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

Shared on behalf of Volunteering Matters


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

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

Both roles can be done from home, working remotely. 

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

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

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

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

Volunteer engagement during lockdown

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.

Themes from Covid-19 networking calls

AVM has hosted a number of networking calls to discuss and share how people working with volunteers are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic. As similar themes and suggestions have emerged across all calls, we have pulled these together with  links and resources generously shared by those on the calls. We have loosely grouped these into parts of the volunteer journey.

If you would like to add resources or suggestions to this resource, please get in touch.

Please check back for updated information.

Page last updated: 17 April 2020. 

Supporting volunteers during lockdown

This was a big concern across all calls, particularly where a volunteer manager was, or was expecting to be, furloughed.

With staff capacity also reduced, there is a need to balance volunteer recruitment against supporting existing volunteers. In some cases organisations are not recruiting because they don’t have the capacity to do both. Volunteer supervision can still take place, by phone or online, one-on-one, or in a group. And if not in place, volunteers can provide peer support to other volunteers as a new role.

Some organisations have new ‘Home Volunteering’ policies, and have updated safeguarding policies and procedures to reflect the change in supervision (where remote/ virtual volunteer roles are new).

Organisations are using a mix of platforms to keep in touch with volunteers, including Workplace by Facebook, Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, Zoom, Skype. On a previous call, one organisation shared they had a conference call service from their local phone coop. A number of organisations are setting up volunteers with organisational Zoom/ Teams/ Skype accounts. Others are providing volunteers with support to set up their own. Drop in online ‘coffee mornings’ were frequently mentioned. 

It was suggested that using existing platforms people are familiar with will help, though one organisation mentioned that a volunteer had developed how to guides for using new tech that have been shared with volunteers, and another is doing short online surgeries for tech support. Make them easy to read with plenty of screenshots.

Protecting our privacy when on video calls came up a few times, with suggestions of a guide for volunteers – and staff – who are not used to this. Suggestions of things to include in a guide: making sure other household members know you’re on a call (children, half-dressed partners, others who would not like to be in shot); making sure you don’t have personal stuff in the background you wouldn’t be happy for colleagues, clients or other volunteers to see; virtual backgrounds (don’t work for everyone); ensuring you understand and use the privacy features for the system you are using; how to change your name on the screen; reminding people who phone in that their phone number will be visible.

For volunteers who are not comfortable with online communication methods, The Phone Coop offer a conference call system. Or you could arrange regular phone calls as a way to connect, which can be done by staff or set up volunteer buddies.

Some expressed concerns about setting up WhatsApp groups for volunteers, where phone numbers are then shared. Making it optional and ensuring that anyone who signs up knows their phone number will be shared with the rest of the group should mitigate this, but speak to your Data Protection Officer if you have concerns. This can also apply for Facebook groups for volunteers.

Blurt have some useful resources about mental health and well-being during the pandemic on their website.

Some of you are giving existing volunteers the opportunity to pause their volunteering, not putting pressure on people to feel that they need to continue as normal – because nothing is normal right now. 

Recruitment,induction and training

Those of you still recruiting are looking to hold video or phone interviews. There is some nervousness – not necessarily from volunteer managers – about safeguarding when moving to online recruitment and not meeting volunteers face-to-face, particularly in roles which are supporting vulnerable people. Key to addressing this is not to drop your standards when recruiting on video, and don’t settle for just telephone: video allows you to see the person you’re interviewing. Some of you have been reinforcing with colleagues that our frameworks and standards don’t disappear overnight and that they do know what they need to do, but we’re able to help them do it differently if they need it.

If you need documents signed, there are various websites or apps that let you do that. Docusign was recommended, but there are others available. 

There is a fast track DBS service only for Covid-19 eligible roles in England and Wales. You can check role eligibility on the DBS website.

Disclosure Scotland are prioritising checks for coronavirus response roles needed to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. 

Details about Access NI checks can be found on their website.

DBS have amended their ID checking guidance during the coronavirus outbreak.

Some of you are rolling new training to volunteers around empathy, having open conversations, as well as around boundaries.

Training is being delivered online, with webinars and other online modules. In some cases this is only for existing volunteers, but some are developing online training for new volunteers.

If you’re not recruiting, it was suggested that signposting potential volunteers to places where they can volunteer at the moment, but also keeping them on a list to get back to once you start recruiting again. 

Moving volunteering opportunities virtually

Many people on the calls you reported that volunteering was stopping while social distancing is in place. Where possible, people are moving roles virtually, or redeploying volunteers into roles that can be done from home. Some organisations are still recruiting. Charities providing direct support to individuals are seeing an increasing number of people needing support, but additionally volunteers may need more support.

