Adopt and adapt: The key to unlocking your volunteer service's potential

12th July 2023

Volunteer and VSM - Bradford

Volunteer services in the health and care sector, play a vital role in supporting community and social care. As the health and care system comes under ever increasing pressure particularly as we head into the winter months, involving volunteers in new and innovative ways can help ease some of that pressure.

One such approach is the 'adopt and adapt' model from Helpforce. By adopting a structured, methodical approach to incorporating volunteer services into the system, organisations can enhance their contribution to staff, patients, and service users.

We recently hosted an in-depth webinar on how health and care organisations can use the adopt and adapt process. You can watch the playback here!

Understanding the adopt and adapt framework

The adopt and adapt approach is built around four key pillars:

1. Agree the project scope
2. Effective stakeholder engagement
3. Think big, start small
4. Outcome-focused modelling

1. Agree the project scope

It can be easy to race ahead when setting up a volunteer service. But if you go too fast without planning, your volunteer service can fail before it’s even begun. An essential part of the adopt and adapt approach is having a clearly defined project scope. This scope outlines the parameters of the project, what it involves, and what it does not. A well-defined scope ensures everyone involved understands their roles, responsibilities, and the project's overall goals.

2. Effective stakeholder engagement

Anyone who’s set up a new volunteer service knows how important it is to get support from peers and backing from senior management. Stakeholder engagement is crucial in the adopt and adapt model. This involves identifying and understanding who your stakeholders are, what their interests and expectations might be, and how to engage them effectively. Different people have different ideas on how a volunteer service should work. By getting the right people involved in the planning process, you automatically give your volunteer service the best chance of success! Stakeholder engagement is a journey that requires patience and understanding, and it might take time for some people to see the value of the project, but it is worth the effort.

3. Think big, start small

Big ideas are essential and to be encouraged! You need to think big for any volunteer service to be a success. But you also need to be practical and realistic about what you can achieve with the resources you have. The adopt and adapt approach encourages big thinking but also recognises the value of starting small. This allows organisations to test and refine their processes, learn from stakeholder feedback, and make necessary adjustments before scaling up.

4. Outcome-Focused Modelling

Having the right data from the get-go will help you build a lasting volunteer service that makes a positive impact for staff and service users. The adopt and adapt model is outcome focused. This means you will understand what you need to measure and how to capture this data from the outset. Not only does this allow for more robust evaluation and a better understanding of the project's impact, but it can also help you convince sceptical stakeholders.

Case Study: How the adopt and adapt blended approach supported The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust

Rachel Higgins is the Volunteer to Career project manager at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. Here she talks about what the adopt and adapt process has been like for them.

“The adopt and adapt approach helped me think about volunteer services in a different way. The training and supporting material are created with the health and care setting in mind, so I already knew Helpforce would understand the challenges of what I was facing before we began.

“I am a Prince 2 project planning practitioner, and I can say that the Helpforce adopt and adapt blended approach helped me more than anything I’ve done with Prince 2. Our volunteer project wouldn’t have kept on track if we hadn’t used the blended approach. Firstly, the Helpforce digital learning platform is so user friendly and engaging. I am not a very technically minded person, but this was extremely dynamic and easy to use. Video quizzes, click cards, top tips, service guides, standout boxes, real life scenarios, progress trackers, time notes… I loved that everything was bite-sized and easy to digest. It reduced the risks of setting up a new volunteer service at the hospital and helped me convince stakeholders that it would work. The dashboard was also easy to use, and I was just extremely impressed with everything!

“Finally, I cannot highlight enough how incredible Mark and Beth were from the Helpforce team. Their one-to-one support was brilliant, and nothing ever seemed too much for them. They came back to us on every question we had and helped guide us on adjusting and tweaking our plan. We even had a Teams channel to chat and stay in touch quickly.”

Rachel Higgins,
Volunteer to Career Lead,
The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust

The benefits of using the adopt and adapt blended approach at your organisation

We can identify many of the pressure points health and care organisations often face. For example, the most recent data we gathered shows that the following volunteer services are in high demand:

  • Response volunteers
  • Patient discharge volunteers
  • Volunteer to Career volunteers
  • Emergency Department volunteers (ED)
  • Mealtime companion and support volunteers

Adopt and adapt supports health and care organisations using the latest data, and we have proven models for each service we help set up and support. Many of the services, like Volunteer to Career, also supporting recruitment into health and care organisations and helping to identify skills gaps. All these volunteer roles can be scaled and shift organisational misconceptions around volunteering

And finally, we understand that volunteers are not there to replace skilled staff, but the adopt and adapt blended approach shows that a well-designed volunteer service provides invaluable support to staff, and service users across health and care organisations.

Benefits of signing up for the Helpforce adopt and adapt blended approach

Signing up comes with a host of benefits:

1. Access to comprehensive one-to-one training from dedicated programme managers and support, online courses, and access to proven volunteer service guides

2. Receive material, training, and support that is tailored to your organisation's specific needs

3. Receive regular support from the Helpforce team of experienced programme managers, committed to helping you succeed

Adopting and adapting in your organisation

The Adopt and Adapt approach offers a structured, methodical way to enhance your volunteer services. Whether you are looking to fill workforce gaps, scale up your volunteer roles, or demonstrate the impact of your volunteer services, this approach gives you the support and evidence you need to set up and scale your volunteer services.

How can I sign up for adopt and adapt?

To sign up to adopt and adapt, you will first need to complete a self-assessment tool. This 5-minute online tool helps identify your skills and areas for improvement, allowing us to tailor support to your needs.

Remember, places are limited to ensure each participant receives the best support possible.

Incorporating the adopt and adapt approach into your health and care organisation can unlock the potential of your volunteer service, enhancing its contribution to community care and social care. By clearly defining your project scope, engaging stakeholders, starting small, and focusing on outcomes, you can drive your volunteer service forward and achieve your goals.

If you would like to have a chat with us to learn more about support, please drop us an email at