Are you feeling stuck?

Are you having the same conversation over and over again about volunteer management, but don’t feel you are getting anywhere? Do you feel like you’re dealing with the same issues year on year, and job to job?

In this online masterclass, you’ll learn to unlearn your assumptions and explore techniques to help you get unstuck, so you can move forward positively.

We’re really pleased to have Lucy Gower, an innovation pioneer from the world of fundraising, leading this event. Lucy will be sharing general techniques to help us unlearn what we think we should do in the first part of this masterclass.

In the second half, you will work in small groups on a particular challenge where you’re currently feeling stuck, applying the techniques you’ve learnt to your own volunteering challenges.

Book today for this online, Zoom masterclass, Thursday 30th July, 10am – 12pm. 

AVM members are eligible for a discount on tickets – as well as other benefits, such as our newly launched book club – so why not join AVM today?

Buy tickets for Getting Unstuck: Learning to Unlearn. An AVM Masterclass

About Lucy Gower

Lucy Gower is founder and director at Lucidity. She is a coach, trainer and facilitator specialising in giving people the confidence and tools to think creatively, develop ideas and make their innovations happen. She is bestselling author of The Innovation Workout and a global speaker on innovation. Lucy is passionate about helping people get unstuck, unlock their creativity and get the important work done. She enjoys working on projects with the potential to make a positive impact on the world.

Lucy was the first Innovation Manager at the NSPCC, where she helped teams to think creatively and support them to turn their good ideas into action.

Lucy is also founder of the Lucidity Network, which she set up to help leaders, teams and organisations have the confidence to think clearly and get powerful results.

Lucy lives in Devon, and is PA to Gary Gower, a Wire Fox Terrier.

Buy tickets for Getting Unstuck: Learning to Unlearn. An AVM Masterclass

Netball volunteers and a volunteer strategy: a silver lining around a very grey COVID cloud (part 2)

In the second of our two-part series on adapting England Netball’s volunteer strategy to Covid-19, Imogen Greatbach shares how the strategy has evolved

This is a time that many of us never imagined we would experience in our life time. Life feels different with many unknowns. In December 2019 England Netball launched its first ever Volunteer Strategy. A huge signal to the estimated 26,000 netball volunteers that as a sport, they value the volunteers that help make netball happen and have a vision to improve the landscape in partnership with them. 

We have given them the opportunity to stop and reflect on the journey so far and role a volunteer focussed strategy can play within an organisation. This is only really the beginning of their journey, but they highlight what they call ‘silver linings from this grey COVID cloud’. Increased volunteer engagement, openness to try new things, revealing digital skills they never knew existed and a clear and common sense of purpose to ensure they can return to court when the time is right and it is safe to do so. 

Following on from Part 1 of this two-part reflections piece, Imogen Greatbatch (England Netball Head of Volunteering) shares her reflections on the evolution of the strategy in the face of Covid-19.


PART 2: A netball volunteer strategic story: launch, embed and evolve reflections

Roller-skating parallel worlds

The first five months of this role focussed on re-visiting concepts within the unpublished draft of the strategy, refining thinking alongside volunteers and completing the finishing touches for the formal England Netball launch in December. This post December Embed and Evolve phase has been focussed on lacing up the skates to bring it all to life. 

The wheels on one skate represent 60% of time prioritised to think, organise and activate how we service the needs, engage in conversations and build the road map to prioritise and deliver the activities together.

The wheels on the other skate roll through the needs of England Netball. With volunteering spanning pretty much all corners of the business, the remaining 40% of my time focusses on understanding the nuances of how volunteers add value and are supported. All in the interests of striving towards delivering a consistently world class volunteer experience. 

Creating conversations, actively encouraging informal learning and sharing brilliance 

Lockdown has turned our world ‘digital’ (and accelerated need and appetite for some activities we were planning in Years 2 and 3!). Digital skill sets have been revealed that some never knew they had. 

