AVM Hires First Employee To Grow Events Programme

I’m pleased to announce that AVM, in partnership with nfpSynergy, has just recruited its first full time employee.

To grow our range of events, seminars and conferences we’ve employed Abigail Cooper in the role of Events Manager. Having worked on our plans for over a year we know Abigail will be a huge asset to our work, and allow us to do more events, in more places, on more topics.

We know there is demand for the growth in volunteer management and leadership expertise from both large and small organisations and we aim to fill the gap in the market and support volunteer managers.

Abigail’s appointment will also increase our capacity, freeing up directors to focus on reviewing our membership model to include organisations, not solely individuals, to create a sustainable platform for growth.

To help us make this move nfpSynergy have offered office space, administrative support and professional services during the first year.

With a greater programme of events, we believe we can grow our income, increase our impact, and support the appetite for training and CPD from the volunteering development sector. We think it’s a win/win for AVM, and hope you’ll join us in welcoming Abigail.

 

Volunteer Induction and Training

It’s considered good practice to organise systems that properly induct and train volunteers so that they can reasonably be expected to be able to successfully carry out their role- as set out in their role description.

Induction

The Induction session is the most important training you offer a volunteer because it is their first impression of your organisation and the volunteer programme. Induction is the processes of making volunteers understand the workings of the organisation. It should be designed to provide them with background and practical information that will help them identify their own role within the overall function of the organisation, and to better understand how they can contribute to the purpose of the programme.

Plan your Induction

Properly plan for the induction. Think about the following questions:

* What must the volunteer know about your organisation to understand it?
* Who does the volunteer need to know?
* What are the goals and objectives of the organisation?
* Why do you want volunteers?
* What can they contribute?
* What support is available for the volunteer?

Induction Box of Supplies

Put together a box of supplies for your induction sessions and keep it well stocked so that you do not have to run around at the last minute gathering materials. Check the box after your induction and restock.

Induction Agenda

Your agenda might include some of the following:

* Welcome
* Housekeeping (bathroom location, kitchen facilities, drinking water)
* History of organisation
* Description of Programmes and Services offered by organisation
* Major upcoming activities and Events
* Organisational Chart and Introduction to key staff
* Description of Volunteer Programme
* Training structure and requirements
* Explain volunteer programme opportunities
* Description of Volunteer Policies and Procedures
* Support and communication system for volunteers
* Talk about recognition/awards
* Show sample uniforms, service awards, name badges, etc.
* Tour of Facility

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Commitment and Requirements

Training

Training can encompass anything that helps to increase the volunteer’s potential.

Induction

Include a tour that points out things such as kitchen facilities, phones, conveniences, etc. Take photos of new volunteers and put them on the notice board under a welcome sign. You might put a short description of the person’s interests and list the area they will be working in.

General Volunteer Training

Conduct your training with more than one staff member if you can, so a volunteer can hear more than one impression. Give an overview of the organisation and explain the workings of various departments. If your organisation welcomes visitors or clients, they will respect a volunteer’s name badge and think that they should have all of the answers – so provide the volunteers with as much information as you possibly can.

On-The-Role Training

This provides volunteers with the opportunity to extend their knowledge, improve their skills, and perfect their performance in practice via one-to-one instruction, group sessions, or role-play scenarios. This type of training is especially helpful with clerical, shop and activity volunteers.

Specialised Training

Offer customised training for those volunteers who are involved in specialised roles. It will help volunteers to reach their full potential. These training sessions can be presentations given by existing staff members, which in turn will help them in their professional growth.

Training Considerations

* Physical Surroundings (space, lighting, temperature, seating, parking, name tags, refreshments, audio visual aids, etc.)

* Organisational (planning, structure, information literature, program theme, advertising, displays, budget, evaluation, etc.)

* Methodology (lecture, role play, audio visuals, panel discussions, tours, exhibits, observation, etc.)

 

How to turn down a volunteer

Volunteer selection and screening is a sensitive, time-consuming process. If you intend to accept all those who apply, there is no point in taking the time and trouble to screen them in the first place. Careful volunteer selection will result in turning down some people. This is unpleasant, but necessary for the welfare of your programme and your organisation. The alternative is to get a reputation for accepting anyone who applies and therefore open your organisation to inadequate service to your clients or visitors.

