Recruiting New Volunteers

The first few weeks after volunteers have been recruited are the most crucial; this is when an organisation makes a lasting impression on the volunteer.

I’ve had good and bad experiences myself when I’ve been recruited as a volunteer that reflected on the amount of time I have spent with them as a volunteer. Luckily, when I was first recruited it was a good experience that meant I didn’t get put off volunteering. In fact it was very much the opposite I became enthralled by it and couldn’t believe I had found something I was so interested in, as I didn’t know what career path to take. I ended up staying with that organisation until this very day and have nothing but positive words to say. On the other hand, something I don’t like talking about that much is the negative experience I had in volunteering. In my opinion this was down to the lack of interest in my skills and more interested in just getting any volunteer in. I also had no support, which was surprising giving the amount of support they give to service user, I could feel myself becoming less and less motivated and, yep, left.

Work ethic of new volunteers starts high and this energy and enthusiasm needs to be maintained if volunteers are going to have any real impact. When anybody starts a new job they feel they are going to change the world, after a few weeks or months this flame soon dies down, but what is interesting is how some people keep this flame burning high and do it for free. I believe it’s a mixture of things that keep volunteers with that energy they had when they first came in, from good management and allowing them to express themselves on a daily basis. making sure you recruit the right person is of course very important, if volunteers have some skills that they can teach the rest of team and the team are genuinely interested, then who wouldn’t love that feeling and want to stay – everybody loves teaching other people about what they are passionate about and good at.

We have just recruited a new volunteer in our marketing department who has injected some energy and creativity in that side of our work.  Alex, our new marketing volunteer has fantastic marketing skills, coupled with a bright personality and who is someone eager to learn, the Voluntary and community sector is lucky to have someone like him. The most important thing in the relationship we have with our volunteers is that it is beneficial to both of us so , for example, Alex can gain skills and experience in an environment where he can develop, whilst VAH can benefit from his skills he has and the work he is producing – and its also good for team morale – gives everyone a bit of a kick up the backside when someone new comes in to show off their skills to the volunteer, which also says to them: you can learn here; and we can learn from you.

Recruiting volunteers is different from recruiting employees because employees get paid and will continue to show up even if they are not motivated by the work. I have had paid jobs in the past where even though I have been working with volunteers, I just didn’t like the system, I felt volunteers are being used rather than being a mutual partnership. In this case, the organisation will want them to stay, of course they do, work is getting done, but how does the  volunteer feel when they come in and are giving roles that doesn’t match their skills and ambition along with know one talks to them, which is a great way to give indirect support. They are soon going to get de-motivated, and come in less and less that leaves more work to do in recruiting and training again for the organisation. A paid employee will stay because they are getting paid. Volunteers need to be treated with respect and recruiters need to think about how they can motivate them to stick around as their potential will soon be seen by another organisation.

There are many different ways to recruit volunteers now due to the ever increasing use of social media in the workplace. We recruited our volunteer through Gumtree, a new, popular source of recruiting volunteers, which we have had a huge amount of success from. Harrow doesn’t have a full-time volunteer centre at this moment, but one day per week which has been managed by Volunteer Centre Hillingdon. People are now turning to online resources to find placements; organisations are now using Facebook and Twitter to advertise, a free simple way to recruit volunteers. There are also still more traditional places to recruit volunteers like Do-it but we need to be more original when advertising these days. One idea for organisations is to speak to local estate agents and ask them to put an advertisement in newsletters they give to people who are just moving into the borough and who may want to do get involved in the community and meet some new people.

Everyone is different, we all have different skills and interests and it doesn’t matter what age we recruit volunteers we all have expertise, its just hard for organisations trying to target and utilise them effectively. It doesn’t matter what age someone is, if they have some skills we need to let them show it off. As social media is becoming so popular in the workplace these days we need to exploit this and learn from the people who know about this, such as the younger generation. Life’s hard for young people aged between 16-24 when there are no jobs out there, but they have skills that can be put to good use that they can also benefit from. If someone has skills, let them express themselves and listen to their ideas, it also adds a great motivating factor to the rest of the team that also gives the volunteer a great impression that they are volunteering for a vibrant, committed organisation.

Robert Range

robertrange@voluntaryactionharrow.org.uk

Young Trustees!

It’s not all about age

Speaking to Alex Swallow, founder of Young Charity Trustees at our October Harrow Trustee Network brought home to me just how important it is to get young people to join groups as trustees. I meet groups all the time who say to me “we really need more young people like you” (great for my ego, being over 35), I really must start asking them “why?”.

