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Volunteers - not just for Christmas!

The festive season is nearly here and with it, that warm fuzzy glow of goodwill that encourages us all to make sure our friends and neighbours are experiencing a little joy at Christmas time.  To make the most of harnessing people’s good will, we’ve put together our top tips on attracting volunteers over the holiday season as well as how to keep them after the holly and ivy have been put away for another year.

Making applications easy

Of course, there are some roles that may need a more detailed application process than others but there are ways that you can make this easier on the volunteers.  Imagine offering your free time to an organisation only to be sent a 15-page application pack through the post when you could apply for paid work with just a CV.  Having a shorter application form (ideally 1-2 pages) is one way to make the process more straight forward for the volunteers.  If you require more details, then perhaps that could be completed when they come for an interview so that they’ve had a chance to meet you and find out more about your organisation first.  The application process won’t seem as difficult if it’s broken down into sections or they have support to complete it.

Keep in touch

Once volunteers have completed all the forms it’s vital to keep in touch.  It’s important that you let volunteers know that you’ve received their application and that you do want to take them on.  Ideally try to make contact within a week and make the process as smooth and quick as possible to show the volunteer that you value them.  If you’re waiting for a DBS or the next training course it doesn’t have to be a problem, just keep in touch with them along the way to let them know that you haven’t forgotten about them.  If you don’t they may think that your organisation is disorganised or that you’ve forgotten about them.  Let’s not forget as well, that they might have enquired with other organisations and if you don’t get back to them quickly enough it may be too late.

Get off to a good start

Starting a new volunteer role can be very daunting.  With new people to meet, a new place to get to know and a lot of new skills to learn it is a lot to take on and can be much harder if you don’t have the support at the start.  Volunteers give their time freely so there’s no contract in place to make them stay, that is up to us.  Give them a proper induction with other volunteers so that they can build relationships and don’t forget to introduce them to the whole team.  Provide training and answer any questions to help them feel more involved and don’t forget to show them where simple things, like the kettle, are.

Recognise volunteers as important members of the team

For most of our organisations we wouldn’t be able to continue what we do without our volunteers, so it’s essential that we let them know this and recognise the difference that they and their dedication to the organisation make.  Simple gestures such as a thank you, birthday card or just keeping in touch can make a significant difference to making them feel valued.

Recognise (and use!) their strengths

There’s a huge amount of untapped potential in the voluntary sector and it’s use it or lose it!  Just because volunteers aren’t paid doesn’t mean that they aren’t skilled, knowledgeable or talented people.  Have a chat with your volunteers and find out their skills and interests.  Is your volunteer an artist or perhaps they are bilingual?  Could they help in other ways other than their designated role? Not only could this be a huge benefit for your organisation, but volunteers will feel valued and more included if they’re able to use their talents.

Listen to them

Volunteers will be the ones to give you feedback so that you can improve your volunteering offer.  Making sure that volunteers have a person to come to with problems and having a volunteer supervision policy in place will help them to raise any issues with you so that they can be addressed.  Make sure your volunteer feels comfortable/confident enough to talk to someone, so they don’t leave you without you knowing why.  If volunteers do leave make sure that you get feedback; it could be a short exit interview, survey or even an email asking for feedback.

 

Keeping your volunteers engaged and motivated isn’t always easy but it is worth it.  With increased competition for attracting volunteers it’s more important than ever to keep the ones we’ve got.  Don’t forget that Volunteer Centre Bexley are always happy to give advice or support with your volunteer programme, just get in touch.  

email us at bexleyvc@bvsc.co.uk or phone 01322 524 682

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