Good programme ethics declare that the volunteer deserves to be told the truth. It is never easy to turn down a potential volunteer, but it is a necessary part of building a good quality volunteer programme.

In the same way as not every person interviewed for a paid position expects to be hired, potential volunteers will not expect to be accepted for the demands of certain volunteer position, for which they do not have the necessary qualifications.

Never indicate to a volunteer that a position will be available at your organisation without having assessed his or her suitability. Promises only sharpen the disappointment of a turndown later and are harder to explain to the volunteer. Provide opportunities for the volunteer to screen himself out of the process.

Graceful Exits

* If you have a diverse programme, you can offer a volunteer who is unsuitable for the post he or she has applied for, another post that you feel is more appropriate. Then, if the volunteer refuses the new role, he is turning you down, not the other way around.
* Keep a file of other volunteer opportunities available in your area and refer the volunteer to an organisation that might suit his interests more appropriately. That way you are affirming that he has something to offer and can contribute (just not with you).
* Do not allow a potential volunteer into your programme before he has completed the necessary induction and training sessions. If the volunteer has to wait a long time before getting the chance to take part, he may join an alternative organisation and thus screen himself out of the process.
* Many organisations have a probationary period to test out potential volunteers

How to say “No”

Be honest with the potential volunteer. If their skills or qualifications do not meet your needs, tactfully tell them so. Give them positive feedback regarding their strengths and try to refer them to another community organisation or local Volunteer Bureau.

You might try saying the following:

“Your skills or qualifications do not meet our needs, but let’s think about what you have to offer. Organisation X may be able to utilise your talents and can let you have their contact details”

“The amount of time you are willing to give does not meet our needs for that particular role, but here are some alternative roles we have to offer”

“Your qualifications do not meet our needs for this particular role. Unfortunately, that is the only opportunity available at the moment, but I know how serious you are about volunteering and feel you are anxious to get involved quickly. I would like to refer you to the Volunteer Bureau. They have a computer listing of volunteer positions at a variety of organisations in this area. Here is their phone number. I hope you find a suitable position soon”

Interviewing potential volunteers

Establish an Interview Process

Be professional, but create an atmosphere that will put volunteers at ease. Ensure that you have no interruptions. You are showing the candidate how important volunteers are to you and your organisation. Determine a time frame and be consistent.

Pertinent Information

Make sure you have all pertinent information available at your fingertips (application form, references, role profiles, training information, etc). Be prepared to clarify any information and to discuss and define facts about the organisation. Be prepared to discuss the role opportunities available at length.

Be Gentle

Some potential volunteers are terrified of the interview process. If the volunteer is a senior citizen or homemaker, they may not have had an interview for many years. Take time in the beginning to explain the process to make them feel more comfortable. Start the interview with a little small talk to put the potential volunteer at ease before you discuss their personal circumstances.

Let the Volunteer Talk

A good interview is a discussion, not a cross-examination. Get the volunteer’s viewpoint before you offer your own. People like to talk about themselves, so let the applicant tell you his/her story. Then probe into areas you feel need a fuller explanation. Be prepared to balance listening with speaking. Volunteer should be talking for approximately 75% – 80% of the interview. Ask open-ended questions that give the volunteer a chance to talk. Any questions that can be answered by a simple ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ will kill your interview.

Record Interview Discussion

Taking simple notes or using a prepared interview sheet can be extremely useful. The interview notes serve as a documentation of discussion and can be filed in the volunteer folder for reference. This form can also be used to keep your interview on course.

Keep Objectives in Mind

Unless the interviewer directs conscious attention towards the objective, the interview can become lengthy and valuable information may not be covered. Do not get sidetracked

Questions to Ask

Think carefully about the questions you need to ask in order to judge the volunteer’s qualifications. Ask specific questions if the answers are pertinent to the role the volunteer will be doing at your organisation.