We knew we needed to create more informal netball focussed learning opportunities across broader number of roles. Much of it is centred on creating space for netball volunteers to have discussions on topics they care about but often don’t have time to explore and share opinions on. Whilst we are still developing these ‘In Focus’ sessions (in partnership with volunteers) and learning from every interaction, we are regularly seeing it is not about providing all the answers but facilitating and encouraging volunteers to be part of the journey. A true netball quality centres on supporting and learning from one another, a powerful way to unlock new thinking and ideas.

Activating segmented communication to key groups of volunteers

We have had to adapt our ways of working and thinking across everything we do, amplifying areas of focus in a significantly compressed and ever changing timeframe. This includes connecting with senior volunteers in County and Regional committee roles over two weeks (proudly achieving our highest ever engagement on a virtual tour {97%} with our CEO and Development Director, to share thoughts, feedback and ideas on ways to navigate this strange time, together. But just as importantly ensuring we also start talking more regularly to club and registered league volunteers (often individuals that span multiple roles and multiple netball volunteer led organisations).

The varying scale of time volunteers have pre Corona Virus and now presents challenges; some with lots through business furlough arrangements and many others still learning how to juggle several important balls {work, home schooling and caring commitments}. We have to ensure we tailor support to enable them to consume the essentials in ways they have time and appetite to engage with.

Authenticity, vulnerability and trust

Netball’s culture pivots around the importance of remaining true to oneself yet not being too proud to ask for help when needed. This is something the netball volunteer world instilled in me. I know I am not getting things right all the time, we try to do a lot at pace, not to mention aspirations often being significantly bigger than reality enables but remain true to the passion of supporting volunteers and trying, is most important and if it doesn’t land right, learn and be better next time. 

Resilience and duty of care

Resilience is a key quality these days and my experiences as a volunteer have tested my resilience but also helped strengthen it! When you volunteer you can often feel out of your comfort zone, alone and find yourself questioning is it all worth it? But then there are moments of magic that emerge from things you do like; friends, pride and a sense of achievement supporting your local community and you wonder what you ever doubted. 

Understanding this we are trying to ensure the activities we deliver as a result of the strategy create a community that cares about each other. A community that knows how to signpost one another to the right support to help individuals be the best they can be, as volunteers but just as importantly as people. Physical and mental wellbeing is more important now than ever. 

A common purpose

The volunteer strategy sets out a vision to improve support for netball volunteers to consider their ‘why’ and feel more purposeful, through building a movement. A movement towards a true partnership with England Netball. This partnership has become more important than ever as we work out how to emerge from lockdown and return to court, stronger than ever and when it is safe to do so. 

It is only appropriate to finish with, we don’t have all the answers, but as a sport we are hugely proud to have our first ever netball volunteer strategy and are learning every day. It is our first step to show netball volunteers they do matter and are truly important. Volunteers Week is a great time to shine a light on volunteering, but the reality is we need to move to a world where volunteers feel special every day of every week. 

To any volunteers reading this {particularly those in Netball} – you continue to give your time, expertise and energy to causes you care about and are helping shape the world into something pretty special. Your stories are our (volunteer managers’) inspiration.

Thank you.


Imogen Greatbatch

Imogen Greatbatch is Head of Volunteering at England Netball and focusses on Strategy, Network Support and Promotion and Recognition of volunteers. Imogen is a passionate netballer and netball volunteer, and has been since school. She has held numerous volunteer roles at Club, County, League and Regional levels and in 2019, at the England Netball Goalden Globes celebration {held alongside the Netball World Cup}, she was honoured to be awarded the England Netball Rose Award for her services to netball, as a volunteer. 

