Love thy neighbour…

Carol Carbine, Trainer / Facilitator / Consultant at Carol Carbine Consulting , will be sharing a range of resources at AVM’s Ways to wellbeing and productivity for volunteer managers on 21 February to help you better look after yourself so you can better look after others.

Passion led us here

I was recently discussing with a friend the complex demands we volunteering professionals find ourselves under, I am sure you will be familiar with some or all of these.

  • Juggling the various aspects of our day to day roles whilst trying to keep abreast of changing trends
  • Attempting to meet the many and diverse needs of the volunteers that we support
  • Finding new, creative and collaborative ways to engage people in our mission
  • Trying to secure support and/or funding for our work

Like many people outside the profession she was surprised by these insights and genuinely interested to know how I managed to make time for myself, my family, and look after my own wellbeing in the midst of all of this. I confessed that the latter had somewhat lapsed towards the end of last year and that I was aiming to get back on track. I also admitted it is an ongoing challenge for me and many people I know in our area of work.

She smiled knowingly and said what you need to remember is ‘Love thy neighbour’.

No, not the rather cringe worthy 70s sitcom but the second commandment* ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’. I was rather puzzled as to the relevance of her comment so I asked her to explain how this would help. She said very simply, if I am supposed to love my neighbour the same way I love myself, then I need to do a good job of loving me. I need to take good care of myself – eat well, sleep well, exercise, and rest and recharge my batteries when needed. For me, whether you’re religious or not this makes a whole lot of sense.

If I do a rubbish job of loving myself how I can possibly do a good job of loving and looking after others?

We hear a lot in the media about volunteering being a positive force for mental health and wellbeing but less about the challenges for people supporting and leading volunteers in an increasingly complex environment.

There are some enlightened companies that are now enabling their employees to stay healthy and supporting them to move through challenges when they occur. New initiatives include mental health first aiders, adjustments for women experiencing the menopause and more equitable sharing of parental duties, to name but a few.

So whilst we know that volunteer management has an additional layer of emotional complexity, thanks to the University of Leicester researchers and the National Trust, it still feels like the voluntary sector is lagging behind. We may have great awareness and good intentions but it’s the small simple actions on the ground, which can make a huge difference that seem to be missing.

  • Are we genuinely encouraging a culture where we talk about not just the practical but the emotional demands of the work we do?
  • Do we talk with colleagues about good self care, maintaining our resilience and making time for this to happen?
  • Is it ok to admit you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and ask for support, and if you do what response will you get?

Good self-care starts with the individual but if we are consistently working in an environment where eating on the move, skipping breaks, staying late and where going above and beyond is the norm then the underlying message is that self-care isn’t a priority no matter what the policy statement says.

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I do want to open up the conversation……

  • What are you doing this year to take care of yourself? – (I‘m learning to Zentangle)
  • How are you and your team looking out for each other?
  • What one small thing could your organisation do to support and empower you to love yourself just a little bit more?

Join the discussion at #AVMWellbeing and come along and learn more at our Ways to wellbeing and productivity for volunteer managers event.


*Bible – Mark 12:29-31 | Torah – Leviticus 19:18 | Qur’an – Surah 24:22


Food for thought, discussion and debate by Carol Carbine
www.carolcarbine.consulting
[email protected]
@carolcarbine

Time for Change: International Volunteer Managers Day 2018

Daniel Ingram, AVM Director, shares his thoughts on what this year’s International Volunteer Managers Day theme means for AVM, and leaders and managers of volunteers.

Pledges shared by delegates at our annual conference in October

Time for change – what does that mean for you? We’re keen to hear about the change you think it is time for, so please take a few minutes to complete our short survey.

This year’s International Volunteer Managers Day call to action has me reflecting on the changes I’ve experienced as a volunteer manager, how AVM is changing, and which changes we need make to develop the profession we love.

AVM’s IVM Day 17 pledge: to be the voice to empower, enable and amplify the voice of all managers of volunteers across the UK

I’ve been involved in volunteer engagement for over 10 years and a member of AVM for five of them. AVM was there when I took my first steps into strategic volunteer management, and it has been there through the ups and downs ever since.

This year change has been challenging. My role was made redundant in February and throughout this period of upheaval AVM members have been the rock I’ve clung on to. Whether that’s sharing their own redundancy story with me, putting me in touch with new opportunities, or just listening. You know who you are, thank you.

AVM pledges to connect leaders of volunteering to make change happen together

This year has also been a time of renewal for AVM. Did you spot our Chair’s blog – ‘Connecting leaders of volunteering to make change happen together’ – about the journey we’ve been on? It’s been an honour to have played a part in developing our new vision and mission with the Board, non-members and members.

