AVM’s conference goes online for 2020

The AVM conference is always a highlight in our year. Even though we say so ourselves we believe it is the premier event in the UK for volunteer managers, leaders and heads of volunteering. 

We always try to bring together some of the best speakers from our sector, people who are at the forefront of volunteer management and thought-leadership, and those from outside of volunteer management, who will challenge and provoke us to think differently.

This year, for obvious reasons, we are unable to hold our conference face-to-face, so this year we are holding a virtual conference  on Zoom.

The 2020 conference will be held across two days- Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22 October, 10am to 1pm. On each day we will have a keynote speaker with a Q&A, eight workshops to choose from on a variety of themes, and a panel session at the end of each morning. In the afternoon there are optional networking sessions, for a cuppa and a chat with your peers about what you heard earlier in the day.

This year’s keynote speakers

We’re really pleased to announce our two keynote speakers for 2020.

Martha Awojobi of Charity So White will be speaking to us about racism in the charity sector, on Wednesday 21 October.

On Thursday 22 October, Martin Houghton-Brown, Chief Executive St John Ambulance, has agreed to speak and share his views on the importance of volunteer management and volunteers. Both keynote sessions will have time for questions.

Workshops

Because we are online, and running across two days, we are able to offer delegates the choice of all eight workshops on both days. We have an exciting line up of workshop leaders, covering a wide range of topics. We use the feedback you give us to curate out line up, so we hope you’ll be as excited as us about this year’s sessions.

Networking

We realise the opportunities to network and chat to other leaders of volunteering from across a variety of sectors and organisations are more limited online, so will be using Zoom meeting, which allows you to chat with one another.

We will be hosting two optional ‘cuppa and a chat’ sessions, on the afternoons of both days, for more networking, and to reflect on what you’ve heard during the morning.

Buy your ticket today

See the full agenda and buy your ticket today.

Buy tickets for AVM annual conference 2020 - 21 & 22 October

An Open Letter to Senior Managers and Boards from leaders of volunteering

Download the letter

Recent events have shown what we in the charity and not-for-profit sector know to be true – that volunteering and community engagement is and remains a universally strong spirit. People, without being asked to step in, are coming forward to give their time and share their skills, to provide practical assistance, comfort and support; ultimately creating a sense of resilience and strength.  

But in order to support these initiatives and enable people to contribute effectively it is vital to think about how to develop and provide the relevant set up. Evidence on collective efficacy has shown that without the appropriate infrastructure and support to co-ordinate efforts and offers of help, community action can dissipate rather than proliferate. 

A key element of this infrastructure I would argue is having well trained and well supported people to provide the volunteer management. We are all familiar with the well-deserved accolade of volunteers to our organisations – and indeed the sector as a whole; but in order to enable volunteers to offer the greatest value we need to recognise that Volunteer Managers matter as well.  

Keeping a balance between efficient, supportive volunteer opportunities with a responsive and adaptable relationship, carries right though a volunteer journey. Volunteers need to be supported once they’re involved; in a way that is meaningful to them and meets their changing needs. At this time, this has extended into supporting volunteers who have been asked to temporarily stop their role and thinking about how we can re-engage them. Organisations which involve volunteers need to reflect on the importance of putting resources into their volunteering interventions, including equipping those who work with our volunteers. 

At a time when all organisations including charities are facing threat to their income, the value and impact which volunteers bring, extending the reach and resources and developing services and interventions which resonate within the community, really matters. As Joe Saxton from nfpSynergy said in a recent blog, “volunteers…could be at the heart of the shift” of making sure things get done.

If we are going to effectively build on the interest in volunteering which has come through this pandemic, and not lose the positives of the agile and flexible way that people have been able to get involved, organisations need to think widely and creatively about how they engage those who want to give their time – and in order to do this strategically they will need to keep the investment in volunteer management.

This is why a group made up of AVM, the Association of Voluntary Service Managers (AVSM), Heritage Volunteering Group (HVG), the Scottish Volunteering Forum and Volunteer Now have come together, convened by Rob Jackson and building on a similar alliance in the States, involving Betsy McFarland from Adisa, to write an open letter to leaders of organisations which involve volunteers  – to let them know the importance of having those who understand and lead on volunteer management at the table when discussing the future.

This is the first time we’ve worked together in this way as an alliance and I’m so proud that AVM has been part of that and hope we can bring our networks together in the future, so thanks for Rob for making that happen.

I’d like to thank Rob and Betsy who joined us at the launch of the letter and shared their thoughts and experience.

I’m proud that AVM has taken part in this important piece of work and to have been able to work across our organisations, and please do get in touch to feedback and let us know how you’d like us to promote this and support you to get the message out.

Download the letter

An Open Letter to Senior Managers and Boards from leaders of volunteering

Responses to the pandemic have shown what leaders of volunteers know to be true – that volunteering and community engagement is and remains a universally strong spirit. People, without being asked to step in, are coming forward to give their time and share their skills, to provide practical assistance, comfort and support; ultimately creating a sense of resilience and strength.

If we are going to effectively build on the interest in volunteering which has come through this crisis, and not lose the positives of the agile and flexible way that people have been able to get involved, organisations need to think widely and creatively about how they engage those who want to give their time – and in order to do this strategically they will need to keep the investment in volunteer management.

Rob Jackson convened a group made up of AVM, the Association of Voluntary Service Managers (AVSM), Heritage Volunteering Group (HVG), the Scottish Volunteering Forum and Volunteer Now, to write an open letter to leaders of organisations which involve volunteers, to let them know the importance of having those who understand and lead on volunteer management at the table when discussing the future.

