We need to talk – handling emotions and challenging situations with volunteers

Laura Elson is a freelance consultant and a self-confessed volunteering geek. Currently consulting with England Netball and First Tech Challenge UK, Laura has been working in the volunteering sector for 15 years, and is a member of AVM.

I met a brilliant colleague of mine for coffee last week and straight away I could tell something was on her mind. It turned out she was preparing for an incredibly difficult conversation with a volunteer. She’d already taken three or four days to prep, sought advice and still was absolutely dreading it. After 15 years working with volunteers and volunteer managers it’s absolutely still the bit of my job I find the hardest. Lucky for me I’d just been to an AVM event and had some fantastic new tips to share with her!

Volunteers are passionate people determined to make an impact on causes they love. And as volunteer managers we are passionate about volunteers, doing everything we can to support them to feel they are making a difference. As that vital link between organisations and volunteers it often falls to us to have those difficult conversations. And for a group of self-confessed people pleasers it’s really, really tough.

So, it’s no wonder that this event on a hot Tuesday in London was packed with over 50 people looking to learn more. AVM has grown massively since I first joined about ten years ago and it was great to meet and learn from amazing people with one thing in common – we all dread those difficult chats.

Kicking off the day Mandy Rutter gave a fascinating talk and workshop. As a psychologist and consultant specialising in the neuroscience of emotion and conflict Mandy talked us through the science of emotions. When we feel stressed our natural fight or flight response can drag us back into the primitive parts of our brains. She suggests breathing deeply, asking questions, using positive psychology and managing your stress well to boost resilience and stay in the logical parts of our brains.

Next was the ever brilliant Kathryn Palmer-Skillings, London Volunteer Services Manager at Macmillan who shared their approach to volunteer programme design and supporting volunteer managers through challenging situations. Firm boundaries, short volunteer placement periods with a fixed end date, peer support, training and 24 counselling access are built into the project design. This ensures volunteers are supported emotionally from the offset, rather than waiting for a difficult day. Kathryn reminded us being honest and human about what you’re feeling with those around you is powerful and necessary.

Adam Williams from St John Ambulance talked us through their fantastic, bespoke training on handling difficult messages for volunteer managers. The St John approach was simple, well researched and effective. His advice is to prepare, choose the right setting and keep your message ABC (accurate, brief and clear).

Debbie Usiskin and Gilly Fisher from North London Hospice closed the day with a wonderful session and workshop exploring emotional resilience. Increasingly research is exploring the idea that volunteering is a form of emotional labour. One of the most useful takeaways from this session was a kind of self-care bingo asking how frequently we had gone for a walk, taken time for ourselves or made sure we ate regular healthy meals. A quick glance around the room showed that we’re not very good at this. Would these conversations be any easier if we were taking good care of ourselves as well as our volunteers?

Over the years if there’s one thing I’ve picked up it’s s that the best way to handle tricky conversations is to listen to your volunteers when designing projects at the start. At Parkinson’s UK we ensured that all our roles were clear, provided a comprehensive online induction and a brilliant problem-solving policy. At England Netball, we’re about to launch an innovative new strategy that will build a movement to empower women, based on our volunteers’ motivations, preferences and need to achieve not what we need to deploy them to deliver.

Volunteering is emotional and so we can never avoid these conversations altogether but after attending this brilliant #AVMLearn event I feel a lot more confident to manage those tricky conversations with compassion and logic.

I saw my colleague again this week and she was much happier – the learning from the day had been really useful. So the next time you have to have one of those chats do apply some of these ideas and although I’m not promising it won’t still be tough, it might not be as quite as tough as you think.

AVM members can view videos from previous events  once logged into their AVM account. Watch event videos.

Laura Elson is a freelance consultant and a self-confessed volunteering geek. Currently consulting with England Netball and First Tech Challenge UK, Laura has been working in the volunteering sector for 15 years. She designed and scaled up prison based volunteer centres with NCVO, Nesta and Volunteer Centre Leeds, and has led on volunteering at Parkinson’s UK, England Netball and a wide range of charities. She gained qualifications in governance, voluntary sector management and an MSc in Non Profit Marketing from the Centre for Charity Effectiveness where her final project focused on revolutionizing volunteer recruitment techniques. Laura is a member of the Association of Volunteer Managers and the Institute of Fundraising and supports organisations with volunteering strategy and infrastructure, good governance and writing successful funding bids. When she’s not working or volunteering you can find her on a netball court.

New perspectives on measuring the health and wellbeing benefits: a new L&D event

Measuring the health and wellbeing benefits of volunteering: A new perspective.

9th August, the Crypt, London E1 6LY, 10:30 -4:30 pm

Book now! 

