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.
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
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 is Director of Volunteering at Royal Voluntary Service
A volunteer manager reflects on their experience of volunteering in their local community, and what lessons their organisation might be able to learn
“Can you pick up some shopping for a couple living in sheltered housing? Here is their phone number and address. Give them a call and see what they want and how they want to pay. Thanks.”
Hold up! Have you got their consent to share their details with me? Are there any risk assessments? What should I do if I have a safeguarding concern about them? What are the boundaries of the relationship? Plus, you’re asking me to carry out a regulated activity without a DBS check. Are you crazy?
If I was in work all of these questions and more would have immediately whirred through my brain and we would have decided we definitely couldn’t do the shopping because of the risks to individuals and lack of clarity over governance.
After 20 years working in volunteer management, have I become institutionalised? I expect anything to take an age to happen, with all the right people from different departments (marketing… I forgot to involve marketing… what was I thinking???) consulted as part of a project and communications plan and… you know the rest. You need milk? I can probably get you some in three weeks if we can sort out the paperwork and cash handling training.
The local response to Covid-19 has been amazing, humbling and professionally confusing. In the morning I’ll be skyping into meetings where we talk about risk registers and whether the wearing of face masks should be mandatory and then at lunchtime I jump in the car, go to the local pharmacy with the name and address of someone I have never met before, tell the pharmacist that I am picking up a prescription for them and then deliver it. I’m encouraged to share my phone number with them and free to respond as I choose to different asks for help – no-one tells me what I can and cannot do, I am expected to use my judgement and common sense.
Professionally the lack of safeguards sometimes worries me and I know why good practice is, well, good practice, but the simplicity of the ask has allowed lots of people to help who would not have if they had to follow a traditional volunteer recruitment process. We often talk about removing barriers to volunteering and the community response locally has shown that if you make it easy and worthwhile, people will volunteer.
The final thought I have is whether I am doing this as an individual or as a volunteer? Looking at it professionally, the service is co-ordinated by the local authority and they put me in touch with the people I help so I’d say they are responsible and the local area co-ordinator is my volunteer manager. But personally, it just feels like they are making it easier for me to help – it is liberating to be treated as an adult who can make informed decisions and tolerate risk, even if it is only when I am away from my desk.
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 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.
Andy Broomhead, Head of Volunteering at Diabetes UK, shares how they adapted plans to celebrate Volunteers’ Week in light of the global pandemic
I think Volunteers’ Week has a greater-than-usual significance this year. Whilst in some areas there’s been an explosion in volunteering, social action, community support and organisation, in others the impact of coronavirus has seen charities and volunteers put their plans on hold almost immediately.
At Diabetes UK, as at many other health and well-being charities, we took the decision to pause the vast majority of our volunteering relatively early on in the pandemic. Many of our volunteers are in higher risk groups and it’s important that their welfare is protected first and foremost.
One of the things volunteers are great at doing is connecting with and supporting people that charities might not otherwise see. Their passion, authenticity and ties to their communities make them the trusted figures representing our organisations. At times like these, sharing those important messages to help people manage their health is vital. Volunteers understand and can empathise in a unique way that is so valuable for members of the public.
When health and well-being is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, reassurance, guidance and quality information is now more highly valued than ever. As we strive to separate fact from fiction and provide help to people who need our advice and support the most, it’s now that I think of volunteers caught between their drive to help others, whilst being unable to do that in the ways they know best.
Volunteers bring resilience and determination to our causes and I’m sure that my experience at Diabetes UK will be familiar to many other volunteer managers across the country.
We’ve seen many of our volunteer-led groups turn to technology to continue supporting people affected by diabetes without missing a beat, becoming Zoom experts overnight. Volunteers have also been in contact with ideas for how they can continue doing the things they care deeply about, and suggestions for new ways to help with the changing demands people are facing.
