Involving Young Volunteers

As summers here and you have been thinking about ways to engage young people in interesting, fun and purposeful activities. Many young people who want to volunteer their time are turned away due to bureaucracy and lack of innovative thinking.

The Mayor of London has funded training and resources to help charities involve more young volunteers. These were shared with groups during May’s Volunteer Co-ordinator’s Forum.

Key messages:

– Insurance can easily be changed to include younger volunteers – talk to your insurance providers about the roles they will be doing and how they will be supported, it shouldn’t increase costs.

– Creating short, flexible roles makes it easier for young people to get involved and it maybe easier and fun for you to manage a short term project.

– What damage are we doing by turning people away when they are young – it’s up to us to find ways to remove the barriers.

Frequently asked questions:

True or False

  1. By law, a young person under 16 cannot volunteer for more than 5 hours per day

False – there’s no time limits on volunteering, but it’s good practice to follow guidelines on employment which on a non-school day is up to 5 hours.

  1. Organisations do not need to get parental consent for volunteers who are over the age of 16

False. Parental responsibility extends to the age of 18. However, for a 16-17 year old, you do not need consent if they are married or living independently.

  1. Staff who work with 16-17 year old volunteers do not need a DBS check

True – For the purpose of DBS checks, 16 and 17 year olds who are volunteers or employees are not considered vulnerable, and therefore staff or volunteers working with them are not eligible for checks.

  1. Under health and safety legislation, risk assessments specific to the individual must be carried out before someone under 18 can volunteer

False. This legislation does not specify this for young volunteers but it is always good practice to carry out regular, comprehensive risk assessments when working with volunteers and you may want to identify any particular risks for young volunteers such lack of maturity when dealing with customers or the need for more regular breaks.

Four Great Reasons for Involving Young Volunteers:

  1. Young people want to volunteer to improve their skills and to support other people – we should give them the chance.
  2. Younger volunteers can bring new ideas and knowledge.
  3. Helping young people understand the work of your charity can encourage them to support the cause for life or to become professionally involved in the future.
  4. Volunteering gives young people the confidence to become active members of our society and helps build positive connections in our community.

Is it too risky?

What can be done to make sure our volunteers aren’t harmed emotionally or physically as a result of volunteering with us?

Working with power tools, young people, people with mental health issues, remote volunteering in people’s homes, volunteer drivers, volunteers mending things….I know of examples where volunteers safely carry out all these roles but I also know that organsiations have stopped projects being developed due to fears of what could go wrong.

It’s best practice for each volunteer role to have a corresponding Risk Assessment. You will almost definitely have carried out a Risk Assessment but it may just be in your head rather than on paper!

Writing it down means it can be shared with volunteers and other staff, it will also be there when you leave.

Identify the risks; How likely is it to happen and what’s the potential impact; Identify how to reduce the risks; Make a decision  – is the risk worth involving volunteers?

Let’s look at 3 basic examples:

Helpline volunteer

What are the risks? * Sitting at the computer. * Too long looking at the screen. * Stress when learning the new role. * Emotional stress when dealing with difficult cases. * Fire in the building.

How likely is it to happen and what’s the potential impact ? * Limited volunteering hours so the likelihood is reduced. * Adapting to the role will depend on personal circumstances. * The nature of the helpline role will mean volunteers are dealing with difficult cases. * Fire is unlikely but could be very harmful.

How can the risks be reduced? * Ensure H&S info about desk and screen safety is shared * Ensure breaks are taken * Communicate with the volunteer about their health and how they are feeling * Ensure initial training includes dealing with emotional stress. Maintain a feedback regime to ensure volunteers share their emotions and experiences. * Ensure fire procedures are explained in full

Is it worth the risk?

Gardening Volunteer

What are the risks? * Injury caused by tool use * Lifting and carrying injuries * Cuts infected by tetanus or other infections * Incidents caused by lone working on a remote part of the garden

How likely is it to happen and what’s the potential impact? * Injury is likely due to the physical nature of the role. * Infections are unlikely but would have a huge impact. * Enclosed garden area but people to wander in.

How can the risks be reduced? * Ensure that tools are well maintained. * Ensure that volunteers are regularly instructed in tool use. * Ensure volunteers are given appropriate lifting and carrying training. * Ensure volunteers are given information about stretching and warming up. * Ensure volunteers are given information about infections. * Work in pairs or teams, within sight of each other at set times.

Is it worth the risk?

Admin Volunteer

What are the risks? * Sitting at the computer. * Too long looking at the screen. * Stress when learning the new role. * Fire in the building.

How likely is it to happen and what’s the potential impact? * Limited volunteering hours so the likelihood is reduced. * Adapting to the role will depend on personal circumstances. * Fire is unlikely but could be very harmful.

How can the risks be reduced * Ensure H&S info about desk and screen safety is shared * Ensure breaks are taken * Communicate with the volunteer about their health and how they are feeling * Ensure fire procedures are explained in full

Is it worth the risk?

Your volunteers will either be adults, who can make a decision about their own risk or under 18’s who will be involving their parents/career’s in the decision. If people are fully informed about what could go wrong and how the organisation reduces the risk they can make their own decision.