Make sure the volunteer understands the goals and objectives of the organisation, the volunteer opportunities available, the training requirements, expectations and the time commitment required. At the end of the interview you will want to know:

* What motivated the applicant to volunteer?
* Do his goals and needs match those of the organisation?
* Does he have any relevant experience or qualifications ?
* What level of communication and interpersonal skills does he possess?
* Are there any medical limitations, time restraints, or personal commitments, which might limit the potential volunteer’s availability?

Be Honest with the Volunteer

In an effort to fill a much-needed volunteer role, it is easy to emphasize the favourable aspects of a role and gloss over the unfavourable. This habit leads to high turnover, absenteeism, and/or requests for reassignment. It can also reflect badly on your personal credibility and your organisation.

Allow the Volunteer a Decision

Make sure the volunteer understands the opportunities available and allow him to make a choice if possible. Make the volunteer’s next step a definite one. Avoid vague statements such as, “We’ll let you know.”

If you will not be able to use their services, tell them so frankly. If you expect to include them in your next induction or training session, make sure they know in writing the time and date of the venue.

Publicising Your Recruitment

Writing an advert

Once you have a clear role description, you can start to think about advertising for volunteers. When writing an advert, you will need to provide enough information to interest people but keep it short enough to retain their attention. As an initial step, think about why someone would want to volunteer for you and who is most likely to volunteer for you – this will give you a good, solid basis for your advert. The exact form the advert takes will depend on whom it is meant to attract and where it will be appearing, but there are some basic steps you should always include:

You should start with why volunteers are needed in the role. What need is there in the community you support that volunteers can help with. For instance:

“Many people in the Iraqi community can’t access the services they need because their English isn’t good enough”

This ‘statement of need’ hooks someone into your advert. You want them to think, “that’s awful, someone should do something about that”.

Once you have got people’s attention and made them see the need for the type of work that you are advertising, you can tell them how they can help. You can now go on to describe the activities that volunteers carry out in your organisation. People are more likely to take the next step towards volunteering for you if they can picture themselves in the role so you need to include enough information for them to know what they would be doing. For example:

“Volunteer Interpreters can work with people to make sure that they are accessing the healthcare, benefits and services that they need”

The next step is to get rid of any fears that potential volunteers may have about volunteering for you. This could mean including information about who can volunteer (“No previous experience is needed, just an interest/enthusiasm for…..”); a reassurance that they will be supported in the role (“Full training is given and volunteers will attend monthly supervision sessions”); or a commitment to inclusive working (“We welcome applications from all sections of the community and are keen to diversify our volunteer workforce”).

By now the potential volunteer should have a definite idea of whether or not they are interested in the role. You need to make sure that they do take the next step towards volunteering for you by describing how they will benefit. Remember that everyone volunteers for a reason. Your first step when devising a recruitment strategy for the role should have been to identify why somebody might want to do it (to meet people, to get training, to build up experience leading to a particular career, etc). Sell the role by including these points in your advert.

If you follow this model, you should end up with an advert that:

  1. hooks people by presenting the need for volunteers
  2. describes how they can help
  3. negates some of the reasons that they may come up with not to help
  4. sells the position to them by describing how they will benefit from volunteering for you.

 

For instance:

“Many people in the Iraqi community can’t access the services they need because their English isn’t good enough. We are currently looking for Volunteer Interpreters to work with people to make sure that they are accessing the healthcare, benefits and services that they need. Volunteers usually work two hours a week, full training is given and we provide monthly support sessions. Volunteering with us is a great way of gaining experience, a current work reference, and improving you CV.”

You can use this as the basis for all your adverts. For instance, you could use a short version for posters and newspaper adverts, and expand on it for articles or even radio interviews.

Where to advertise

Think about the kind of person that your volunteer role is likely to appeal to and what they would get out of it. Would it allow someone to develop skills appropriate for a particular skill; would it be a good way of meeting new people; would it interest someone with a particular hobby? Once you have a list, you can use it to decide which groups it would be best to target with your advertising. For instance, if your voluntary role would give good experience in a social care setting, it might be of particular interest to students on social work courses; or if it is sociable and gives volunteers the chance to meet lots of people, it may be of particular interest to people who are lonely or have had a change of circumstances that has cut them off from their social circle.