I’m proud that AVM has taken part in this important piece of work and to have been able to work across our organisations and please do get in touch to feedback and let us know how you’d like us to promote this and support you to get the message out.

Download the letter

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.

Looking to the future of volunteer management in the new normal

Ruth Leonard, Chair of AVM, shares her thoughts on what the future of volunteer management might look like in the post-pandemic ‘new normal’

A black chalkboard with the words "what's NEXT" written on it

This current pandemic situation has shown what people who involve volunteers know to be true – that volunteering is and remains, universally strong. Volunteers, as members of a local community, can help address needs which statutory services or organisations on their own cannot reach.
The response and growth of local mutual aid groups, helping people to self-mobilise to donate time and attention to people within their area, shows this. People, without being asked to step in, came forward to give their time, to provide practical assistance, comfort and support; ultimately creating a sense of resilience and strength.

The vast numbers of people signing up to be involved in the NHS Responders opportunity within England further demonstrates the desire of people to be able to do something and help others. Whilst this is a more top-down approach, Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), who facilitate the scheme, have been able to offer the volunteer journey in a much more agile and flexible way than many of the traditional models in volunteer involving organisations ordinarily do. If we are going to efficiently build on the successes born out of this crisis, we need to think more widely and creatively about how we engage those who want to give time.

One of the aspects for me about what volunteers bring is their ability to specialise and focus but at the same time being able to innovate and experiment, but volunteers themselves don’t necessarily feel that they have the opportunity to do this, with over one in six reporting in NCVO’s Time Well Spent report that they have skills and experience which they’d like to use in volunteering, that they’re not currently using.

Whilst this is clearly not a large number it seems statistically worth considering from a volunteer management point of view so that we can ensure that volunteers are able to give in a meaningful way which also meets their personal needs. People powered services should be exactly that – powered by people not by systems or processes.

We are used to viewing people giving their time through the lens of ‘traditional volunteering’, generally limited to pre-determined functions and selected for specific tasks; but to do so could mean that we are moving away from people’s motivations and interests and merely valuing the transactional and that which is carried out through an organisation – which I think is a barrier to those people who come forward because they want to just do something.

There is a wide spectrum of reasons for giving time and people do so in many ways – including to a variety of sectors as well as to none. As we can see during the response to the Covid19 crisis, boundaries are being increasingly blurred between the sectors – state, charities and private – and those who want to do something to make a difference want to do just that; so it is our responsibility as leaders of volunteering to help facilitate that as much as possible.

How do we ensure the necessary and relevant structure without impeding the volunteer journey and experience? Volunteer management needs to be less about telling and more enabling and encouraging flexibility. Part of this should be looking at how volunteers can fully be involved and able to influence development.

Volunteer management enables people giving their time to be engaged, supported and motivated, which includes working together with volunteers to meet the needs of the community through their own assets, so we need to develop our skills at mobilising community engagement and empowerment to ensure continued flourishing of volunteering.

What’s the point of a volunteer manager?… on furlough during Volunteers’ Week

AVM Director, Rachel Ball, shares her thoughts on what it’s like to be a volunteer manager on furlough during the annual Volunteers’ Week

Multi-coloured thought bubbles with question marks

It’s Volunteers’ Week and it’s a strange time. During this week volunteer managers around the country usually take the opportunity to say thank you through holding parties and events, share the stories of impact and difference their volunteers are making to their organisation and beneficiaries and take the opportunity to influence and advocate within their organisation for further investment in volunteering. 

This charge for celebration in England is usually led by our friends at NCVO, but they have had to withdraw their vocal championing, collation and sharing of information of organisation’s outputs so they can support charities with their most pressing and urgent needs. By some this was interpreted as they were cancelling the week… it wasn’t as it’s not something they can cancel. The week only exists because we as volunteer managers (VMs) champion, utilise and deliver it. 

It has been fantastic to see VMs across the country come together to create a national response to thanking volunteers. A richly deserved thanks. We’ve seen how people getting involved, giving their time and helping causes close to their hearts has been making a difference. This call out to VMs to get involved has helped them to think about what they could do this year and given them something to gather around, and feel a little less adrift from the norm.

However, for furloughed VMs this has brought mixed feelings about the week and what should and shouldn’t be happening. They can’t participate, no matter how much they want to. Some VMs may say they still could, but those I have been talking with don’t want to risk their own employment or their employers ability to claim back their salary and for their time being furloughed to be wasted. The chances of being accused of working by taking part is very slim but who wants to be the one that broke everything. Like everyone in this country, no one wants to be the one that makes things worse. 

Now some furloughed VMs know their organisation will be doing something because not all of their team has been furloughed (most likely not as grand or comprehensive as they had planned), for others, nothing will be happening. No one wants to miss out on an opportunity; they also don’t want to be seen as not caring or that their organisation doesn’t care; that isn’t the case but it is about priorities and it has made some of them question about how truly important volunteers are to the organisation and raised concerns about the impact this will have on the relationship with their volunteers.

As volunteer managers we fear Volunteers’ Week will be our only opportunity to thank our volunteers and celebrate their achievements. We fight for ways to squeeze in recognition on a daily, weekly and monthly basis throughout the year. So during our network calls we have been reminding ourselves that we may be missing out now, but we will have opportunities to do something when we return. If you need a formal hook to galvanise around, there is always International Volunteer’s Day on 5 December.

This year’s Volunteers’ Week message has changed from ‘celebrate’ to ‘thank you’ and at AVM we have decided to take the time to do a thank you on behalf of all our furloughed members because they cannot at this time. We also want to thank all those that coordinate volunteer contributions as volunteers themselves. To quote a commonly said phrase, we are all in it together! 

Happy Volunteers’ Week Everyone!

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