They will guide our path, but can we all agree on what comes next? What changes are needed in our great profession?

One thing without doubt is that we can only answer questions like this with true authority by coming together to speak with one very loud persuasive voice!

It’s time for change. Connect with other leaders of volunteers and volunteering and let us know the changes we need to make happen together: complete our short survey now.

Networking tips for AVM events

Networking… you might love it, you may hate it, or you might fall somewhere in between these two extremes. But however you feel about it, it can be really useful for your professional development. And with conference only a week away, I wanted to share some tips on preparing to make the most of the networking time at conference. I’ve crowd sourced some of these ideas through Twitter, which I highly recommend as a great way to start networking.

Do your research

Is there someone you’ve wanted to meet for a while? There are a couple of ways you can find out who is going, ahead of conference.

Eventbrite shares first name and organisation of participants, so you can check out in advance if they are going, and look out for them on the day. 

If you’re on Twitter and not already following @AVMTweets (why not?) do so. People are already starting to chat about conference. You can always ask who is going to start a conversation. Or maybe someone you chat to regularly on Twitter is going to be there? Every year I get to meet people I’ve met on Twitter at conference.

This year’s hashtag is #AVM2018 so do include this in any tweets about the conference.

Try: Hi, I see that you work at Organisation X. I’ve been interested in – something you’re interested in learning more about. Could you tell me more about that?

Prepare

This year I’ve been working with my mentor on a number of areas of professional and personal development. One of which has been to be more effective at networking, as I am really not very comfortable with small talk. 

Part of my mentoring ‘homework’ has included preparing ahead of events like conference, or other AVM events. Things I’ve planned include something I’ve read that’s relevant to the event, or a key project I’m working on, and this has meant I’ve found I’m now less anxious before events.

I’ve also been thinking about questions to ask others at events. Is there something tricky I’m working on at the moment? I can ask someone if they’ve had to do something similar and how they handled it.
I’ve also been working on building my courage to talk to speakers at events, or someone whose work I admire. I still find it rather daunting to talk to the ‘experts’ from the stage, but I’m getting there! I just have to remind myself they’re a person like me.

Try: Hi, I see that you work at Organisation X. I’ve been interested in – something you’re interested in learning more about. Could you tell me more about that?

A simple greeting

Starting a conversation can feel really daunting, particularly if you’re not particularly comfortable with small talk. If you’re not very confident approaching people you’ve not met before, look for someone you know – or at least have met before, even if it was earlier in the event – who is talking to someone you don’t. This can often feel less daunting.

But what if you’ve come on your own and not met anyone yet? Never fear, the weather is bound to be unexpected for the season, someone’s travel to conference was probably eventful, and if all else fails, my old failsafe is “food/ coffee/ biscuits* look good/ bad/ awful*” (*delete as applicable), something I ALWAYS have an informed opinion about (don’t worry, the refreshments have always been great at conference!).

But once you’ve got past that first chat about food, and suddenly realise you’ve not actually introduced yourself, you can learn a simple networking greeting by remembering Inigo Montoya. Inigo’s most famous greeting can be broken down into four simple steps:

  1. Polite greeting: “Hello.”
  2. Name: “My name is Inigo Montoya.”
  3. Relevant personal link: “You killed my father.”
  4. Manage expectations: “Prepare to die.”

And there you have it, a simple networking greeting: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

And don’t worry: nobody at conference is expecting an elevator pitch from you. Where you’re from and what your role is is a great relevant personal link.

Try: Hi, I’m Jo and I’m a Volunteer Manager at Organisation X. Is this your first time at an AVM conference?

Thanks to Annabel Smith for sourcing the image.

A comfortable exit

When we’re at events we often want to meet more people, but sometimes our nerves can mean we find it hard to exit a conversation, either resulting in feeling we’ve overstayed our welcome, or rude when we leave. Don’t worry: most people won’t think you’re rude if you leave the conversation. And you don’t need to use comfort break as an uncomfortable exit excuse. A polite thank you and goodbye will be sufficient. 

Try: Steve, it was really a pleasure speaking with you. I’m going to take a look at some of the other exhibits here, but if I don’t run into you later, I hope to see you at another event soon.

Following up with contacts

Strengthening your networks is a great advantage of AVM events. If you think that you’d find it useful to follow up with someone, ask for their business card, or let them know you’ll plan to connect with them on LinkedIn.