Most volunteers are recruited by existing staff, clients, supporters or volunteers via word of mouth. Make sure everyone you know is aware that you are trying to recruit, and which roles you are recruiting to. Of course, if your existing staff and volunteers are happy and motivated, they will be more effective in recruiting their friends! However, do remember that this method of recruitment means you are likely to attract ‘more of the same’- ie, existing volunteers will tend to recruit people similar to themselves, so if you rely on word of mouth your volunteers might not be very diverse.

Leaflets or postcards are a good way of advertising. You might consider placing printed information in:

  • schools and colleges
  • libraries
  • town halls and other public buildings
  • GP and dental surgeries
  • sports and leisure centres
  • religious centres
  • shop windows
  • Job Centres

 

Try to design your posters and leaflets to be as accessible as possible. It is important to have materials that are well-designed and eye-catching, but it is just as important that people are able to read them. You may want to think about using pictures and images to back up important points.

Volunteer Centres can be useful for recruiting volunteers and can also provide valuable support. There are around 500 Volunteer Centres throughout the UK, putting people in touch with organisations who need volunteers. They work a little like Job Centres, only with volunteer rather than employment opportunities. Members of the public go in and talk to their local centre about the types of work they are interested in, what times they can work, etc, and the centre will search through its database for relevant opportunities. Volunteer Centres also upload their databases on to the Do-It website (www.do-it.org.uk) so that all opportunities registered with them appear on an online database that potential volunteers can search.

If there is a particular group of people who would be interested in volunteering for you, it may be a good idea to see if you can arrange a talk or presentation for them. Setting up a talk or presentation might take some time – you will need to persuade the host (be it a school, an employer or whatever) that your information will be of real interest. But it can produce good results. You could think about doing talks for:

 

  • Youth groups
  • Schools
  • ESOL classes
  • Cultural groups
  • Community centres
  • Probation centres
  • Day centres
  • Training and rehabilitation projects

 

Make sure you bring printed information to support your talk, giving people the chance to go away and think before committing themselves. Be clear about how people can get involved or find out more if they are interested.

Dealing with enquiries

All too often, organisations launch recruitment campaigns without properly considering what they will do when people respond to them. Most potential volunteers will make initial contact via the phone, so it is important that their enquiry is dealt with in a way that will make them want to find out more. Make sure that everyone in the organisation who might answer the phone knows what to do and who to pass the call on to. Try to avoid asking people to call back – the chances are they just won’t. If no one is immediately available, it is better to take the caller’s contact number and get back to them.

Potential volunteers won’t necessarily call within office hours, so remember to include instructions for people interested in volunteering in your answerphone message so that they know they have got through to the right place. If you say that you are going to call back, make sure that you do. It is very disheartening for people to offer their time and then to feel that the organisation could not be bothered with them. Not only will they not contact you again, they probably won’t contact any other organisations either.

Avoid asking potential volunteers too many questions over the phone, as they will not be expecting to be ‘ interviewed’. Remember that many people find communicating on the phone quite difficult. However, you may want to check that they know about anything essential: for instance, if you only need volunteers on a Wednesday afternoon, there is no point in them continuing with the application process if they work all day Wednesdays.

It’s a good idea to have an information pack available to send to people interested in volunteering. The pack could contain information about the organisation, the volunteer role, practical information about expenses and training, and maybe information from existing volunteers about what they get out of volunteering for your organisation. You should view the information pack as an extension of your recruitment materials. You need to provide information for the potential volunteer to decide if your organisation is right for them, but at this stage you are still ‘selling’ volunteering within your organisation.

If you have the resources, it can be helpful to invite potential volunteers to come and visit your organisation and talk to existing volunteers before deciding whether they want to volunteer for you. Not everybody wants to do this, but for some people an informal visit with no strings attached is a good first step and makes them feel in control of the situation. Remember that for many people who have never volunteered before, applying to an organisation is a nerve-racking business and they do not know quite what to expect. Anything that you can do to put them at their ease will be much appreciated, and should ultimately result in more committed and informed volunteers who really feel that they have a stake in the organisation.