Netball volunteers and a volunteer strategy: a silver lining around a very grey COVID cloud (part 1)

In the first of a two-part series on adapting England Netball’s volunteer strategy to Covid-19, Laura Elson shares her reflections on strategy development

This is a time that many of us never imagined we would experience in our life time. Life feels different with many unknowns. In December 2019 England Netball launched its first ever Volunteer Strategy. A huge signal to the estimated 26,000 netball volunteers that as a sport, they value the volunteers that help make netball happen and have a vision to improve the landscape in partnership with them. 

We have given them the opportunity to stop and reflect on the journey so far and role a volunteer focussed strategy can play within an organisation. This is only really the beginning of their journey, but they highlight what they call ‘silver linings from this grey COVID cloud’. Increased volunteer engagement, openness to try new things, revealing digital skills they never knew existed and a clear and common sense of purpose to ensure they can return to court when the time is right and it is safe to do so. 

Laura Elson (Consultant and former England Netball Volunteering and Governance Manager) played a big part in the development phase of the Volunteer Strategy and she will begin: 

Laura’s netball team

PART 1: A netball volunteer strategic story: pre-launch reflections

When is a strategy not a strategy?

Often what we call strategies are plans with a budget. This is still useful especially if time and resources are tight, but there are some key differences that make a strategy much more than a document on a shelf. A plan uses some internal data to describe what an organisation will do with its volunteers. A strategy is a roadmap co-designed with volunteers that uses rigorous internal and external insights to describe what volunteers will achieve.

A true strategy is about listening to the breadth of your volunteer movement, identifying the main groups within it, their diverse motivations, and the roles they play in your organisation’s purpose. For most organisations volunteers outnumber paid staff in such vast numbers that activating them is crucial to meeting your overarching goals. So a good volunteer strategy sets out how volunteers achieve your purpose, not how the annual awards will be run or what to budget for T shirts.

Strategy development techniques

Invest in the process 

We spent almost two years working through a series of research steps to gather the data we wanted to use. England Netball also chose to hire an external consultant to lead the process of gathering data and consulting volunteers.

Segmentation analysis 

Women in Sport were commissioned to conduct a segmentation analysis, with their focus groups identifying six communities of motivation within the wider netball community. This showed us we had six segments or “hearts” of volunteers who have different motivations but are all united by their ultimate reason for getting involved – because they love netball.

Other player analysis 

It’s easy to just look around and borrow from other organisations. This is a bit of a trick though, and what’s unique about your movement often won’t translate for another organisation. We held structured interviews with leaders of volunteering across sport but also with national charities and women’s organisations. 90% of netball volunteers are women, and we actually learned the most from Girlguiding and the Women’s Institute.

Internal and external analysis 

Volunteers out number staff 200 to one in netball and their contributions underpin whether we meet those our goals. We started with our overarching strategy and ensured we used those goals, as did other departments such as Officiating and Coaching (who are also predominantly volunteers.) Sport England and NCVO also provided us with insights so that we could consider the national volunteering landscape too.

Volunteer voices 

We compiled data from thousands of volunteers via our annual survey, the Big Netball Conversation. 

Co-production 

Alongside all this was the best bit of my job, travelling around the nation over 18 months and meeting hundreds of volunteers in every region and every role. 

Yes, this is a huge investment of time but it’s crucial. Questions were asked at regional and county meetings, focus groups were held at national conferences, people who had stopped volunteering were phoned to mention some of the activities. This enabled us to be clearer about what the groups and themes we identified meant in real terms.. Second it enabled movement building, the more volunteers we involved the more ownership, partnership and respected our movement felt. 


Laura Elson is Consultant specialising in volunteering strategy and development, fundraising and governance with an MSc from the Centre for Charity Effectiveness. Laura is a member of AVM, volunteers as a trustee at Getting on Board, the national trustee recruitment charity, and Bramley Elderly Action. She also volunteers with the Institute of Fundraising, Small Charities Coalition, and her local food bank. But her favourite volunteering role is as player/kit secretary at Carr Manor Lightning Netball Club in Leeds, where she holds the title of the shortest Goalkeeper in the league.