Letter writing came up fairly frequently,  particularly as a way of connecting with people who are now isolated (in some cases additional to telephone calls).

For young people in hospices/ homes, virtual storytelling (by existing volunteers) was a suggestion of a new role.

Moving befriending or mentoring to a phone-based or online service is a common theme for many. In a previous networking call, Zoom had been recommended for online befriending, as it is possible to set up the calls without sharing volunteers’ personal information. Others have developed guidelines explaining how volunteers can protect their personal information, as organisations cannot provide all volunteers with a phone.

Asking volunteers to share social media content or key messages with friends/family is an easy microvolunteering role that can be done virtually.

Asking staff and volunteers to think about what tasks could be done virtually that aren’t being done. Research was a good example, as was signposting to information in local community Facebook groups. For example, health charities might be seeing misinformation spreading about the impact of coronavirus on the health issue.

Ask volunteers and service users what they want/ need, and what could be done virtually.

Where roles involve more detailed one-to-one casework, staff should trial with service users first, to ensure volunteers are prepared for the extra emotions of the current situation, which is not specifically their role.

Making sure to complete or update role risk assessments to reflect the role is remote.

Jayne Cravens has written a blog “NEVER a better time to explore Virtual Volunteering than NOW” which is worth a read.

Volunteer recognition and Volunteers’ Week

With Volunteers’ Week fast approaching, we wanted to discuss how you can continue to celebrate volunteers whilst many will still be in isolation. There was also a wider discussion about general volunteer recognition.

Awards and recognition events

  • Reviewing annual awards and ceremonies. In particular looking at how to get groups of volunteers nominated, rather than individuals, to recognise that a key driver is that volunteering is a sociable activity
  • Pre-recorded videos from trustees for award winners
  • Exploring live-streaming awards ceremonies or pre-recording winner announcements
  • Sharing stories of the winners through comms channels
  • Engaging with award winners virtually instead, through sending them t-shirts, certificates in the post – they will then take selfies and we can collage together to have a virtual group picture. 

Use of social media/online connection tools

  • Volunteer to do social media takeover
  • Social media campaigns to tag the organisation and person with their thanks for informal recognition
  • Social media to raise the profile of volunteers and showcase the diversity of volunteering.
  • Asking volunteers to send in selfie videos to share on social media
  • Using Slack or other channels to have online forum interactions and discussions around certain topics
  • Using Volunteer Management Software to engage existing volunteers online through really great content themed around sharing, thanking and recognising
  • WhatsApp groups
  • Using Facebook to encourage volunteers to connect and to share ideas about how they are managing their wellbeing. Trying to encourage volunteers to share videos, recipes, art and craft they have done.
  • Sending out emails and letters to all volunteers encouraging them to access our Volunteer ‘intranet’. We’ve had a mixed response so far but continue to monitor as the weeks go on – adding new videos/activities to the portal.

Saying thank you in different ways

  • Pre-recorded webcasts or podcasts with thank you messages to volunteers
  • Asking teams to make short videos to say why they love volunteers, and edit into a longer video.
  • Video of colleagues to talk about their work with volunteers – internal profile raising of volunteering
  • Mini thank-a-thon: getting CEO & senior staff to call or write to volunteers during Volunteers’ Week
  • Personalised video messages from the Chair or Trustees saying thank you
  • Connecting every staff member with a volunteer and getting them to sending thank you cards, messages, forget-me-not seeds, pin badges etc. in the post
  • Asking participants of vol-led groups or recipients of volunteer time to complete the sentence: “I ❤️ my volunteer because…” The vol’s were so flattered and unaware of the impact they had on individuals, easily done digitally. Montage of comments was a huge lift for vol’s! really personal feedback.

Live virtual opportunities

  • Cross fertilising knowledge with another external partner – each deliver a webinar around an area of expertise and open to volunteers in both organisations
  • Virtual meetings (using the variety of systems that have been mentioned) instead of face-to-face meetings
  • Online volunteer-based game show!
  • Using Zoom (or other) for live training volunteers in different skills.
  • Weekly virtual quiz – staff and volunteers or volunteers only. Can also help to raise funds too that our staff and volunteers are getting involved in.
    Setting up a Q&A for volunteers, on Zoom with the CEO.

Creative

  • Weekly activity/challenge – set volunteers challenge or activity once a week and ask them to post or send in photos/comments and then release these (montage) the following week
  • Running online shops where charity shops have closed. Volunteers who are creative can make items to sell online, e.g. cards, artwork, blankets.
  • Asking volunteers to check clothing banks on their daily walks.