We know that volunteering is beneficial both mentally and physically, but how can we measure the extent of that benefit? Can we quantify the benefits -‘put a number’ on the improvement in wellbeing? Is it possible to showcase the societal advantages of a particular programme?

This event brings together a range of organisations that have a particular interest in measuring wellbeing. We will hear from organisations that work with particular groups of volunteers, such as family groups, young people or disadvantaged communities, and why they targeted wellbeing and/or health as areas of particular interest. We will consider different approaches to measuring impact and how the resulting data can be utilised in various ways to translate the evidence into action.

We will also hear from organisations with a broader interest in measuring volunteer behaviour and wellbeing, how they bring together information from diverse sources to build up an overall picture of volunteer activity in the wider community, and how this can then be used to better understand more localised situations.

The day will include  presentations from: Ceris Anderson and Steve Welsher of StreetGames; Ruth Townsley of Happy City; Ingrid Abreu Scherer of What Works Centres for Wellbeing; Lee Ashworth of the “If: Volunteering for wellbeing” project and Dr. Ricky Lawton of Jump Projects.

With a combination of practitioners and researchers, this important issue will be addressed from a range of perspectives, and we welcome audience participation and involvement. There will be networking opportunities and round-table discussions to allow attendees to share and consider their own experiences.

Book now!

Annual conference: 18th October 2018, Royal National hotel, London:

Early bird tickets will be available in July.

With three exceptional keynotes confirmed and a choice from 8 workshops and seminars, this year’s conference is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet!

Watch this space and the ‘Upcoming events‘ page for information.

Measuring the health and wellbeing benefits of volunteering

By Laura Hamilton, Laura Hamilton Consulting  and Gareth Williams, LGBT Foundation
Discover more opportunities to learn about this subject, including the four videos from our Manchester event, at the end of this blog

We were super-excited to be attending AVM’s first learning and development event in Manchester and it was great to see a room packed with volunteer managers from a mix of organisations. Conversations seemed to be flowing right from the start, which we’ll put down to the double whammy of northern friendliness and being in such a beautiful venue.

What prompted us to attend this event? To learn from others’ experience of measuring volunteer wellbeing and to network and make links with volunteer managers from the North.  Gareth is fairly new to volunteer management, so he was really keen to get to know others working in the field.

The event was packed with content; much more than we could possibly cover in this blog. So, rather than give a blow by blow account of the day, we’ve decided to focus on the top 5 things we learned:

1. Look at the whole person
The event kicked off with a fantastic presentation from Emma Horridge and Lee Ashworth; sharing the learning from the “Inspiring Futures: volunteering for wellbeing” (IF) programme.  The programme ran across 10 heritage venues in Greater Manchester and was specifically designed to “support participants into volunteering and away from social and economic isolation”. We were so impressed by this programme and the positive outcomes and progression routes for volunteers.

We particularly liked the fact that the programme recognised the individual nature of progression and their evaluation aimed to look holistically at a person’s life, rather than just focussing on one area of impact. Interestingly, they gathered information from family members and health practitioners, as well as from the volunteers themselves. You can read and hear some of the volunteer stories from the IF programme here and learn more about their evaluation here.  

2. Time and resources matter
Whether it’s taking the time to think through your approach to measuring wellbeing, customising monitoring tools for your own programme, or securing funding to support evaluation, you’re going to need to commit some sort of resource to measuring wellbeing.  Both the IF and Kirklees Museum programmes had involved specialist organisations in the design and delivery their monitoring and evaluation around wellbeing.

Investing time and energy in measuring wellbeing does, however, help you create a powerful case for resourcing volunteering. Using a Social Return on Investment model, the IF programme was able to demonstrate that for every £1 invested in the programme, £3.50 of social and economic value was generated. Kirklees Museum used evidence of the health and wellbeing impacts of volunteering to raise their profile with their Local Authority and build links with both public health and social prescribing.  The event gave us a clear understanding of how evidencing health and wellbeing impacts helps make the case for funding and resources for volunteering.

3. It can be simple or complex
Using a Social Return on Investment model to measure wellbeing seemed like it had been a pretty complex and resource intensive process.  We were also struck by the amount of funding that had clearly been secured to support the evaluation process for the IF project and wondered whether it would be feasible to engage in this type of monitoring and evaluation with less resource available.

Kirklees took a different approach to SROI; using NEF’s “5 ways to wellbeing” as the basis for their evaluation and then undertaking semi-structured interviews with volunteers. This seemed to yield insights into the personal impact of volunteering on wellbeing and, interestingly, they found that direct health benefits were more apparent in longer term volunteers.