Volunteers’ Week 2020 #WaveForVolunteers – special ‘shout out’ to all COVID-19 Volunteers

AVM Directors #WaveForVolunteers

This week people from across the UK have been coming together to say a massive thank you to millions of volunteers. On Thursday 4 June 2020 we are sending out a special shout out to all volunteers who have actively supported the COVID-19 response and those who have been ‘great neighbours’.

There are hundreds of thousands of households and individuals who may be shielding who have benefitted from acts of kindness, like someone walking their dog or helping with their shopping. These people often don’t see themselves a volunteers but they are. We want to take this time to say thank you, and hope that their acts of kindness now turn into acts of habit later.

The #WaveForVolunteers was started by Volunteering Australia in May and we would like to continue this campaign in the UK during Volunteers Week 2020. We are encouraging everyone, including those whose lives have been touched by volunteers, to say thank you

You can join in by simply taking a photo of yourself waving to volunteers with a smiley face on your hand and post it on social media using #WaveForVolunteers and #VolunteersWeek.  

Volunteers have been the lifeblood of our communities in recent months. They are keeping us connected and in the coming weeks they will go on to play a role in helping us get back to the things that we love. By joining forces in Volunteers Week 2020, we are aiming to increase visibility of the vital efforts that all volunteers have made this year.

The vital role of volunteers during Covid-19

Rebecca Kennelly, Director of Volunteering at RVS, discusses how the charity has been at the heart of Britain’s biggest mobilisation of volunteers since 1939

Image is text that reads "we're all in this together"

For the last two years, Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) has put considerable focus on growing newer forms of volunteering that make it easier and more flexible for people to give their time. 

Little did we know when we started this work, that in February this year we would be plunged into a major health crisis. And that this would lead us to launch the biggest volunteer recruitment drive since we were founded in 1938. 

As the threat of Covid-19 became more apparent we began to work with NHS England to understand how volunteers could support those most at risk of the virus and take pressure off the NHS. We also needed to think about a way to quickly and safely mobilise these volunteers so they could respond to tasks within a very short time frame.

The answer came in the form of the GoodSAM platform, an established app which has been used for the last five years to alert those trained (from resuscitation to cardiac arrest) to nearby incidents, while an ambulance is en-route. We recognised this technology could be adopted to speedily match volunteers to people nearby who needed support and with the fantastic team at GoodSAM we were able to mobilise a new digital solution. 

NHS Volunteer Responders was born.

At the end of March, when lockdown was announced, we were ready for launch and a major call was made for the public to sign-up. They would be asked to sign-up for four different roles– from picking up shopping and prescriptions and giving lifts to medical appointments to making ‘check in and chat’ calls to people isolating and delivering hospital equipment.

Our original target of 250,000 volunteers was met within 24 hours, growing exponentially to 750,000 just 72 hours later. 

We were absolutely overwhelmed with the public’s response, but our team rose to the challenge – processing hundreds of thousands of applications and DBS checks in a very short time.

By the end of the month, 600,000 volunteers had been approved. All ready to mark themselves as ‘on duty’ and start completing tasks for the 2.5million people self-isolating. 

With safeguarding a key concern, our teams worked quickly and efficiently to produce thorough guidance for each volunteer role. This would ensure volunteers were adhering to social distancing and safeguarding rules (i.e. not entering people’s homes, not paying for shopping out of their own money.)

Since going live over 250,000 tasks have now been performed by NHS Volunteer Responders, who have been leaping into action across the country, wherever and whenever their help is needed. This help has proven invaluable to those who have been receiving it, and we have had an overwhelmingly positive response from those using the service.

The scheme now averages 7,000 tasks a day, with the majority (70%) matched and delivered within two hours and 98% within a 24-hour period.

Covid-19 has certainly revealed a desire amongst the public to volunteer, with a recent poll by Legal & General suggesting one fifth of the population has volunteered during the crisis. 

