By Keeley Mooney
Like a secret rabbit warren, Hanbury Hall appeared through the little coffee shop that sold divine smelling coffee and delicious looking cakes.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
Keeley is an AVM member, and Volunteer Development Officer at the Royal British Legion.