For those on a tight budget, there are lots of free resources available:

  • The What Works Wellbeing Centre has loads of resources around wellbeing, including a customisable questionnaire builder.
  • The IF programme website includes a whole section on good practice where they share the learning from their work.

4. Partnerships support progression

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We were both inspired by how the IF programme had developed extensive partnerships and how these seemed to support volunteers to develop a wide range of skills and opened the door to new opportunities and progression routes. It was a helpful reminder that we can achieve great things when we work collaboratively and that creating pathways between different organisations and opportunities can be really beneficial.

5. There can be ethical issues
There was some discussion around whether volunteers find questions around wellbeing overly intrusive and whether certain questionnaires and approaches might not be suitable. It highlighted the importance of having a well thought out approach, being clear about why you are gathering information, how it will be used and stored, and being able to communicate this clearly and sensitively to volunteers and ask for their consent. It is also worth thinking through how you might signpost volunteers to other services if the questions you are asking around wellbeing bring up issues around mental health or other aspects of personal wellbeing.

Our final thoughts…
It was great to meet so many people with a passion and appreciation for volunteering and volunteers. The event helped us to build some really good links and opportunities for future partnership work. It was also great to hear the perspectives and voices of volunteers, both in the presentations and during the interactive session at the end of the day.

We also valued the fact that the event included a focus on diversity and a reminder that there is still work to be done in terms of making volunteering (and all the associated health and wellbeing benefits!) accessible to all. Since the event, we’ve been reflecting on how to make volunteering opportunities more inclusive and how to reach out to new groups and demographics.

We look forward to the next AVM event up north next year and to being part of big, strong and diverse network of volunteer managers in the North West!

Emotionally challenging situations for volunteer managers: what to do

Including: emotional resilience, compassion fatigue and having difficult conversations with volunteers.

Join us for this L&D event on 10th July, 2018 at Hanbury Hall, London. Click here to book.

Managing volunteers can be an emotionally challenging experience, for a variety of reasons. We could be called upon to support volunteers in stressful situations, or to deal with uncomfortable situations caused by volunteers. These could be foreseeable or completely unexpected, but either way, are we given the support and guidance needed to cope effectively?

Having difficult conversations with volunteers can encompass everything from saying ‘No’,  to offering support and sympathy in dealing with personal crises. Being properly prepared can significantly reduce the stress involved.

This event brings together some very experienced presenters and practitioners to both discuss these challenging issues and consider some practical guidance. It is relevant to all volunteer leaders and managers and will address a broad range of potential situations, with both seminars and interactive workshops. Attendees will have plenty of opportunity to share their own experiences and discuss solutions.

Click here to book.


Other AVM events:

There are still some places left for “New approaches to involving and engaging volunteers, 12 June 2018, BRISTOL.

Click here to book or for further details.


Save the date: 18th October, 2018, AVM Conference.

This year’s conference will be the biggest and best yet! Look out for announcements about speakers and early-bird tickets.

Building bridges: volunteering research and practice workshop

joint event logsWe are pleased to invite you to a workshop on volunteering research and practice, co-hosted by the Voluntary Sector Studies Network, Association of Volunteer Managers and the Network of National Volunteer Involving Agencies and supported by NCVO, on the 7th June 2018, 10:30-15:30, London.

The aim of the workshop is to bring together volunteer managers and researchers to strengthen collaborative working. We will share thoughts on: the state of the existing evidence base for volunteering; how research is used in volunteering management; and priorities for future research. The workshop will include brief presentations from some of the leaders in volunteering research and practice, but the emphasis will be on collaborative working through group discussions.

This is a free event but places are limited to one per organisation, and you must register to attend.

You can see the programme further details and register at Eventbrite.

It’s a Date! – 18 October 2018, AVM Annual Conference

Just seven months to go until we come together for the sector-leading AVM annual conference, we’re asking you to keep the date – 18th October – firmly held in your diaries.

This year’s conference promises to be bigger and better than ever before. We’re working hard pulling together an exciting programme for the day including inspirational and challenging keynote speakers, networking opportunities and topical seminars/workshops. These will address topical issues and areas for development for all of us who help people donate their time and talents.

We’re delighted that the conference will again be held at the Royal National Hotel, London, close to Euston and Kings Cross stations. Early bird tickets will be released shortly so be sure to keep an eye on your emails for further news. Last year’s event sold out in record time, so we’d strongly encourage you to book as early as you can – and enjoy an early bird discount!