This is encouraging, but as important for us, is that the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme has shown us a way of making volunteering more attractive and flexible and give people the flexible micro volunteering roles they want. We hope that once the crisis has eased, volunteering for those trying it for the first time, will become another part of the new-norm.

As we mark Volunteers Week 2020, we want to say thank you to all our volunteers, past and present, for their gifts of their time, talent energy and kindness. We are constantly humbled and inspired by everything that you do.


To request support from the NHS Volunteer Responders, referrals can be made by health professionals, as well as directly from the public, who can call the hotline number – 0808 196 3646 to request the support they need.


Rebecca Kennelly

Rebecca Kennelly is Director of Volunteering at Royal Voluntary Service

Volunteer-led fundraising vital in post-lockdown recovery

David Grout, who heads up Fundraising Volunteering at Marie Curie, shares his thoughts on the future of volunteer-led community fundraising

When we think of fundraising, we often think of an office bake sale, supporting a friend who is running a marathon, or popping our spare change into a collection tin. Many perhaps don’t think about the army of volunteers behind so many fundraising activities, all sharing their personal skills to give their time in an enjoyable way to support their favourite charity.

Fundraising is a fantastic volunteer experience, with a huge array of opportunities available, allowing everyone to find the role which suits their ambitions, skills, interests and the time they have to give. Volunteers often tell us it is a rewarding way to give their time, and they take great encouragement from understanding the impact of what they raise.

Some people choose to volunteer as part of a local fundraising group, while others choose to volunteer in a more independent role, perhaps by looking after collection tins in their area, or giving talks about their charity to local groups. Some volunteers choose roles which are quite public, while others choose roles in the background, such as volunteering in their local fundraising office. While some look for a role with a regular time commitment, such as a weekly shift in a local charity shop, others look for ways to give their time in short bursts when they can, such as cheering at a marathon.

It is up to fundraising teams to provide a range of well supported, rewarding opportunities for all. All fundraising has to be legal and safe, and fundraising through a volunteer network provides a great framework for the charity to ensure this. From providing templates and event ideas for volunteers to use, to ensuring effective background processes are in place, strong volunteer management is an essential skill for community fundraisers.

Volunteers need easy access to good resources and training, a clear line of contact to the charity and, most of all, to feel appreciated. Community Fundraisers will tell you that their favourite days are those where they speak to their volunteers and hear their new ideas, unrivalled enthusiasm and insights into their local community.

We know that people volunteer for a variety of reasons, and often the main incentive is simply to support our chosen cause or causes. In fundraising, we can quickly see the impact we make in the money raised, with a caveat.

Last year, volunteer led fundraising raised £6m for Marie Curie with 5,000 volunteers forming a strong network across the UK. These volunteers have a massive impact, not only through the amount they raise but through the additional impact they have by raising the profile of the charity and encouraging support from others.

The last eight weeks has meant a pause to many traditional volunteer fundraising activities. A quick scroll through twitter shows this hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of volunteers who have taken their meetings online, calculated how many laps of the garden make up a marathon and encouraged their friends and family to donate their unused commute money.

The explosion of volunteering throughout this crisis should give us great hope for the future. Many people are volunteering for the first time and they will need new ways to channel that energy when our needs as a society change. With charities facing an uphill struggle to recoup lost income and us all looking for ways to come back together after the loneliness of lockdown, volunteer-led fundraising provides great opportunities for our recovery.


David Grout

David Grout has spent 33 years working with volunteers in Scotland. after escaping from the banking sector. Of those, he spent 15 years as Chief Exec in Outdoor Education, followed by nine years with Macmillan, and nine years with Marie Curie, where he heads up the UK Fundraising Volunteering programmes.

L&D For Volunteers in the Covid Age

Nigel Ross, an L&D Professional specialising in the voluntary sector, shares his thoughts on how the global pandemic has changed L&D for volunteers

Image is of a laptop and tablet, sitting on a desk next to a set of headphones, plugged into a smart phone. On the laptop and tablet screen is the image of bookshelves. The background is a blurred image of the same bookshelves.

