Providing training for your volunteers  – including information about free courses

For almost every volunteer role there is going to be an element of training even if it just explaining how the printer works.

For some roles you will need to provide more extensive training in order for volunteers to be able to complete their tasks. What’s the best way to approach this:

  • Explain your expectations to volunteers so they are not surprised by the amount of training required.
  • Ensure volunteers are making notes or are given explanatory sheets they can refer back to.
  • Enlist your current volunteers as trainers or buddies.
  • Do they need to learn the whole system at once or can it be broken into segments allowing them to get started on something useful fairly quickly? Volunteers that feel they haven’t done anything useful will lose motivation.

Some organisations will be in a position to provide formal training and even qualifications.

There are pro’s and con’s around this:


Great incentive to volunteer with you.

Can help to ensure high standards in the service you provide.

Builds consistency within your service.

Helps to develop the skills and confidence of your volunteers.

Supports your volunteers to reach their potential and move on to new things.


Maybe the only reason people volunteer with you, they might disappear once the training is complete.

Could put some volunteers under pressure.

Could take up your time to provide the required support.

Might cause tension between volunteers that take up the offer and those that don’t.

Warning: Only provide training that supports the volunteer’s role and try not to set out requirements such as “volunteer for 25 hours and you’ll receive £150 worth of training”. Training can be viewed as payment, as such it could take your relationship into uncomfortable territory in terms of avoiding employment contracts.

Having said that, the Volunteer Centre Croydon fully supports offering volunteers appropriate training opportunities. At our recent Volunteer Co-ordinator’s Forum we heard from Jane Innis of the Learning Curve Group. They are providing FREE level 2 training for staff and volunteers on a wide range of topics such as Business and Administration, Understanding Young People’s Mental Health, Understanding Safeguarding and over 25 others. This training is available to anyone aged 19+ and EU resident for at least 3 yrs. Definitely worth checking if it would suit your volunteers.

Contact 07712005769


Trustees are volunteers too! As Trustee’s Week approaches, it’s a good time to think about how we can recruit and support them

Arguably, Trustees have the most important role of all those people giving their time for free to your organisation. Why are they getting involved and are you supporting them to achieve their own goals?
Reasons why someone might volunteer to be a Trustee:
• Opportunity to acquire and develop new skills
• Improvement of CV and raising self-confidence
• Improvement of work-life balance and reduction of stress
• Personal satisfaction and enjoyment
• For people made redundant or taking a career break, it can fill a CV gap and maintain skills and confidence
• Retired or approaching retirement it can be an opportunity to share experience and skills.
• Commitment to a particular charity or cause.

When trying to recruit new Trustees these are the types of motivations you should try to tap into. It’s important to review how your Trustees are able to continue developing their skills or acquire a greater understanding of the services you provide. As with all volunteers, they may not want to get more involved but it’s nice to be asked.

Many people don’t really understand the role or responsibilities of Trustees. How can you make it easier for someone to understand what they might be getting themselves into? A clear idea of the time commitment, the length of service expected and the support that will be given can help take away some of people’s fears.
The Volunteer Centre Croydon regularly promotes Trustee volunteering opportunities via our own website, in order to register a vacancy for free please complete these forms but there are other more specialised websites such as:
NCVO Trusteebank
Trustee Net
Trustee Works
Getting on Board

Any other examples of how to recruit Trustees that you can share?
Click here for more information about Trustee’s Week

How about Insurance for Volunteer Drivers?

Whether it’s taking older people to and from the Day Centre, driving people to their hospital appointment or helping distribute leaflets and posters volunteer drivers contribute a great deal to our organisations.

Here are some key points about how to manage and support your volunteer drivers:

  • Volunteers should inform their insurance providers about their volunteering activities, however, this should not result in an increase in their premium.  The Association of British Insurers has produced information about the conditions insurance companies have in connection to volunteer drivers.

  • The HM Revenue and Customs approved expenses mileage rate for volunteer drivers is 45p per mile plus 5p per passenger per mile. For example, someone carrying four passengers can claim 65p per mile. Organisations do not have to offer this rate but they should not offer more as it could be seen as a payment. The mileage rate that can be claimed should be consistent for all volunteers and should be agreed beforehand, it’s best to have this as part of a written policy.
  • Organisations need to decide how they will ensure that drivers and vehicles are as safe as they should be. Copies of driving licences, MOTs, Insurance certificates etc can be asked for but remember to explain why this is needed – not just to be difficult but to ensure everyone’s safety.