Try: I had a great time talking with you about X and I’d love to follow up with you later? Do you have a business card, or can I connect with you on LinkedIn, as it would be great to keep in touch?

Facilitating your networking

We know striking up a conversation with someone you’ve not met before doesn’t come easy to everyone, including volunteer managers. So this year we’ve again planned ways to help facilitate your networking experience. We’ll have discussion prompts on the walls, networking tables over lunch to discuss a variety of topics, and plenty of breaks for a cuppa and a chat.

We’ve also booked a space after conference so that those who are able to stay on can have a drink, and carry on some of the great discussions that were started during the day.

Hope to see you at conference!

Find out more

Conference tickets are selling out fast!

Have you got your ticket for the volunteer management event of the year? If not, don’t delay as tickets are selling out fast, and some of the seminars are fully booked.

If you’re still wondering if it’s for you, here are a few reasons why we think you should come to conference!

We have three fantastic keynote speakers:

  • Tiger de Souza, Director (Volunteering, Participation & Inclusion), National Trust. Tiger will be gazing into his volunteer management crystal ball to talk about Futurology: The UK trends that may impact Volunteering by 2030
  • Helen Timbrell, People and Organisational Development Consultant. Helen will be discussing how we can get past Groundhog Day, and why our leadership needs to change the conversations we’re having about volunteering.
  • Chris Jones, CEO, England Athletics. Chris will share how England Athletics have put volunteering at their heart.

We have wide choice of workshops and seminars from sector experts, to suit a wide variety of interests:

  • Mindfulness and Resilience
  • Organisational Values and Volunteering
  • Research partnerships- volunteering and academia working together
  • Rethinking the Data We Collect
  • Leadership Competencies
  • How to have difficult conversations
  • So you think you want a volunteer management system?
  • Building confidence for volunteers with support needs

Your peers recommend conference as a great way to learn, develop and build your networks.

Delegates who attended last year’s conference said:

  • “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”
  • “Workshop sessions where we could share ideas and experiences. Friendliness of organisers. Interesting final keynote speaker”
  • “Networking was great, standard of speakers was high, I felt stretched by the discussions”
  • “Networking, exchanging ideas, free range to think outside the box – not always possible in a work context!”

AVM’s annual conference is the industry leading event, bringing together Heads of Volunteering, Directors of Volunteering and Volunteer Managers from the broadest spectrum of volunteer organisations.

View the full conference details and book your tickets.

The end of the committee? Volunteering structures in a changing world

Sarah Merrington is Senior Development Manager for CIPD (the professional body for HR), recruiting HR professionals as volunteers to support job seekers and those who want to develop in their careers, and an AVM Volunteer.

conference table and chairs with three large question marks on the table

Even though I have worked in volunteer management for some time, and for several organisations, there is always one thing that has both challenged and impressed me. Local groups of volunteers running community activities for local people. It warms my heart and fills me with hope, to see people giving back to others by running activities that their friends, family, colleagues and community can get involved in.

As someone who has always sung in local choirs or played sport I have definitely benefitted from these great local ‘group’ volunteers – the ones who love the activity or the cause so much they organise things so others can feel the same.

I’ve been there, as a treasurer and an events lead for local groups near me. But now as a volunteering professional it is certainly an area which I struggle to get my head round.

Community volunteers in leadership roles for their local group are a key area of volunteering for many charities and organisations. But how people want to volunteer is changing. Modern-day lifestyles can be challenging for people to find time to get more involved. People tend to move in and out of volunteering rather than wanting to volunteer consistently for an extended period.

So it is increasingly difficult to recruit into traditional committee-based volunteering roles, which can be perceived as too time-consuming, dry or old fashioned. It seems as though many people want to be out there “doing the doing” rather than planning the organisation and undertaking governance to make the “doing” possible. 

In my experience, the main difficulties appear to be finding people to make the commitment, finding younger people and attracting diverse volunteers who better represent the community. In particular, by being unable to recruit younger members, committees remain heavily reliant on an ageing army of volunteers, hugely committed but with little opportunity for fresh ideas or succession planning.

Of course, I am generalising and there also many young, diverse and committed volunteers out there running activities for their community. But they are not attracted to the roles or organisations that I have been working for. And we need to change ourselves and our structures to encourage them to do so.

I have also found that there are issues relating to group structures where volunteers have been engaged for a long time and doing things in a certain way for often many years. There are challenges with encouraging innovation and change and driving different ways of working such as implementing new processes and systems.

How we do keep them engaged, keep them on message and remain compliant with up to date processes and procedures? How do we do this whilst also ensuring their organisational roles are interesting, simple, rewarding and empowering?