Providing volunteers with all the skills and knowledge required to successfully carry out their role is vital and most organisations pride themselves on having established excellent induction and training courses for their volunteers.

Covid-19 has challenged everything we do. Face-to-face and classroom based programmes are now largely impossible to deliver, and the only viable alternative is a virtual training programme.

Platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Webex and Zoom are currently free to use, and most of us are now very confident at virtual meetings – so it is a small step for any learning and development (L&D) professional to tweak their standard course to make it suitable for online delivery. With a little practice in moving from PowerPoint to whiteboard, opening and closing polls and the essential skill of controlling microphones, it is relatively easy to put together a slick online training programme.

But what must not be forgotten is that unlike paid staff, who are incentivised to stay with you by their monthly pay cheque, volunteers only stay with you if they find it rewarding and enjoyable to give their time – and much of that enjoyment comes from social interaction. Here is the biggest challenge to the L&D profession at this time – how do we keep the social interaction in a virtual training programme? It is relatively easy to make the virtual training course engaging, but there is no denying that sitting in your own home in front of a laptop does not offer the opportunity for social interaction that attending a face-to-face training event offers. You automatically lose the coffee break conversations. You also lose all the totally off purpose conversations that take place in pairs and small groups (yes we all know that much of the discussion time diverts into gossip about the news or moans about the journey or room temperature or food – but this is all valuable bonding!).

The danger is that at the end of an engaging virtual training programme, your new recruits will be left totally isolated – not knowing any other volunteers or any other faces in your organisation – and this is very different from how things have been in the past, where they would have had chance to bond with other volunteers, trainers and others who helped with the housekeeping/ catering/ meeting and greeting. There is a very real risk of all the hard work that is put into training being wasted because of a high attrition rate as the volunteers feel like strangers and out of place in your organisation. This may well be exacerbated by social distancing rules which make it difficult to interact in the way we usually would.

So – the answer? Well firstly force social engagement. Make use of forums and make it a training requirement to comment on at least a couple. This gets the group interacting outside of the virtual classes. Seed the forums with good discussion points that are not about your organisation – perhaps ask for tips on ways to keep children occupied in these strange times – or advice on how to cut your own hair!

And mentor your new recruits. Make sure that there is someone who takes them under their wing, helps them transfer the learning into practice and shows them where the coffee is kept. Remember how deskilled and uncomfortable you have felt in the past then you have started a new job and not known the basics such as: do you need 9 for an outside line and where do people go at lunchtime? As I said at the beginning, paid staff ride this discomfort for the financial reward – volunteers may simply choose not to return.

In the past we may have overlooked the important role our induction and training courses had in bonding groups of new volunteers, introducing them to the surroundings they will be working in, and introducing them to faces they will come across when they are in their role. In the future we need to be very mindful of this and ensure we plug the gaps that remote learning and social distancing leave.

Back to Volunteers’ Week blogs


Nigel Ross is an L&D Professional specialising in the voluntary sector. For over 17 years he was responsible for the volunteer learning function at Samaritans. Since leaving that post he has established a consultancy and has worked with major charities both in the UK and overseas.

Volunteers’ Week 2020

For Volunteers’ Week 2020, AVM asked leaders from across the sector to share their thoughts on what Volunteers’ Week means for them during a global pandemic. We will be publishing a new blog daily, from Monday 1st June.

Information and links to resources for Volunteers’ Week in England are also available below.

National Volunteers’ Week

Throughout the last month, we have been working with Tiger de Souza to share information about the national plans for Volunteers Week in England. Thanks to Tiger and a group of volunteers from our profession, this year’s Volunteers Week efforts are truly owned by volunteer managers.

