Volunteering – being authentic and feeling valued

As someone who actively encourages others to volunteer, my own experiences provides me with reminders of what supports or blocks people’s ability to volunteer or give back in some way. It also allows me to be authentic when encouraging and promoting volunteering and in my training of volunteer managers.

During Volunteer’s Week I received a certificate of thanks for the Trustee volunteering I do with Citizens Advice. Feeling that what I do can make a difference for others is the biggest reward I can ask for – but a thank you is very much appreciated – a reminder that what I and many other volunteers offer, is valued by the organisation we give time to. It also tells me that the organisation is doing what it can to demonstrate to us it’s authentic aim to include and value volunteers.

Not all experiences of volunteering are valued – I have my own stories to tell and get to hear from many others. The biggest issues seem to be that when we volunteer our time we may end up feeling underutilised, that the organisation is unorganised or our tasks are boring. Recent research highlighted in Third Sector unlines these issues    

I’ve also found that organisations do not always follow up on offers even when they say they want to involve you. I’m very supportive of the idea that not everyone that puts themselves forward is necessarily the best person for the role the organisation needs filled. However, if an organisation says it wants volunteers – then a timely follow through is essential. This is a relatively common complaint (against the standard that this should be a rare error) – a volunteer will feel better valued if they are told that they are not right for the role, that there is no vacancy or that another organisation may need them, rather than having no response to their offer to help…Time for organisations to ensure their authenticity in making an appeal for volunteers and following though!

If you are supporting volunteering as part of your Corporate Social Responsibility agenda, does the feedback you get from staff tell you that their time is fully maximised, and that they are as satisfied as you all hoped?

If you involve volunteers – have you checked the timeliness and effectiveness of follow ups to offers of help?

A great new recruitment campaign

Following some consultancy work I carried out with British Heart Foundation, they have initiated a new recruitment campaign with appeals from existing volunteers.  They offer a great example of valuing their existing volunteers by asking them to help appeal to others, and of giving clear indications on how volunteers can help. The video of volunteers talking about why they got involved and what they do is great!

Volunteering and Coaching

I’m about to embark on investigating potential ways of offering pro bono coaching with a group of like minded coaches – for me a great way to combine my coaching, management and volunteering experience. More to follow…

 Do let me know your thoughts on any of the issues above:

This entry was written by moyra , posted on Monday June 22 2009at 10:06 am , filed under News . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

6 Responses to “Volunteering – being authentic and feeling valued”

  1. What an interesting and thought-provoking article, Moyra. I have forwarded the link to several of my colleagues at the charity where I work as we have had volunteers working with us.

  2. I’d love to know what their views are. It is so easy for us to set up fantastic systems, and then, with other pressures, end up finding out that they are not doing what they were set up to do. It is really useful to seek the opinions of the volunteers themselves – they can let you know how well valued they feel and if the systems you have do what you think they should!

  3. I so agree with you over the “customer service” for new vols. I’m doing a vol retention strategy where I highlight 3 areas for action, the first being “recruitment and initial mobilisation”. Even if vols don’t start, they need to have a good impression of the org as they are potential supporters in other ways. Needless to say, it’s easier to write about some of these things than practice them!

  4. The intention is the most important thing. Without that there would be no best practice! Having great support for these intentions to treat all volunteers well can make a massive difference.

  5. I’m interested in knowing if most volunteer organizations provide any perks for their volunteers…ie, coffee, water. A local non-profit has about a dozen volunteers a day, in two shifts. They don’t provide water or coffee for the volunteers because they say the volunteers want the money that would be spent to be used for the organization’s goals, and the Board of Directors will not pay for it. They also don’t want the volunteers to take time for a short break, so another reason not to provide these perks. Is this common in non-profits?

  6. Hi Anna

    Interesting response to volunteers here….first of all, I would not see refreshments for volunteers as a perk! In establishing an effective volunteer programme, one of the basics to consider is the comfort of those that give time. Water and coffee, for me, is a basic, as are suitable breaks. Volunteers that are valued and supported can be the best resource for helping to meet organisational goals. I’d suggest that the Board of Directors reconsider their position and ask themselves:
    What difference do the volunteers make to our organisation?
    What impression do we give to volunteers when we do not allow for breaks and refreshments?
    How important is it to us that volunteers feel valued, and are motivated to stay with our organisation?
    What else can we do to support volunteers?
    What are the volunteers themselves telling us?

    Good luck Anna!

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