Don’t take our word for it, here are a few things people said about last year’s conference:

  • “Great networking, really friendly participants and organisers. Very professionally run in a great venue”
  • “There’s a really great energy and camaraderie amongst volunteering folk which made for a great atmosphere. I also enjoyed the good variety of sessions and keynotes”
  • “It was really well organised. With a great choice of workshops and a busy, buzzy atmosphere. Lunch arrangements made great opportunities to talk to new people”
  • “Really great keynote speakers, individually and good variety across them. Great to have peers in the sector sharing learning in workshops. Always good to hear what others are up to and have a chance to discuss challenges candidly and support each other”
  • “The networking was great, the standard of speakers was high, I felt stretched by the discussions”

What people liked about the event:

  • “What did I like about the event? – All of it! -this was my first AVM conference and I thought it was efficiently run and well delivered. The speakers and workshop leaders were professional, knowledgeable and topical. It is important to have professionals representing who are not a formal part of the third or voluntary sector but who demonstrate leadership and have a keen interest/buy in to our profession and work”
  • “The varied programme and the wide range of workshops available. The knowledge of speakers and the opportunity to share expertise”
  • “Networking, exchanging ideas, free range to think outside the box – not always possible in a work context!”

Save the Date

So make sure to keep 18th October free and watch out for more news on the conference in the coming months on the Association of Volunteer Managers website and by email.

Remember, members enjoy a 50% discount on conference places when bookings open, so now is the time to renew your membership or invite colleagues to join. Click here

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Diversity event: Are you willing to be uncomfortable?

By Keeley Mooney 
AVM member; Volunteer Development Officer, Royal British Legion
Discover the five fantastic videos from this event after reading this blog

Like a secret rabbit warren, Hanbury Hall appeared through the little coffee shop that sold divine smelling coffee and delicious looking cakes.

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The stage is set . What would you ask at our diversity event?

With such a large scope, “Diversity in Volunteering and how to attract different demographics”, I wasn’t too sure how this day would go. However it met all my expectations and more.

First off Bryan Precious from Age UK quickly put in to perspective the long term benefit for supporting older volunteers. Explaining that by 2030 there could be more than 1 million people over 65 volunteering in the UK.

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“We need to consider the needs of older volunteers, this process needs to be continuous” – Bryan,

But Bryan made clear that  it is essential to continuously consider the needs of older volunteers when recruiting, managing and creating a clear leaving pathway. Age UK can help you understand how to do this better via their Later Life facts and stats report – found here.

We then had a truly inspirational speaker from Age UK Camden on how to attract LGBT volunteers. Geraldine McCarthy shared both her personal experience and learning from a project called Opening Doors London. The way this presentation was received in the room showed it didn’t just impact me but many others as well.

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Geraldine is sharing a personal story of how her passion and desire created a space to volunteer in, and how her own volunteer motivations changed with life experience

Geraldine’s talk has led me to consider forming a representative group of volunteers that advocates for the needs of people from different backgrounds. That’s just one of the ideas I took away that could help influence how diverse needs are integrated into the development of volunteering projects.

Jenny Betteridge from Sport England followed Geraldine. Sport England work with many other sport organisations and saw over 6.7 million people volunteer in sport at least twice a year in 2017. Volunteering in sport can include coaching, a committee position, being a referee and much more. Jenny was honest about the challenges they face, with one third of sports volunteers considering quitting or reducing the amount they volunteer in the next 12 months.

Since this event I’ve been working my way through the Sport England resources page. The research can help many different sectors and I’d recommend having a look through!

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“The why is important throughout your journey” Jenny Betteridge, Are you sharing the reasons why diversity is important to your cause?

Next up was Matilda Wallis, from SS. Great Britain, a visitor attraction in Bristol. The work that Matilda and her team has been doing with local schools, colleges and universities has a lot of potential. They are collaborating  by designing mutually beneficial volunteer roles. The roles need to be flexible as young volunteers often wish to make a shorter commitment.

We ended with Charlotte Handel and Rupal Karia who job share the Head of Volunteering role at Hackney Volunteer Centre. This was a chance to look at the practical ways a charity can support different people to volunteer. The presentation made me realise that by creating a one-size-fits-all volunteer application process we limit who will apply for a role, even if it is something that is of interest to them.

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Would you adapt your roles like have done?

For me, the key message from the day was the need to step out of our comfort zone if we want to recruit people from different demographics.  So are you willing to be uncomfortable? Will you ask a completely different demographic their honest opinion about your current processes and roles? What have you got to lose?