There is fantastic activity happening in all countries across the UK, with Volunteers’ Week being supported by Volunteer Scotland, WCVA and Volunteer Now in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This week we will be joining others to share and connect to the national messages. You can still get involved in one or all of the following opportunities. Join many of your colleagues in saying thank you in a connected and collaborative way. Download the messaging toolkit to give you all the details you need. Don’t forget to use #VolunteersWeek on everything you do.

  1. Send out the coordinated, consistent press release on 1st June highlighting the importance of volunteers. Download the template from the AVM website.
  2. Share the Volunteers Week 2020 film ‘commUNITY makes us’, narrated by Claire Balding and Gethan Jones. It celebrates the contribution of volunteers before, during and after the pandemic. You can find the English and Welsh versions on YouTube to share.
  3. Encourage your organisation, both internally and externally, to show their appreciation by using the Wave Your Appreciation for Volunteers approach from Volunteering Australia. If you do use this please use #WaveForVolunteers alongside #VolunteersWeek
  4. Link your activities, case studies and communications to one of the seven-day themes. 
    • Monday – Listening & support (e.g. helplines, citizens advice)
    • Tuesday – Health & well-being (e.g. mental health, tackling social isolation)
    • Wednesday – Fundraising to support service delivery (e.g. charity shops)
    • Thursday – COVID-19 response and informal community civic action
    • Friday – Nature & Outdoors
    • Saturday – Arts & Culture
    • Sunday – Sport & Leisure
  5. To help give a boost to the message on social media, join others in a ‘howl’ through Pack.org over the course of this week. Pack.org is a way for people to work together on social media to help share a key message or campaign. Sign up up to the VW2020 Pack.
  6. Run virtual activities with The Big Lunch on 6th & 7th June to bring volunteers together to say thank you.
  7. Send out the co-ordinated, consistent press release on 8th June that highlights that volunteers are #NeverMoreNeeded and link to that wider campaign. A template will be available soon.

Are you available to help plan and organise the community wide response to COVID-19?

Shared on behalf of Volunteering Matters


NAVCA, NCVO and Volunteering Matters are working together on a project to recruit and place volunteers with Volunteer Centres and Local Infrastructure Organisations who are experiencing a significant increase in volunteer registrations as a result of Covid 19. In a survey of NAVCA members, a number told us they needed additional resources to manage all those who responded to calls for volunteers, some of whom have still to be contacted never mind being given meaningful tasks to do. 

We are looking for volunteers with expert co-ordination and brilliant communication skills and we have two roles that recognise the range of equally important functions that those managing volunteers will be doing – a Volunteering Manager (supporting the manager on a range of activities) and a Volunteer Co-ordinator (communicating and engaging more directly with volunteers). 

Both roles can be done from home, working remotely. 

Are you able to share your skills and expertise as an experienced Volunteer Manager/Co-ordinator within a Volunteer Centre or Infrastructure Organisation? While each organisation will have its own specific needs and practice the roles will broadly involve working alongside the staff on all or some of the following tasks and depend on how much time you have available:

  • Providing support to place new and existing volunteers in relevant local opportunities and organisations.
  • Training new volunteers using a range of online platforms.
  • Working alongside existing staff and volunteers to manage change.
  • Liaising with a range of community groups and hubs on their needs and challenges with regard to volunteer management. 
  • Responding to enquiries about volunteering and referring as appropriate to other staff members or other agencies.       
  • Compiling information and circulating to existing volunteers, signposting them to additional resources as appropriate.
  • Using databases, manipulating spreadsheets.
  • Keeping in touch with those waiting to volunteer, alerting them to new opportunities and supporting them to access these with a view to keeping them motivated and available as lockdown eases and new volunteering opportunities emerge. 

This is a new project and will require your knowledge and expertise to make it ready for delivery to Volunteer Centres. You will need to be open and flexible, joining us in demonstrating the value of actively and skilfully managing volunteering. 

If you would like to know more or to register your interest please contact: Barbara Regnier, Volunteering Matters [email protected]

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?”