We’ve also seen some of our roles expand with more volunteers looking to take part in what had been a small befriending service in one part of England but is rapidly growing across other parts of the UK.
We know how important volunteering can be for people’s well-being, and for many to have had those opportunities curtailed in a short space of time has been incredibly challenging. But it should be no surprise to any of us that volunteers have come into their own.
The willingness and adaptability of volunteers to stand firm is inspiring. I know in a few charities some volunteers have even argued that their volunteering is more important than their own health and wanted to continue regardless – such is their commitment to helping others.
Volunteers’ Week rightly shines the light on all those people who donate their time, skills and dedication to the causes that matter to them. Whether they’re able to volunteer right here and right now is secondary. The collective efforts of volunteers over the last few days, weeks, months and years is what we’re coming together to celebrate this week.
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
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.
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.
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.
AVM, facilitated by Andy Broomhead (Diabetes UK), hosted 38 organisations for an information and networking session on Volunteers Week 2020. The group heard from (more…)
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Run virtual activities with The Big Lunch on 6th & 7th June to bring volunteers together to say thank you.
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.
‘What’s Next’ is this year’s International Volunteer Managers (IVM) Day theme, and it is the hot topic on the lips of those volunteer managers (VMs) who have been furloughed, as much as it is on those that haven’t been.
How they answer this question at this current time initially depends on how they feel they have been treated by their organisation as an employee. how they have been communicated with and supported during this time, and how many people in their organisation have been furloughed. This is about their organisation’s culture. No one has been taken by surprise by how their organisation has behaved towards them (and it wasn’t all negative for some! 😁).
The reality is, VMs can’t picture their return. They don’t know what has, is or will happen, and therefore can’t really plan. Very few feel like they will be able to shape how or what the organisation does next in relation to the volunteering experience, engagement, delivery and output on their return. Many fear that leaving it until their return will be too late.
Our biggest challenge is that we work in organisations that generally don’t see themselves as organisations that ‘do’ volunteering – they involve volunteers to deliver their purpose. Unfortunately this does mean that volunteers are seen as a resource and commodity to utilise, rather than a driving force for decision making. This isn’t to say those same organisations don’t recognise the importance and uniqueness volunteers bring to their role, enhancing their success; it’s just felt that this isn’t at the forefront of senior management’s decision making.
VMs who aren’t on senior leadership teams* do a great job of influencing from where they are (although they don’t think they do and as a profession we are frequently told that we need to do better), and when they get back, they will continue to do so. They hope that they haven’t lost too much ground, that the relationships with their volunteers (on behalf of themselves and their organisations) aren’t too damaged by their absence, they will get the support and resource they need, they will be shown empathy for their enforced absence, and they will be able to reciprocate this back to those that have stayed working who might feel resentful towards them.
This is hard for everyone and it’s going to be a while before organisations are back whole again, most likely in a slightly new configuration. In the meantime, we will continue to be there for furloughed VMs and if you are reading this and want to connect with us, do please get in touch to find out how you can join our community.
*(I should add, it’s not to say those that are on the senior leadership team don’t, it’s just that they aren’t part of my network calls.)
Rachel Ball is a Director of AVM, and a volunteer manager. At time of writing, Rachel is on furlough due to impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
AVM, facilitated by Andy Broomhead (Diabetes UK), hosted 38 organisations for an information and networking session on Volunteers Week 2020. The group heard from Sarah Merrington, deputising for Tiger de Souza, on the plans for this year’s coordinated response to Volunteers Week in England. Sarah ran through the plans for the week and how organisations could get behind the coordinated response, by aligning their messaging and activity where they can. Participants then broke out into groups to discuss what they were doing for the week and how it might link to the national response.
A recording of Sarah’s presentation is available below.