As the organisation asking them to get involved we have a “Duty of Care” and all organisation should make sure their volunteers are specifically included in their Public Liability Insurance (or their Employer Liability Insurance but volunteer’s aren’t employees so this needs to be discussed clearly with the insurance company).

The only way to ensure volunteers are never going to be harmed or stressed by getting involved in your work is to not include them. However if you can provide adequate resources and management time you can do all you can to make sure your volunteers are kept safe and happy.

There’s some really useful examples of risk assessments on the Health and Safety Executive website that can be adapted for your work.

Showing you Value your Volunteers

In today’s Volunteer Management forum we discussed ways to show that we value our volunteers. Here’s some thoughts and ideas:

Letting volunteers know that their work makes a difference can be motivating and rewarding: Think about how you could measure the impact of your volunteers. This type of feedback enables volunteers to understand the impact that they have had on the work you do.

Trusting volunteers: Giving volunteers a new task with a different role, or more responsibility, demonstrates trust. Trusting volunteers is an important way to show volunteers that you value and recognise their contribution.

Being organised: Following up on initial enquiries, having work prepared, having an easy, clear system for expenses…all of these show that you are willing to put time and effort into managing volunteers.

Saying thank you: Sometimes a simple thank you is all the recognition that a volunteer wants. This can be informally in person, by telephone, by email, in a Christmas card or formally at the annual general meeting. You may also choose to write articles about volunteer tasks or profile specific volunteers for newsletters, newspapers or volunteer’s week. However you decide to do this it should be consistent and fair. But remember the same thanks every time can end up being tokenistic, so be sure to be personal, genuine, timely and specific.

Keeping volunteers informed: Volunteers can feel valued if they are kept up to date about what is happening with the organisation. Some organisations have started to use social media and set up blogs, or have dedicated pages for volunteers on their website.

Creating an identity: There are lots of different ways that you can do this. Being given clothing to wear and relevant equipment whilst doing their role helps volunteers feel part of the team. For example, some heritage volunteers said that having a ‘volunteer’ identity badge often helps the public appreciate that they are volunteers, and as such this gains respect.

Volunteer events: Providing time for volunteers to get together socially is a good way to acknowledge their contribution and keep them inspired. Meeting new people gives volunteers a chance to share their experience, hear about what others do, feel part of the larger team of volunteers and maybe think about doing more roles in the organization.

Access to training: A volunteer may value being able to attend training for development purposes (this has to be relevant to the delivery of the role so it’s not considered a perk in lieu of payment). This is especially important for volunteers who are looking to develop their CV or boost their employability skills. This can be done face to face or online. Volunteers might value being invited to attend a seminar, convention, or meeting at the organisation’s representative, as it demonstrates to them that they are trusted volunteers.

Volunteer awards: Some organisations nominate volunteers for their in-house awards ceremonies. This could be for team effort, length of time in service, inspiring volunteer or even a life time commitment award. However, it is important if you chose to have awards that you find ways to recognise those who do not get nominated. You should also consider how to recognise volunteers who are not able to attend an awards ceremony. Also look out for local awards, London wide or national awards.

Accommodating needs: Show empathy and try to adapt roles or activities to suit your volunteers. This is most effective when you ask how you can help, instead of implementing change without taking into consideration a volunteer’s views and opinions.

Providing a reference: Sometimes you may be requested to provide a reference for a volunteer if they are moving into paid work, education or another volunteering role.

(With thanks to Volunteer Scotland)

Don’t forget:

Volunteer’s Week provides an opportunity to celebrate and thank your volunteers. Read more about it and download resources.

The Value You reward card, free to organisations and volunteers. A great way to say thanks to volunteers who have given over 100hrs of their time.

As I so often say… giving enough time to support your volunteers is vital. Rushing, cutting them short or cancelling appointments does not show respect. Time spent having a cup of tea is not a break it’s building your relationship with your volunteers.

Volunteers’ Rights

I ran the Legal Aspects of Involving Volunteers training last week. It’s always an interesting when we start with the question “What rights do volunteers have?”

When you sit down and think about it volunteers don’t have many rights. Compared to paid workers they don’t have the right to holidays, fixed hours, maternity, redundancy, disciplinary process, minimum wage…They do not have a legal status.

There’s not even clarity about volunteers being protected by the Equalities Act as this refers to “access to services and goods” (although, I’d hope that as charities and community projects we’d be keen to provide equal access to all those who want to volunteer). And although it’s good practice to refund volunteer expenses there’s no legal obligation to do so.

Volunteers do have a legal right to be protected under Health and Safety legislation but not as employees only as members of the public effected by an organisations work.

However, people offering their time for free will have expectations and if you do not meet these expectations you find it hard to recruit and even harder to retain a team of volunteers.

What I expect when I offer to volunteer:

  • Clear communication about what will happen next
  • A welcoming, friendly and safe environment
  • Information about the organisation and the people I’ll be meeting
  • Clear instructions about what to do and how to do it
  • Details of training, support, expenses etc
  • Feedback about how I’m doing
  • Information about how the process will end
  • and I do expect to be allowed to take a holiday!