The five fantastic Diversity event presentations from February are exclusively available to AVM members, using the password in the latest AVM event email, by visiting: https://volunteermanagers.org.uk/member-support/talks-and-events-archive/

View the next AVM Learning & Development Days you can attend: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/association-of-volunteer-managers-4550611853 

Encourage, Support, Improve: Effective use of Rewards and Recognition

Volunteers need to feel valued and appreciated, and an effective programme for reward and recognition can achieve so much more. Join us on 15 May 2018, at Hanbury Hall,  London E1 6QR, to learn what others are doing and get some inspiration for your own programme.

Click here to book a place.

This L&D event will look at examples of effective reward and recognition programmes from organisations such as: Battersea Dogs and Cats Home; Age UK Camden and British Red Cross. There will also be presentations from: Team Kinetic, looking at using data to assess rewards and incentives; Value You, explaining their free discount card and gift voucher programme for volunteers, and a Committee member from the Queens Award for Voluntary Service, giving some insight into this most prestigious form of recognition.

Recognising volunteer’s efforts and dedication clearly shows that they are supported by their organisation and helps to encourage and motivate. Volunteers who are satisfied and well-motivated are more likely to improve and progress, which in turn leads to a more productive volunteer team. Modern volunteers are often keen to improve CVs or UCAS applications by displaying skills and experience gained from volunteering. Such volunteers may be more responsive to certificates or other visible awards.

There are many different ways to recognise and reward volunteers, and each organisation needs to develop a programme that suits its resources and it’s volunteers’ needs. This event brings together a range of presenters and delegates from organisations of all sizes, to compare and contrast different approaches to this vital issue. There will also be group discussions and networking opportunities.

Click here for full information or to book a place.

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Reward and Recognition: Encourage; Support; Improve! 

15 May, Hanbury Hall, London      E1 6QR.

Click here to book.

 

 

There are also still tickets available for:

Time is Money: Investing in Volunteer time drives income. 24 April, London.  Click here.

New approaches to involving and engaging volunteers. 12 June, Bristol.   Click here

 

First AVM event in Bristol just announced

AVM steams in to Bristol on 12th June, aboard the SS. Great Britain , may God bless her and all who volunteer aboard her!  Click here to book.

This will be a specially reduced -price event, thanks to the support of English Heritage, SS. Great Britain and South West Museums Development Programme, and as an introduction to AVM.

Continuing our commitment to bringing AVM Learning and Development Days to some of the key centres of volunteer activity outside of London and following on from the exciting opening event in Manchester last week, AVM will now be in Bristol in June. This event will look at some new and innovative approaches to both traditional and new challenges in volunteering. This will include looking at attracting and working with younger volunteers: research clearly shows that actively engaged young volunteers are likely to continue volunteering throughout their lives, for a variety of organisations.

We will look at how research can be an excellent starting point for initiating change. It can provide the data and numbers necessary to convince stakeholders outside of volunteering departments of what those inside volunteering instinctively know already: volunteering is still a largely untapped resource. We will also consider how best to present this information to CEOs and other senior directors, and how volunteer managers can take the lead on convincing and converting boards to the true value of their volunteer departments.

There will be lively group discussions and networking opportunities to allow everyone to share their own opinions and experiences. Lunch is included, as will be a tour of the museum and ship at the end of the main L&D event.

 

 

Aside from his full time role at Barnardo’s and speaking for AVM, Roy Clark is also running in the London Landmarks Half Marathon on 25 March. If you wish to support Roy, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/roy-clark4

Retail Volunteering Event: Investing in volunteer time drives income.

24  April 2018 at the Crypt, London E1 6LY,  10:30 – 4:30

Click here to book.

Many charities run retail operations with varying degrees of volunteer involvement, but the Charity Retail Association (CRA) has identified a shortage of suitable volunteers and the importance of good volunteer management as key issues facing their members at this time.  With a huge and diverse array of volunteers, charity retailers face both unique and universal challenges.

This event will bring together a wealth of experience from both volunteering and retail. Hosted by Angela Wilson, Senior Advisor, Volunteering & Community Development at Barnardo’s, with Rob Jackson of Rob Jackson Consulting, Robin Osterley, Chief Executive of CRA, Liz Reed, Volunteering Business Partner at Blue Cross and Roy Clark, Director for Retail and Trading at Barnardo’s.

The event will look at how modern retail volunteers may be very different from the traditional image, and how retail volunteer managers need to understand the complex motives and aspirations of their volunteers in order to build the most productive relationships. From volunteers looking to improve their employability, to those combating social isolation, the range of expectations must be matched by an equally in-depth and engaging volunteer offer.

We will hear some examples of organisations responding to these challenges in innovative ways and how a successful approach can result in efficient and productive retail operations.

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Time is money -Investing in volunteer time drives income

For more information or to book – Click here.

24 April 2018, the Crypt at Christ Church Spitalfields, London E1 6LY