In summary the main activities will be:
Shared press release on day 1 to announce the Volunteers Week 2020 and our intentions, sent by all of us in a synchronised way (template to be provided)
Shared joint Volunteers Week 2020 video promoted through social media by all organisations on day 1
Use of daily ‘themes’ so we do our external pushes through the week in a joined up way to maximise media interest and gain most coverage. These are:
Monday – Listening & Support
Tuesday – Health & Well-being
Wednesday – Fundraising for the causes we care about
Thursday – COVID-19 response and informal community civic action
Friday – Nature & the Outdoors
Saturday – Art & Culture
Sunday – Sport & Leisure
Continuation of the Australian #waveforvolunteers social media campaign, by encouraging as many as possible to take a photo of themselves saying thank you to volunteers in this way – something you can be doing on the day that makes most sense to your organisation
Make a big effort on Thursday to recognise the volunteers who are helping out in an informal way who don’t normally get acknowledged through Volunteers Week
Final synchronised press release on 8th June focusing on volunteering to support us coming out of the pandemic linked to the #nevermoreneeded campaign
A full messaging toolkit will be available from Friday 22nd May which will include information about how you link up to each element, template press releases, hashtags and key messages. To receive this and be a part of this fantastic movement of over 60 organisations coming together to promote as one voice the vital role volunteers play in supporting society, email [email protected] and join the ‘Voluncheers Planning Group’ on Voluntary Voice.
Guest blog from Jo Rhodes-Jaio, Senior Volunteers Manager, Tate.
When we closed our doors at Tate in March, the Volunteers Team immediately made keeping volunteers supported and connected our top priority. The result has been some fantastic volunteer engagement with positive feedback pouring in from volunteers – ‘I’ve never felt so connected in my life’ said one volunteer.
Tate has close to 400 volunteers involved in front of house activities – welcoming visitors and leading our brilliant free guided tours. Some have been volunteering with us for 10, 20, 30 even 40 years and all are incredibly enthusiastic and passionate about their involvement in the gallery spaces. So, what to do whilst those gallery spaces were closed?
Within just a few weeks of closure, we had set up virtual volunteer sessions with volunteers giving talks about Art to other volunteers – from 10 minute talks through to one hour presentations. These talks have proved immensely popular with up to 98 participants per session. We’ve run two talks per week and now have talks booked in through into June. We had to support a number of volunteers over the phone with technology in order for them to join the talks but this effort was more than worthwhile as volunteers were clearly over the moon to have cracked the tech and to join sessions and ‘see’ other volunteers online.
The Volunteers Team also identified volunteers who are particularly isolated or vulnerable who we felt might appreciate regular support calls and these calls have been greatly appreciated. We wrote some ‘weekly chat guidelines for staff and volunteers’ to clarify the purpose of the calls as being to connect with each other and reduce feelings of isolation; to lift spirits and share suggestions of things to do. We explained calls were not to offer advice e.g. on finances, housing or personal matters and ensured all parties knew who to contact if they felt uncomfortable or concerned at any time.
One of the team had another great idea, setting up an Instagram for the volunteers to share their art works with each other and this has proved very popular. It’s been great to see the creativity and talents shared in recent weeks.
On top of this, we’ve kept up with all communications via email and sent out our weekly updates as usual every Friday packed with updates and lots of great links to Art programmes, articles and events that volunteers can watch, listen to, explore or read.
Our next challenge at Tate will be how to involve all our engaged and enthusiastic volunteers safely once we re-open. Our volunteers cannot wait to get back to volunteering at the galleries so now we are beginning to explore what that will look like as part of our re-opening plans.
Meantime, we are all excited about this week’s talks on Zoom – 114 booked on so far!
Jo joined Tate as Senior Volunteers Manager 6 months ago following over 30 years working with volunteers in the Charity sector. From 2015-2019, she was Head of Volunteering at Whizz-Kidz, a national charity supporting young wheelchair users. Prior to this, Jo managed international volunteer programmes at VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) and is still involved as a volunteer running the VSO London Action Group. Jo is a passionate advocate for the value of volunteering.