It’s not set out in law but it’s the only way to make it work.

The legal status of volunteers is deliberately kept vague in order to maintain the unique relationship that organisations can create with volunteers. This has been reviewed in the past and the conclusion drawn from all the feedback and consultations was that as soon as you added some legal structure it would snowball until it’s undistinguishable from employment law. This means organisations have few legal responsibilities to volunteers but plenty of ethical responsibilities.

You can find out more information on the NVCO website.

We plan to run another Legal Issues of Involving Volunteers training session within the next year.

CV vs. Application Form

Once you have explained what you help you need from volunteers people will start to get in touch offering their time…what will you do next?

There’s no fixed volunteer recruitment system, different methods will suit different projects but you’ll want to know something about a potential volunteer and there’s two main ways of starting to collect this information – CV or application form.

If you ask people to submit a CV…

·      You’ll see all their qualifications clearly laid out.

·      You’ll see all their professional experience.

·      They will be able to demonstrate their ability to create a document.

·      If they take time to amend their CV it shows commitment to the opportunity.

·        It’s a very formal method and may be associated in people’s minds with applying for paid work, could this cause confusion?

·        Many people will not a CV prepared, it could be very off putting to be asked to produce one from scratch.

·        As CVs are mostly prepared with paid work in mind will it demonstrate experience someone has outside of paid work, will it show the range of skills they have, will it highlight their personal skills?

·        Will a CV explain what their motivation is for getting involved with your organisation?

If you ask people to submit an application form…

·       You can ask the specific questions you want eg. experience of using mental health services.

·       You can tailor the form to draw out “soft” skills.

·       The form can highlight the importance of unpaid work.

·       If people take the time to fill in the form then you know they are interested.

·     A blank form can put people off, some look very formal and run to 2 or 3 pages.

·     If people have limited English or literacy skills may be put off.

People are increasingly ‘time poor’ and want to get started quickly without too many barriers.

Some organisations will complete application forms with the potential volunteers when they meet up. This can really help people who struggle with English and it can help draw out full and relevant details.

In my experience an application form is a more useful method for recruitment and sets out a clear distinction between paid work and volunteering opportunities right at the start. I have plenty of templates that I can share if you’d like to introduce an application form into your process.

Developing customer service skills

Do you ask volunteers to take on a reception role where they will be dealing with people face to face and on the phone?

This is often the first point of contact people have with your organisation so you are giving these volunteers an awful lot of responsibility. Make sure you are also giving them plenty of training and support because if they get it wrong it’s your organisation’s reputation that will be affected and their confidence that can be shaken.

As volunteers take on this role you can:

  • Give them information about the organisation and the work you do. Show them where they can find out more about your area of work.
  • Give them notes about the questions and queries they will be asked to deal with.
  • Ask them to explain what can create a good impression on the phone or face to face.
  • Give them a script to follow when answering the phone.
  • Arrange for them to shadow others before leaving them by themselves.
  • Make sure they know who they can ask for help.

After each session highlight something they’ve done well and draw attention to anything they need to improve.

If you don’t tell them what to improve…they won’t.

Tools for Managing your Volunteers

Having a system for knowing who is volunteering, when they are volunteering and what they have done during their time can be key to running a successful volunteering programme. To start with, a paper based sign in sheet or calendar might be all you need but once you start involving more than 3 or 4 volunteers taking time to organise your systems can really pay off.

Kate White from Super Highways came to our Volunteer Management Forum to discuss some different ideas.

Making best use of Excel

Many of us use Excel in a very simple way but Kate showed us how to make the most of the programme by setting up spreadsheets correctly. This can then help you track people through the recruitment journey, collate volunteering hours and highlight volunteer’s particular skills or interests.

Before investing in a new database it might be worth seeing if you can develop your use of Excel to cover your needs.

Kate runs training to help organisations make the most of Excel and can follow up with one to one support sessions.

Volunteer Management software

There are lots of different programmes that organisations can invest in to organise complex teams of volunteers. Here’s a list of some of them.

Things to think about:

What support is there for the system – most of these programmes are based in the USA and although they can be operated anywhere this may affect the set up of the system and the technical support on offer.

How much will it cost? There is often a set up fee and an annual subscription dependent on the number of volunteers using the system.

Will it do what you need it to do? Some systems are designed for large one off events such as festivals, would this suit your organisation?

Better Impact

Croydon Voluntary Action uses Better Impact to manage our volunteers, as stated there are several different systems so I’m not endorsing this one in particular but it is the system I know…

We paid under £1000 as a set up fee and we pay approx. £250 per year to manage over 140 active volunteers (inactive volunteer’s records can be archived). There’s also an online users forum which helps us make the most of the system.

CVA’s 140 volunteers can be emailed about our internal volunteering opportunities, they can access the calendar online and book themselves in for sessions, only volunteers that have the correct training can book certain sessions, feedback is gathered about the work they have done during that session and reports of who is volunteering and when can be produced…brilliant! It’s helped to develop the independence of our volunteers and means we have have easy access to monitoring figures. I’d be happy for you to come into the office to have a look at how it works – just let me know.