Community Transport Association regarding Minibuses.

Encouraging staff to support volunteer involvement

How we can support staff that may not be very confident about the how’s or why’s of volunteer involvement. Below will address some of the issues and offer some solutions 

Difficulties can arise when staff are not as supportive of volunteers as they could be:

  • Misunderstanding of the volunteers roles/tasks
  • Worry about the time needed to recruit volunteers
  • Worry about the time to show them how to do something – ‘it’s quicker if I do it myself’
  • Staff ownership of job/task – hard to let anyone else in
  • Not including volunteers in meetings, training, communications etc
  • Not regarding them as equals
  • Rigid about how volunteers will be involved
  • Unrealistic expectations/demands
  • Being unhelpful about practical arrangements
  • Not preparing for volunteers to come in
  • Putting up resistance, pro-castigating about getting volunteers involved

Why might staff act like this:

  • Suspicious of motivation, why would someone do this for free?
  • No experience of volunteering
  • Poor experience of volunteer involvement where bad management has led to difficulties
  • Lack of knowledge about what volunteering is and is not
  • Worried about job replacement
  • Not clear about why the organisation makes an effort to involve volunteers
  • Not clear about the added benefits volunteers bring

What can you put in place to encourage staff to support volunteers?

  • Enable staff and volunteers to meet informally, invite staff to volunteer meetings, lunches etc
  • Clear statement about why volunteers are involved that is shared with staff regularly
  • Regular discussions at staff meetings about your volunteers, the value they are adding and any development ideas
  • Have a system for sharing feedback from service users about how volunteers have made a difference
  • Put support for volunteers in staff contracts or Job Descriptions
  • Provide an opportunity for staff to talk specifically about their support of volunteer involvement during staff appraisals
  • Clear volunteer role descriptions that are shared with staff
  • Budget allocated for volunteer costs
  • Include information about volunteer involvement in staff induction materials
  • Share success stories, volunteer awards and achievements
  • Share good practice between projects
  • Share information such as hours done, meetings held, money raised
  • Build confidence in the volunteer management processes, explain how the process works

Which of these ideas could be developed in your organisation?

A good resource to help you plan how to share the positive message of volunteering within your own organisation is the Influencing Up Volunteer England document

Should you friend your befriendee on Facebook?

The expanded use of social networking produces a unique challenge for Volunteer Managers, particularly for mentors and befrienders projects. Many people today use social networking as one of their primary methods of communication and it can be a wonderful way of keeping the lines of communication open. However, social networking can also blur boundaries and this can be confusing to service users if they are given insight into the lives of volunteers in ways that might not be recommended. It can lead to a shift in how that volunteer is perceived by that service user which can change their understanding of the volunteers’ appropriate role in their life. It is nearly impossible to stop the exchange of personal details about oneself in a social networking arena.

Volunteers should consider their role when making the decision to connect with service users through social networking, particularly in mentoring or befriending relationships. Despite mentors and mentees entering into their relationship on equal terms, there is still a power dynamic because the mentor is put into a position of responsibility.

As volunteer manager’s you need to be clear about what the organisations policy is and what the pitfalls of creating social media relationships might be. This should be carried out during induction and training and followed up throughout the volunteering placement.


  • Some people utilize social networking more than they use email. It may be easier to communicate if you are connected through social media.
  • Mentees may feel closer to their mentors if they are connected to them through social media.
  • Social media provides an opportunity to share information quickly through the use of status statements and messages.
  • Social media connections are part of normal adult relationships, to impose a bar on them draws attention to a superficiality in relationships.


  • Social networking can blur boundaries.
  • Service users who are “friends” with volunteers may see information, language or pictures that are not appropriate for them to see because of the nature of their relationship.
  • Mentors may see things on their mentee’s profile that are questionable in nature. Questions arise regarding what needs to be reported to the program. Reporting on these things may cause the mentee to lose trust in the mentor.
  • Service users may have difficulties maintaining healthy relationships and it’s hard to control social media connections once they have been made.

As so often before there’s not a clear right or wrong. It depends on your project, your clients group’s needs and your organisations assessment of the risks. But this is an important topic and if it’s not addressed social media connections will be made without any input or support from the organisation.

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.