Championing volunteers

A volunteer’s development is the journey, the memory, the actions put in place by their leaders, and championing volunteers is the whole sha-bang. The whole sha-bang, that’ll play a part in a volunteer’s motivation and the future strategies put in place internally.

I’ve seen/heard/spoke to many volunteers who have felt undervalued, resulting in many walking away from their chosen charity and in some situations, turning their back on volunteering full-stop.

It’s not a nice feeling seeing volunteers come and go. I’m sure many of us would love for volunteers to stay, but life teaches us that people want to be treated with respect. People want equal opportunities and this is something I haven’t seen in the sector of late.

Being in regular contact with charities of all sizes, I’ve heard the worry about their internal processes, and how their lack of recruitment is impacting their services, and yes, it’s down to transparency and authenticity; two words regularly spoken about in the blogging world.

If you’re not thinking like a volunteer, acting like a volunteer, you’ve lost their trust. Your volunteers have lost trust in your work, as you’re not putting them at the heart of it. Isn’t this what ‘charity’ is all about?

To deliver services, we need volunteers to support us, but we also need to support them. I’ve seen the second part of this forgotten about for so long. We forget that volunteers want to feel their time has impacted the beneficiaries and also impacting them. Volunteering is a ‘give and get back’ activity, creating a hunger for development for all parties.

I don’t need to say this, but volunteers need to be championed. We all know this, so why is today’s post focusing on the subject? It’s because we’re not thinking in a 2017 mindset. We’re still looking at volunteers as ‘fill the gap’ unpaid workers, and it needs to change.

Volunteer drop-out rates at many charities are caused internally, not externally. Volunteers have commitments elsewhere, and yes, we can’t change that, but we can influence and empower.

Time is a huge factor in volunteering, whether it being for the volunteer themselves or the behind the scenes work in the office, but if you love something, you make the time for it. This is why we need to champion volunteers.

When we champion volunteers, they’ll stay. They’ll stay knowing that their time is valued and whether they can make it or not to their role week in week out, they know you understand.


Inductions for example. How many of us understand inductions are one of the first championing incentives for a volunteer? How many of us ask volunteers to read our policies and procedures before they start? Did you know that this straight away can undervalue a volunteer?

Would you be willing to sit down for a few hours reading countless pages of information that can bore you to sleep? How does a volunteer know what’s next for them, if they have the assumption, it’ll be more paperwork?


Training programmes

Training programmes are one of the most crucial championing incentives going. How many of us create a training programme based upon the role and not the volunteers?

We have to remember everyone is different. Not everyone will respond positively to the same programme, so we focus our attention on person-centred training.

Do we have styles of training complimenting an array of learning needs? Do we even ask volunteers how they prefer to learn? Do we ask them the length of time they’re happy to put into their volunteer education? Are we then contemplating time in our training programmes?

Volunteers learn on the role in many circumstances, and yet many don’t even get to the point of putting their training into action.

We’re not championing volunteers in a way we’re complimenting their wants and needs.


Conferences/Public Speaking

Before I talk about this topic, how many conferences do you see/have been to that have focused around senior managers and their talks talking about their statistical analysis and research to educate the room?

Why aren’t we having volunteers speak up more about their experiences? I’m not on about those already in the limelight of the charity, but those unheard outside of the charity walls. Why aren’t we using personal stories to influence the future of volunteering?


Digital Story-Telling

Digital story-telling is a powerful tool. Whether we have volunteers speaking at events or not, the digital world is a key asset to the sector, but yet again we’re forgetting this.

We’re forgetting that many of our volunteers might be on the social media platforms we use, and yet, do we actually see them sharing their story online? Are we holding back this opportunity as we’re so caught up on policies or are we not championing our volunteers in a way, they want to share their story?


When I started John’s Road to Volunteering 2 ½ years ago, I was unsure whether the digital world would help amplify my story, but it did. It’s amplified in a way, that many voluntary bodies, universities, volunteer managers now use John’s Road to Volunteering to progress their volunteering experiences. They use my story to empower their teams and this shows we can champion volunteers.

We can champion volunteers if we know our volunteers. It’s all well and good throwing £££ into a volunteer awards ceremony, but many volunteers don’t want this kind of recognition.

Many just want to know there’s an opportunity to learn and to make an impact whilst doing so. That’s championing volunteers to me. Not the £££, but the personal understanding.


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