporting volunteers during lockdown

This was a big concern across all calls, particularly where a volunteer manager was, or was expecting to be, furloughed.

With staff capacity also reduced, there is a need to balance volunteer recruitment against supporting existing volunteers. In some cases organisations are not recruiting because they don’t have the capacity to do both. Volunteer supervision can still take place, by phone or online, one-on-one, or in a group. And if not in place, volunteers can provide peer support to other volunteers as a new role.

Some organisations have new ‘Home Volunteering’ policies, and have updated safeguarding policies and procedures to reflect the change in supervision (where remote/ virtual volunteer roles are new).

Organisations are using a mix of platforms to keep in touch with volunteers, including Workplace by Facebook, Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, Zoom, Skype. On a previous call, one organisation shared they had a conference call service from their local phone coop. A number of organisations are setting up volunteers with organisational Zoom/ Teams/ Skype accounts. Others are providing volunteers with support to set up their own. Drop in online ‘coffee mornings’ were frequently mentioned. 

It was suggested that using existing platforms people are familiar with will help, though one organisation mentioned that a volunteer had developed how to guides for using new tech that have been shared with volunteers, and another is doing short online surgeries for tech support. Make them easy to read with plenty of screenshots.

Protecting our privacy when on video calls came up a few times, with suggestions of a guide for volunteers – and staff – who are not used to this. Suggestions of things to include in a guide: making sure other household members know you’re on a call (children, half-dressed partners, others who would not like to be in shot); making sure you don’t have personal stuff in the background you wouldn’t be happy for colleagues, clients or other volunteers to see; virtual backgrounds (don’t work for everyone); ensuring you understand and use the privacy features for the system you are using; how to change your name on the screen; reminding people who phone in that their phone number will be visible.

For volunteers who are not comfortable with online communication methods, The Phone Coop offer a conference call system. Or you could arrange regular phone calls as a way to connect, which can be done by staff or set up volunteer buddies.

Some expressed concerns about setting up WhatsApp groups for volunteers, where phone numbers are then shared. Making it optional and ensuring that anyone who signs up knows their phone number will be shared with the rest of the group should mitigate this, but speak to your Data Protection Officer if you have concerns. This can also apply for Facebook groups for volunteers.

Blurt have some useful resources about mental health and well-being during the pandemic on their website.

Some of you are giving existing volunteers the opportunity to pause their volunteering, not putting pressure on people to feel that they need to continue as normal – because nothing is normal right now. 

Recruitment,induction and training

Those of you still recruiting are looking to hold video or phone interviews. There is some nervousness – not necessarily from volunteer managers – about safeguarding when moving to online recruitment and not meeting volunteers face-to-face, particularly in roles which are supporting vulnerable people. Key to addressing this is not to drop your standards when recruiting on video, and don’t settle for just telephone: video allows you to see the person you’re interviewing. Some of you have been reinforcing with colleagues that our frameworks and standards don’t disappear overnight and that they do know what they need to do, but we’re able to help them do it differently if they need it.

If you need documents signed, there are various websites or apps that let you do that. Docusign was recommended, but there are others available. 

There is a fast track DBS service only for Covid-19 eligible roles in England and Wales. You can check role eligibility on the DBS website.

Disclosure Scotland are prioritising checks for coronavirus response roles needed to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. 

Details about Access NI checks can be found on their website.

DBS have amended their ID checking guidance during the coronavirus outbreak.

Some of you are rolling new training to volunteers around empathy, having open conversations, as well as around boundaries.

Training is being delivered online, with webinars and other online modules. In some cases this is only for existing volunteers, but some are developing online training for new volunteers.

If you’re not recruiting, it was suggested that signposting potential volunteers to places where they can volunteer at the moment, but also keeping them on a list to get back to once you start recruiting again. 

Moving volunteering opportunities virtually

Many people on the calls you reported that volunteering was stopping while social distancing is in place. Where possible, people are moving roles virtually, or redeploying volunteers into roles that can be done from home. Some organisations are still recruiting. Charities providing direct support to individuals are seeing an increasing number of people needing support, but additionally volunteers may need more support.

Letter writing came up fairly frequently,  particularly as a way of connecting with people who are now isolated (in some cases additional to telephone calls).

For young people in hospices/ homes, virtual storytelling (by existing volunteers) was a suggestion of a new role.

Moving befriending or mentoring to a phone-based or online service is a common theme for many. In a previous networking call, Zoom had been recommended for online befriending, as it is possible to set up the calls without sharing volunteers’ personal information. Others have developed guidelines explaining how volunteers can protect their personal information, as organisations cannot provide all volunteers with a phone.

Asking volunteers to share social media content or key messages with friends/family is an easy microvolunteering role that can be done virtually.

Asking staff and volunteers to think about what tasks could be done virtually that aren’t being done. Research was a good example, as was signposting to information in local community Facebook groups. For example, health charities might be seeing misinformation spreading about the impact of coronavirus on the health issue.

Ask volunteers and service users what they want/ need, and what could be done virtually.