 

Further reading

Recruitment Guide – Volunteering England
do-it.org.uk website – National database of volunteering opportunities
Online finder for Volunteer Centres
Recruiting and managing volunteers – Idealist.org (US)

 

Reference

This information is an extract from the article on volunteer recruitment on the AVM volunteer management wiki

Volunteer Recruitment

Getting Started

What do we want the volunteer to do?

Make sure you have thought through a clear and realistic role description

 

Do you have the systems and policies in place?

Develop simple straightforward procedures that kick in when you get that first phone call or email from someone enquiring about the volunteering opportunities. You may want to develop the following:

  1. Recruitment pack you can send out with frequently asked questions and an application form
  2. Interview and selection criteria agreed internally to your project/organisation
  3. Induction procedure that gives the volunteer the information and contacts they need to get going
  4. Training and personal development planning can be vital for ensuring volunteers are able to carry out the role you’ve created.
  5. Support and supervision plan for each volunteer you take on

 

Where to recruit volunteers?

  1. From your existing volunteer base-hold a ‘bring a friend’ volunteering event
    Community and neighborhood newsletters, school newspapers, church newsletters, employee newsletter in local companies
  2. Putting adverts in local shops
  3. Paid adverts in media (online and offline)
  4. Human interest stories about your organisation/project in local media (use of celebrity can help get press attention)
  5. Yellow Pages ads
  6. Posters on at library, shops, community centres, etc
  7. University, FE colleges
  8. Use word of mouth networks of your current volunteers
  9. Open your doors and tell people about what you do including that they can volunteer for you 🙂
  10. Talks and presentations to local groups and network meetings
  11. Guerilla marketing – buttons, stickers, postcards, cards, etc. that pass quickly from person to person
  12. Volunteer fairs and other events
  13. Use other volunteer matching organisations like volunteer centres who can advocate for you
  14. Post opportunities on [http://www.do-it.org.uk do-it.org.uk] either directly yourself or via your local volunteer centre
  15. Target local groups or courses that appeal to people who would be particularly interested in your kind of volunteering opportunities, e.g. psychology courses for counsellors, etc.
  16. Statutory bodies who are looking for placements for their clients such as community service

 

Recruitment Advice

First Impressions Count: What to do when potential volunteers make contact

However people find opportunities, making the decision to offer time as a volunteer is an important one. It’s worth putting yourself in their place, and imagining how you would feel contacting an organisation for the first time. People may well be excited, but they are also probably nervous, and a bit worried about how their enquiry will be received.

This first point of contact is a crucial one, how organisations respond to enquiries from potential volunteers will often determine whether someone actually takes the next step becoming a volunteer. Organisations will often put lots of thought into how they advertise for volunteers, but won’t have considered what they will do when people start to respond to their adverts. As the examples below show, responding in a friendly, and welcoming way, is very important:

“When I first contacted them they were really helpful and very friendly. I spoke to the manager over the phone and she sounded so friendly and nice that I went down to see them straight away.”

“They were lovely, I spoke to the manager and she was like “oh yeah come along and we’ll have a little chat and you can tell us what you can do and everything”. They were really nice, the way she talked to me made me feel much more comfortable.”

“They were friendly, very efficient; they had all the information that I needed. They explained to me what I’d be doing and talked to me about what things I need to do if I did want to take this on and for it to be a career. The other organisations I contacted were more “this is what you have to do” not “this is what we can do together””.

When you are actively recruiting volunteers, it’s important that you’ve planned how you are going to respond to them. Anyone who might answer calls, needs to know what to do if they receive a volunteering enquiry. It is very off-putting to pluck up the courage to call an organisation, only to get through to someone who wasn’t even aware their organisation was looking for volunteers.