Having battled with this for a while and consistently meeting volunteering colleagues in other organisations who feel the same, it was time to do something about it. 

On 2 October, AVM supported by Sport England, will be running a workshop for anyone battling with this topic or with practical ideas and ways of solving some of these issues. This is a new networking session, but it won’t provide you with all the answers. It aims to bring us all together to share ideas, solutions and work out how, as volunteering professionals, we can move forward this common, rewarding but challenging topic.

The end of the committee? Volunteering structures in a changing world‘ is an intentionally worded title. Not because we definitely think it is the end, but because we want to prompt a debate and find people who do things differently who we can learn from.

I am excited about the speakers who bring with them a wealth of knowledge in volunteer governance, new ideas on ways local groups can run themselves and good practice in consulting, managing and communicating with local group volunteers.

But primarily it is a chance to network and share experiences with others in similar positions and help move forward conversation in this area together, rather than tackling it individually.

Please join us to engage in this debate, wearing your optimistic, solution-focused shoes!

Find out more or book your place for our event ‘The end of the committee? Volunteering structures in a changing world‘, 2 October 2018, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, at Sport England office, London.

Sarah has over 18 years experience in project, event and volunteer management with her main area of expertise is in managing and delivering projects that promote and engage people in positive health and environmental behaviours. The majority of these have been established to increase communities’ physical activity levels and to improve nutritional habits. She has developed programmes across a range of different settings and population groups within local communities, schools and youth groups, workplaces, general practice and higher education. Volunteers have always been at the heart of her programmes, whether student representatives running sports clubs in universities, community volunteers and activists driving forward local change or members of an organisation looking to give back to their sector. Over the last year she supported Cycling UK to write their new 5-year volunteering strategy and ensure that volunteers were central to their organisation. She is now Senior Development Manager leading on mentoring for CIPD (the professional body for HR), recruiting HR professionals as volunteers to support job seekers and those who want to develop in their careers.

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.

Why the need for a “volunteering framework”?

After attending AVM’s Networking Event: Embedding a Volunteer Culture within an Organisation Sabine Pitcher reflects on her own personal experience of doing just that at City Lit. Where a volunteer framework will support the strategic direction of the college by directly linking in with some of its key objectives, including bringing people together, enriching lives, and increasing community impact.
A volunteer culture and a volunteer framework go hand in hand.
A volunteer framework puts in writing the mutual commitment, so volunteers know what is expected of them and how they will find the appropriate support, ensuring that the volunteering experience adds value both to the volunteers and the organisation.
I have been working at City Lit since 2008, where nearly 30,000 adults study with us each year, most on very short courses. We offer more than 5,000 courses in total and pride ourselves on being able to cater for a whole range of sometimes quite complex access needs. Formerly Head of Student Services, I have been looking into how we can set up a volunteering framework across the college.
We have a long tradition of involving volunteers in a handful of small areas – e.g. giving ESOL students extra support with their reading or helping out at community events. Across the college, these initiatives are often not well-known and there is little imagination for what else volunteers could be involved with. I’ve always thought that’s a shame – and a missed opportunity.
City Lit is so varied and diverse that there is a lot we can offer potential volunteers. And they could help us broaden the scope of services and initiatives we provide to our students. So I have started to talk to colleagues across the organisation about their ideas and needs, and what we would need to have in place in terms of a support structure.
It turned out to be a bit of an uphill struggle.
While the initial conversations were positive – it helped that I knew colleagues from my previous role – as usual, the devil proved to be in the detail. In an organisation like ours volunteering isn’t top of anybody’s agenda and just getting everybody I’d spoken to individually to a joint meeting was a hurdle. With no immediate need, the success of the project will depend on persistence and perseverance and finding ways to illustrate to colleagues that, yes, initially they will have to put in a bit of work, but they will get something in return. This approach works if this “something” is important enough to them and isn’t overtaken by other priorities or changes.
On the plus side, I have now done nearly all the leg work. I have done my research and spoken to people in other organisations about their volunteering experiences and structures. I have drafted a framework, discussed it with colleagues, produced templates for role descriptions and done all the other “back-office” preparation. Some colleagues might have experienced this as an impingement on the way they have handled volunteering in the past – they feel that it takes their autonomy away and doesn’t do justice to their volunteers. Others, however, saw the benefits in integrating and sharing experience and expertise. In an ideal world, they would all have been involved in all the different stages, but time is usually precious. Getting them all into a room just once was a major achievement.
A framework will eventually add transparency and also ensures that knowledge and information is shared and not held by just one person with whom it could get lost. A framework doesn’t have to be a “one size fits all” – it can still allow for flexibility. This is something which we’ve explicitly agreed, for example with regards to the extent of detail in role descriptions.
My advice? Persist and persevere…
What is a volunteering framework?
It takes time to develop a framework and gain consent from all the various stakeholders in your organisation. But once it is in place, it will make your life a lot easier, and will provide a point of reference for your volunteers as well as for everybody in your organisation. Such a framework will clarify roles and responsibilities and set expectations by addressing the following elements:

  • Rationale – what does the organisation gain? What is the value volunteers contribute?
  • Benefits of volunteering – what experience will volunteers gain? How does it benefit their development?
  • Relationships – how do volunteering roles sit within or alongside paid roles? Is there transparency and appreciation?
  • Volunteering roles – what is expected of them? What is the scope of their contribution? And how are they being recruited?
  • Training and support – who provides the induction? Who can volunteers turn to if there are any problems? What training do they have access to?
  • Reward structure – how are you celebrating volunteers? Are you taking them out / can they benefit from free courses / are their achievements being made public internally?
  • Expenses – can you ensure that reasonable expenses are being paid in a timely manner? And what would those be in your specific context?
  • Management and coordination – who is in charge of the volunteering schemes? Who coordinates the volunteers and who makes decisions?
  • Communication – volunteers might not be “active” all the time; how are they being kept informed? Are they included in staff communication?
  • Volunteer involvement – do volunteers have an opportunity to contribute to the further development of the volunteering scheme?
  • Conflicts –is there a process to deal with conflict, e.g. volunteers not adhering to boundaries, or complaining about not having been accepted for a particular role? What is the protocol for volunteers to report about bullying or mistreatment (by colleagues or by your clients)?
  • Reporting – there should be a way to regularly update others in your organisation on the work of volunteers and gather feedback. (Don’t wait until you’re asked for this information.)

I would also strongly recommend that you include your unions in the debate – they can support the integration of volunteers into your staff team, and they will appreciate reassurance that no paid work is being replaced. They can also help to ensure that you have appropriately identified the benefits to the volunteers.
Don’t feel afraid to seek legal advice if ever you are in any doubt – your organisation will have a contact.
Last but not least… your volunteering framework needs a budget.
How to you get all that established?
This assumes that either you don’t yet have a volunteering scheme or there’s a need to make changes.
In many instances, the contributions volunteers make are vital for the organisation to deliver its services. There is no benefit in downplaying the gain to the organisation. On the contrary, you need to be able to prove what this gain is – your senior team might appreciate if you can express this in monetary terms. This can include funding you wouldn’t otherwise be able to attract; elements of your service for which there is no other funding available; service users you would potentially lose as a consequence; outcomes for your service users that would either improve through volunteers or deteriorate without them. And don’t forget to highlight how the work of your volunteers sits within your organisation’s strategy and goals. (If it doesn’t, this might be a debate worth initiating.)
In order to ensure that processes and procedures are adhered to, my recommendation will be to involve HR – e.g. in the initial stages of recruitment and delivering a central induction. As an organisation, we would want all our volunteers to be ambassadors of City Lit and to understand our culture and values. A dedicated volunteer manager would then work across the different departments. Depending on the scope, there might be several (part-time) volunteer managers, and different approaches might be pursued for different areas of volunteer engagement. However, I will suggest a central point of contact who stays in touch with volunteering organisations (networking is vital), disseminates information, updates documents, ensures that volunteers feel engaged etc. There’s only one thing worse than having no framework/documentation – and that’s to have outdated ones.
We are in the lucky situation to have a student counselling service. The lead counsellor will provide an additional point of call for volunteers, in addition to colleagues and managers in the various departments. This could take the form of moderated peer-support or individual mentoring where this is suitable and appropriate.
Our strategy and processes are still only in draft form, but feedback from colleagues has, so far, been positive. The challenge is to get colleagues to commit to the next steps. These include drafting role descriptions, agreeing on responsibilities and suggesting recruitment periods and are all things that can’t be decided centrally. Once the framework is completed, I foresee a section on our website “Volunteering at City Lit”. (At present, there are three separate sections and they aren’t easy to find.)
I would like to thank the AVM and the wider network for their support and inspiration. I will take my personal experience into my new job and will certainly continue to promote their work
Sabine will now be leaving City Lit and will hand over her responsibilities to the student experience team. But for anybody who has questions or would just like to stay in touch, they have a dedicated email address – [email protected] – which everybody in the team can access. Sabine can also be found on LinkedIn.