Where roles involve more detailed one-to-one casework, staff should trial with service users first, to ensure volunteers are prepared for the extra emotions of the current situation, which is not specifically their role.

Making sure to complete or update role risk assessments to reflect the role is remote.

Jayne Cravens has written a blog “NEVER a better time to explore Virtual Volunteering than NOW” which is worth a read.

Volunteer recognition and Volunteers’ Week

With Volunteers’ Week fast approaching, we wanted to discuss how you can continue to celebrate volunteers whilst many will still be in isolation. There was also a wider discussion about general volunteer recognition.

Awards and recognition events

  • Reviewing annual awards and ceremonies. In particular looking at how to get groups of volunteers nominated, rather than individuals, to recognise that a key driver is that volunteering is a sociable activity
  • Pre-recorded videos from trustees for award winners
  • Exploring live-streaming awards ceremonies or pre-recording winner announcements
  • Sharing stories of the winners through comms channels
  • Engaging with award winners virtually instead, through sending them t-shirts, certificates in the post – they will then take selfies and we can collage together to have a virtual group picture. 

Use of social media/online connection tools

  • Volunteer to do social media takeover
  • Social media campaigns to tag the organisation and person with their thanks for informal recognition
  • Social media to raise the profile of volunteers and showcase the diversity of volunteering.
  • Asking volunteers to send in selfie videos to share on social media
  • Using Slack or other channels to have online forum interactions and discussions around certain topics
  • Using Volunteer Management Software to engage existing volunteers online through really great content themed around sharing, thanking and recognising
  • WhatsApp groups
  • Using Facebook to encourage volunteers to connect and to share ideas about how they are managing their wellbeing. Trying to encourage volunteers to share videos, recipes, art and craft they have done.
  • Sending out emails and letters to all volunteers encouraging them to access our Volunteer ‘intranet’. We’ve had a mixed response so far but continue to monitor as the weeks go on – adding new videos/activities to the portal.

Saying thank you in different ways

  • Pre-recorded webcasts or podcasts with thank you messages to volunteers
  • Asking teams to make short videos to say why they love volunteers, and edit into a longer video.
  • Video of colleagues to talk about their work with volunteers – internal profile raising of volunteering
  • Mini thank-a-thon: getting CEO & senior staff to call or write to volunteers during Volunteers’ Week
  • Personalised video messages from the Chair or Trustees saying thank you
  • Connecting every staff member with a volunteer and getting them to sending thank you cards, messages, forget-me-not seeds, pin badges etc. in the post
  • Asking participants of vol-led groups or recipients of volunteer time to complete the sentence: “I ❤️ my volunteer because…” The vol’s were so flattered and unaware of the impact they had on individuals, easily done digitally. Montage of comments was a huge lift for vol’s! really personal feedback.

Live virtual opportunities

  • Cross fertilising knowledge with another external partner – each deliver a webinar around an area of expertise and open to volunteers in both organisations
  • Virtual meetings (using the variety of systems that have been mentioned) instead of face-to-face meetings
  • Online volunteer-based game show!
  • Using Zoom (or other) for live training volunteers in different skills.
  • Weekly virtual quiz – staff and volunteers or volunteers only. Can also help to raise funds too that our staff and volunteers are getting involved in.
    Setting up a Q&A for volunteers, on Zoom with the CEO.

Creative

  • Weekly activity/challenge – set volunteers challenge or activity once a week and ask them to post or send in photos/comments and then release these (montage) the following week
  • Running online shops where charity shops have closed. Volunteers who are creative can make items to sell online, e.g. cards, artwork, blankets.
  • Asking volunteers to check clothing banks on their daily walks.

Connecting people

  • Buddy schemes
  • Randomised coffee trials
  • Digital pen pals
  • Staff messages to volunteers – I am still here, this is my role, this is how I can support you in this time, contact me by…
  • Start a longer mentoring relationship scheme
  • Weekly Zoom coffee meet ups with volunteers.

Asking volunteers

  • Ask volunteers how they’d like you to keep in touch and what they’d like you to do, including if they are happy to have another volunteer keep in touch with them (and also ask volunteers if they’d like to provide support).
  • Also ask volunteers what needs they have while they are isolating, and signpost or help where appropriate.
  • Surveying volunteers – what are their ideas about connecting, thanking and recognising in this time. What do they want to see?

Other

  • Changing email signatures to reflect Volunteers’ Week and say thank you.
  • Reminder that Volunteers’ Week should be highlighting groups of volunteers as well as individuals.
  • Building case study portfolios – what does volunteering mean to you and how has this current crisis changed this or changed your role (collecting now and releasing gradually throughout the year)
  • Supporting groups to undertake forward planning and how to build in their own recognition and connection between their volunteers in a proactive way
  • Spotlight story every month – short blog or interview showcasing a group or a volunteer
  • Have shared a live Google Doc with ways to overcome loneliness and isolation virtually
  • Get in touch with local colleges to offer local distance learning opportunities to volunteers.

Telephone and online support – for clients and/ or volunteers

A number of calls discussed on how to move face-to-face support roles to online or telephone. As well as supporting clients/ beneficiaries, discussions also included the best ways to support volunteers who had been stood down.