Connecting people

  • Buddy schemes
  • Randomised coffee trials
  • Digital pen pals
  • Staff messages to volunteers – I am still here, this is my role, this is how I can support you in this time, contact me by…
  • Start a longer mentoring relationship scheme
  • Weekly Zoom coffee meet ups with volunteers.

Asking volunteers

  • Ask volunteers how they’d like you to keep in touch and what they’d like you to do, including if they are happy to have another volunteer keep in touch with them (and also ask volunteers if they’d like to provide support).
  • Also ask volunteers what needs they have while they are isolating, and signpost or help where appropriate.
  • Surveying volunteers – what are their ideas about connecting, thanking and recognising in this time. What do they want to see?

Other

  • Changing email signatures to reflect Volunteers’ Week and say thank you.
  • Reminder that Volunteers’ Week should be highlighting groups of volunteers as well as individuals.
  • Building case study portfolios – what does volunteering mean to you and how has this current crisis changed this or changed your role (collecting now and releasing gradually throughout the year)
  • Supporting groups to undertake forward planning and how to build in their own recognition and connection between their volunteers in a proactive way
  • Spotlight story every month – short blog or interview showcasing a group or a volunteer
  • Have shared a live Google Doc with ways to overcome loneliness and isolation virtually
  • Get in touch with local colleges to offer local distance learning opportunities to volunteers.

Telephone and online support – for clients and/ or volunteers

A number of calls discussed on how to move face-to-face support roles to online or telephone. As well as supporting clients/ beneficiaries, discussions also included the best ways to support volunteers who had been stood down.

Befriending Networks have useful resources for converting face-to-face befriending or mentoring to telephone support. 

Zoom was recommended as a good tool for setting up befriending or mentoring call, as they can be set up by the volunteer manager/ service manager, and protect the volunteers’ personal details. If a volunteer wants to use their personal phone (because many organisations cannot provide them with mobile phones), it was felt important to let volunteers know how to protect their phone number.

Some care homes/ hospices/ hospitals are asking people to donate redundant communication devices (smartphones, ipads) or asking people to donate redundant devices, as many residents don’t have access to them.

Longer-term impacts

There are obviously some concerns about the unknowns, and when things will become ‘normal’ again, and how this might impact volunteer retention where you’ve had to close down volunteering programmes, as well volunteer recruitment in the future.

Concerns about how to re-engage volunteers whose roles our outdoors were raised, particularly where they have been reluctant to stand down in the first place. These concerns come from how this fits with the government’s plan for ending lockdown, in order to minimise another high, second wave of the virus.

While some organisations are developing short-term volunteer roles for the duration of the pandemic crisis,others hope to continue virtual roles beyond. 

A few of you mentioned you are already seeing opportunities where you can simplify some processes in the long-term. As it has been proven this can be done in a crisis, there is a good case for reducing some red tape in processes once social distancing is over. Asking the question “what did we drop to make it easier to volunteer during the crisis” makes it easier to ask “so why do we need to still do it?”

Covid-19 (coronavirus) – where to go for guidance and advice

Updated: 7 April 2020

You’re likely aware that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Coronavirus a pandemic.

We know many leaders and managers of volunteers are working hard to manage risk, communications and infrastructure with their volunteers as Coronavirus continues, and are looking for guidance.

Rather than repeating the great advice and guidance already produced, we’re directing people to the relevant advice and guidance for their country.

England: 

Northern Ireland: 

Scotland:

Wales:

These are being updated regularly, they are sharing guidance from other organisations and are adding to it daily. They are good pages to bookmark, and if  you don’t already, we would suggest following them on Twitter. Jayne Craven’s  blog ‘NEVER a better time to explore Virtual Volunteering than NOW‘ is a good read for anyone looking to develop virtual volunteering opportunities.

What about AVM?

AVM started a conversation on Twitter and will continue to share tips and resources on Twitter, so make sure to also follow AVMTweets and bookmark this discussion #VolMgrChat.

We are facilitating a series of video calls for anyone who works with volunteers. These calls are for people to get together and ask questions, share concerns and what they are doing to support volunteers and volunteering during this crisis. Details are available on our Events page. We are also working to launch a support network for AVM members who are on furlough.

We have launched our first online face in May.  We hope our annual conference in October won’t be affected, but we will need to wait and see. We will provide more information as and when we know.

Our support and offer to members during this challenging time

For AVM members, we have the newly launched AVM BiteSize webcasts, as well as other resources available on this website. 

We intend to launch a virtual randomised coffee trial at the end of March, to connect members to one another for peer support. We are also in the process of bringing forward the launch of our mentoring programme, where members will be able to apply for a mentor from our membership.