Flik, Volunteering Manager at WCVA reflects on insights from volunteering leads across Wales on the topic of volunteer recruitment, specifically welcoming new volunteers.
In this blog I’ll be focusing on the fundamentals of welcoming volunteers post pandemic.
Through reflections with voluntary sector colleagues across Wales, we have learnt that:
- People who have been volunteering during the pandemic have been experiencing burnout
- The rise in digital volunteering has made volunteering more accessible for some and less accessible for others
- Volunteering has provided people with a sense of wellbeing and connection
- That we can do things differently (and hopefully better)
- That informal and more flexible approaches are attractive to people that want to volunteer
This rapid period of learning has been valuable and can help us think about how we re-engage with our existing volunteers and welcome new ones to join our organisations.
As part of our summer 2022 meeting of volunteering leads across Wales (the Volunteering Wales Network), most reported finding volunteer recruitment difficult some or all of the time.
Through a quick poll, we learnt that there was a huge variation in how recently induction packs had been reviewed and when colleagues had last tried out a new method of recruitment. Over half of colleagues were responding to volunteer enquiries after a couple of weeks or longer and many colleagues reported feeling that they gave ‘too much information’ during their induction process (53%).
SO, HOW CAN WE BEST PREPARE AND WELCOME VOLUNTEERS?
Whilst we are seeing some key shifts in trends around volunteering in Wales, such as interest in more flexible forms of volunteering, we know there are some fundamentals in welcoming volunteers which are worth keeping in mind.
‘TIME IS A COMMODITY’
People that volunteer value their time, and since the COVID pandemic, many are finding that their time is even more precious than ever. With this in mind, organisations reflected on the importance of making sure people that volunteer feel that their time is ‘time well spent’. (Time Well Spent is an NCVO research programme which focuses on the volunteer experience)
For one organisation this meant making sure the motivation to volunteer was well understood, so that the volunteering opportunity could be appropriately tailored to their aspirations. Whether that be volunteering in a way which enables an individual to gain valuable experience for future work, or ensuring the volunteering allows enough social interaction for someone looking to build their connections.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT
Our volunteering practitioners and partners across Wales can all draw upon stories of a negative volunteering experience, such as a time an individual offered their time to volunteer, but they were never contacted, or a volunteer that didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing (sometimes for their first session, sometimes for their entire volunteering experience!)
Colleagues discussed the importance of getting that first step on the volunteering journey right – whether it’s the first email they send to your organisation, the first time they speak to someone on the phone or the first time they arrive (virtually or in person) to do a volunteer task. Organisations are encouraged to think about how they can ensure that the first interaction is a positive one.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
From the first encounter, to all encounters, communicating well with current and prospective volunteers helps to build positive relationships and ensures volunteers are clear on what is expected of them (helpful for them and helpful for you!).
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
As mentioned previously, the COVID pandemic brought new people into volunteering and has enabled many organisations to change the way they do things, whether that has been by developing online volunteering opportunities, enabling volunteers to be active from home or widening the types of things that volunteers can do.
This provides a great opportunity for volunteer involving organisations to continue to broaden their volunteering offer for volunteers, making it more inclusive and accessible, whilst hopefully, also enabling organisations to deliver better services and do better work.
WHAT ELSE CAN WE TRY?
Having focused on the fundamentals doesn’t mean it’s not time to try something different, several of the organisations joining the network meeting said they were trying a different recruitment or welcoming method. For some, that meant trying out taster sessions for new volunteers, for others, it meant a digital recruitment tool.
If you find something new that works, please let us know and we will help you find a way to share your expertise.
BRINGING IN NEW PEOPLE
This is all well and good you say, once you have found people to volunteer, but what about getting new people to volunteer? I’ll be chatting to colleagues over the next few months to find out what they are doing to get new people into volunteering and sharing my findings in a future blog.
For more guidance and information on volunteering recruitment please visit the TSSW (Third Sector Support Wales) Knowledge Hub.
Welcoming and recruiting volunteers is a quality indicator of the Investing in Volunteers standards, to better understand what good quality in this area looks like please check our quality area four.
If you are a national volunteering involving organisation and would like to join our national network for organisations operating in Wales, please get in touch with the Volunteering team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep in mind that one of the key platforms promoted across Wales for volunteering opportunities is the Volunteering Wales website, so this is one place worth promoting your opportunities.
There have recently been some great new developments to support organisations to actively recruit Welsh speakers and learners – so if this is a skill your organisation needs or would like to see more of, make sure you add one of the new Cymraeg badges!