Befriending Networks have useful resources for converting face-to-face befriending or mentoring to telephone support. 

Zoom was recommended as a good tool for setting up befriending or mentoring call, as they can be set up by the volunteer manager/ service manager, and protect the volunteers’ personal details. If a volunteer wants to use their personal phone (because many organisations cannot provide them with mobile phones), it was felt important to let volunteers know how to protect their phone number.

Some care homes/ hospices/ hospitals are asking people to donate redundant communication devices (smartphones, ipads) or asking people to donate redundant devices, as many residents don’t have access to them.

Longer-term impacts

There are obviously some concerns about the unknowns, and when things will become ‘normal’ again, and how this might impact volunteer retention where you’ve had to close down volunteering programmes, as well volunteer recruitment in the future.

Concerns about how to re-engage volunteers whose roles our outdoors were raised, particularly where they have been reluctant to stand down in the first place. These concerns come from how this fits with the government’s plan for ending lockdown, in order to minimise another high, second wave of the virus.

While some organisations are developing short-term volunteer roles for the duration of the pandemic crisis,others hope to continue virtual roles beyond. 

A few of you mentioned you are already seeing opportunities where you can simplify some processes in the long-term. As it has been proven this can be done in a crisis, there is a good case for reducing some red tape in processes once social distancing is over. Asking the question “what did we drop to make it easier to volunteer during the crisis” makes it easier to ask “so why do we need to still do it?”

Covid-19 (coronavirus) – where to go for guidance and advice

Updated: 7 April 2020

You’re likely aware that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Coronavirus a pandemic.

We know many leaders and managers of volunteers are working hard to manage risk, communications and infrastructure with their volunteers as Coronavirus continues, and are looking for guidance.

Rather than repeating the great advice and guidance already produced, we’re directing people to the relevant advice and guidance for their country.

England: 

Northern Ireland: 

Scotland:

Wales:

These are being updated regularly, they are sharing guidance from other organisations and are adding to it daily. They are good pages to bookmark, and if  you don’t already, we would suggest following them on Twitter. Jayne Craven’s  blog ‘NEVER a better time to explore Virtual Volunteering than NOW‘ is a good read for anyone looking to develop virtual volunteering opportunities.

What about AVM?

AVM started a conversation on Twitter and will continue to share tips and resources on Twitter, so make sure to also follow AVMTweets and bookmark this discussion #VolMgrChat.

We are facilitating a series of video calls for anyone who works with volunteers. These calls are for people to get together and ask questions, share concerns and what they are doing to support volunteers and volunteering during this crisis. Details are available on our Events page. We are also working to launch a support network for AVM members who are on furlough.

We have launched our first online face in May.  We hope our annual conference in October won’t be affected, but we will need to wait and see. We will provide more information as and when we know.

Our support and offer to members during this challenging time

For AVM members, we have the newly launched AVM BiteSize webcasts, as well as other resources available on this website. 

We intend to launch a virtual randomised coffee trial at the end of March, to connect members to one another for peer support. We are also in the process of bringing forward the launch of our mentoring programme, where members will be able to apply for a mentor from our membership.

How a virtual cuppa could expand your network

“Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.”

Michele Jennae

AVM members often tell us that networking with other volunteer managers is one of the reasons they join and re-join AVM each year. But we also hear many of you say you find it a challenge to find the time to expand your networks.

AVM has been looking at how we can help members expand their networks and increase connections. This month (January 2020) we are launching Randomised Coffee Trials (RCTs), which we hope will help members expand their networks. If successful, we hope to run these again.

What’s a Randomised Coffee Trial?

Developed by Nesta, we first heard about RCTs through NHS Horizons School for Change (read more about them), but they are happening in organisations around the world.

So what are they? They are a simple but powerful way of randomly connecting you with another AVM member to have a conversation. Conversations are a great way to connect and learn from other people. And the great thing about a Randomise Coffee Trial is that you can do these virtually, and the conversation topic isn’t prescribed: you can talk about whatever you want.

“Networking that matters is helping people achieve their goals.”

Seth Godin
How can you get involved?

If you are interested in pairing up for a RCT, you need to be an AVM member (find out more). All you need to do is complete this simple form by 31 January 2020. In early February we will randomly match you with a partner, and introduce you to each other by email. (If you want to meet someone who is near you, please select your location and we will try to make that match.) 

It’s then over to you to arrange a phone call, a Skype/ Zoom call, a face-to-face meeting: whatever works best for you both. There’s no obligation on you beyond the conversation: it can be a one-off conversation, or the start of something more (we hope it will be the latter).

What should you talk about?

These conversations aren’t prescriptive, you can talk about whatever you want. You can them to find out about one another, your respective job roles, what you are working on now, your challenges or successes: whatever you want!

The most important thing is to be curious, and approach these conversations as a chance to learn more. 

Will they happen again?

In March we’ll ask participants for feedback, to find out what benefits people gained from their conversations. If successful, we’ll aim to run them for AVM members again.


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