“We’re all getting older” they say and it feels like often that’s the only reason they want younger people. I’ve rarely heard someone say “we need someone with skills that can help us reach out to get young people as members…. involved in our campaigns….to help us with social media”.

I became a trustee at 23 years old because I wanted management experience and I was interested in green stuff. The person who approached me said by being a trustee I could help manage an environmental watchdog. My point is that when you’re young you’re making choices that are shaping your views, your ambitions and want to be part of something worthwhile, something that can make a difference to you and maybe others too.

Young people can offer a lot as trustees. Enthusiasm, an alternative perspective on campaigns and service delivery, increase networking opportunities, harnessing technology for example. The Charity Commission wants to encourage charities to think seriously about the benefits of involving young people and says “it’s best to focus on young people’s skills and experience, rather than assuming that they “represent” their peers. It is too easy to fall into a tokenistic approach to diversity”

So, maybe it’s time to rethink your recruitment strategy for trustees. A survey carried out by Charities Aid Foundation in advance of Trustees Week shows a third of young adults would consider a trustee role. 

And don’t forget! Like all trustees they’ll need support when joining your board and if you want to retain them. So, once you have them give them an induction, invest in some trustee training, pair them for peer support with another trustee and ask them regularly if they are ok and ….and offer to pay their travel expenses.

Sarah Kersey

sarahkersey@voluntaryactionharrow.org.uk

 

This is the Web!

Social Media

Like, Follow, Stumble…Grow?

Social Media is great! It allows us to communicate with friends and family, connects us with new people, and build upon existing relationships. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is peel our eyes away from our smartphones, laptops and tablets. Leaving us like technologically absorbed walking zombies.

Whilst Facebook and Twitter seem to have swept the world by storm, it is concerning to see that small charities and not-for-profit organisations in Harrow, are not taking part in this great resource.

Social Media allows deeper engagement with friends, fans and community, allowing a fully networked sharing experience. For example Twitter can be used as a great way to showcase upcoming events, converse on similar interests or related topics and is perfect to communicate a message to the Twittersphere. Facebook, on the other-hand, is perfect to initiate group conversations and physically show what you do through pictures.

There are so many social media channels out there social networks, blogging platforms, online forums and many more. It is vital for Nonprofits to become socially active and communicate.

The Community & Voluntary Sector can no longer hide away, charities and not-for-profits must have a social presence and GROW!

Alex Buckmire

alexbuckmire@voluntaryactionharrow.org.uk

Trusteeship Responsibilities

“With great power comes great responsibility” even in a small community group

In the last year there has been so much debate in the national voluntary sector journals and blogs about the Charities Act Review, payment of trustees, fines for late submission of accounts to the Charity Commission, regulation of fundraising and trustee development and support.

It’s obvious the spotlight is upon the sector as the country is strapped for cash and funders are keen to know that money is going to be put to good use in well governed organisations. Trustee are regularly being encouraged by umbrella bodies to recognise the importance of impact assessment, social investment and evidencing need in their organisations.

It’s interesting reading the Charity Commission’s report Charities Back on Track 2011-12 but  the findings are not a big surprise if you’re involved in supporting organisations. Over half of the investigations completed by the Charity Commission in 2011-12 involved concerns about poor governance or poor trusteeship, including concerns about breaches of governing document, unmanaged conflicts of interest, and concerns about fundraising governance.

Now, you may think this doesn’t apply to your group. But ask yourself these questions. Has everyone on the committee read the constitution? How did the people on the board get recruited? How do you know all the money from your quiz night fundraiser was banked? Sometimes we just assume everything is working well but as a trustee we have a duty as an individual and collectively to ensure the checks and balances are there.

For some this might feel like an extra burden upon the trustees. But maybe these trustees need to be reminded that the Charity Commission says it is their responsibility to ensure their group “is solvent, well-run, and delivering the charitable outcomes for the benefit of the public for which it has been set up”.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom because there are rewards for getting it right including more success with funding, increased recognition for the benefit to the community, time saved and services delivered by attracting efficient and experienced volunteers. And there is support locally, on the web and many, many great examples of groups of all sizes both locally and nationally who can inspire good practice and will want to tell you about it.

Sarah Kersey 

sarahkersey@voluntaryactionharrow.org.uk