If the potential volunteer has to leave a message, it’s important that you get back to them as quickly as possible. If the staff member they need to speak to is away, or will not be able to get back to them for a while, let the person know. If they receive no reply at all, most people assume that they’re just not wanted. Not many people are as patient as this volunteer:

“I contacted the organisation myself and left a couple of phone messages but never got any reply, so I spoke to the Volunteer Centre and she contacted them it still took her three weeks to get a reply but they did get back to her. I think if I’d just kept trying myself I wouldn’t have go anywhere. It did put me off a bit, particularly since I’ve been told by people who work for charities ‘never work for a charity’.”

Potential volunteers may well have lots of questions about your organisation, and the role. It is important that you can deal with these, and make sure they are given all the information they need when they first make contact:

“They were really friendly, when I first contacted them; they gave me a lot of information” 

“I went to a couple of interviews and this organisation gave me the best background information about what they do. I felt that the children there would get so much more out of me then if I went somewhere else. It was a mix of what would be the right role for me and where I could help most.”

You might want to look at putting an information pack together that you can send out to anyone who enquiries about volunteering for you. As the quote above shows, it’s worth including information on why you need volunteers, and what difference they make, as well as stating how the volunteer might benefit from the role. It is also a good idea to think about what might potentially worry someone about taking on this role, and see if you can allay their fears.

You might want to tell them about the training they will receive, or explain how they will be supervised. Your existing volunteers should be able to help you put the pack together, and including case studies, or quotes from them should give people a good impression of what its like to volunteer with you. Where possible a lot of potential volunteers appreciate the chance to go and visit the organisation to decide whether they want to apply for the role:

“The chance to go in and see if you fit in was really useful, I went in for the day and met the kids, did some activities with them so I knew it was right for me.” 

“When I went down there the stuff that they were doing was great, I saw that they had a piano and as soon as I saw that I thought ‘great when can I start’.”

If a volunteer has a bad experience when they first contact you, then they are unlikely to continue with their application. Organisations, who do not return calls, are unfriendly, or who do not have information to give potential volunteers about their organisation, loose out on volunteers:

“Where I am now I just walked in off the street and said I wanted to volunteer, they seemed very happy, they made me feel appreciated and like it was good I came in. It was very different to the other place I applied for. Their manager’s attitude was bad, when I went there for my second interview with them I bumped into him on the bus on the way and he just blanked me as if I didn’t count. When I said I wasn’t interested in volunteering for them any more he actually sounded happy and he laughed. It made me think the organisation was run badly and I didn’t want to volunteer with them.”

“I phoned them up it was really difficult, it took me about a week to get through to the actual person. It was a bit off-putting, it took ages to get through and then when I finally spoke to someone and managed to leave my number they didn’t get back to me, in the end I had to keep phoning them. Then they invited me in for a chat and showed me round. She seemed really busy though, it only lasted about 15 minutes and I don’t really think she spoke to me enough. Now I’ve applied to work with a drug project I’ve found the people there much more helpful, they’re more friendly, and more warm, with the other place it was like they didn’t really care.”

Even if you don’t have a suitable role for a potential volunteer, it is polite to get back to them and let them know:

“Finding volunteering has been really hard. I want to work as a translator. I’ve sent out my CV and covering letter to lots of organisations but I’ve not had replies from any of them. I feel disappointed, I’ve tried to offer my services for free and then they’re like “oh we don’t want him” there’s been all this talk on the TV and the news about there being a shortage of male volunteers but then they don’t even bother to reply to you. I would say if you’ve been approached by people who want to give their time and experience then contact them let them know if there’s hope or no hope, give them a response.”

Be aware that a volunteer who has had their initial enquiry dealt with badly may well tell other people not to bother contacting you. It might not just be your organisation that loses out on a volunteer either, a bad reaction from one organisation can put people off volunteering full stop:

“If that had been my first time volunteering then I don’t think I’d have tried anywhere else, it would have really put me off.”

It can be easy to get so caught up in developing a recruitment strategy, and advertising your volunteer roles, that you don’t think about how you’ll deal with enquiries. However, it is vitally important that you deal with people in a welcoming, and efficient way at this stage, otherwise you will lose out on potential volunteers.

Reference

This information is an extract from the article on volunteer recruitment on the AVM volunteer management wiki