Summary of focused discussion Group - 7 February 2024

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Created by Debbie Ambrose
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27 February 2024 at 8:54am

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Focused discussion: Effective support for your volunteers

7 February 2024

Keeping in contact with your volunteers

Keeping in contact with volunteers, particularly young volunteers, and ensuring that they are reliable and turn up to do their shift is a constant struggle for many volunteer services. Young volunteers are also more likely to be on shift at the weekend, making it more difficult to keep the communication flowing.

Here are some top tips from our guests around keeping in contact

  • Have a named contact for each shift.
  • Put them in pairs so that they can work together and support each other.
  • Regularly email the volunteers to get feedback on how their shift was, encouraging them to be open about any issues. Being continuously open with them will also alert you to any changes in their circumstances.
  • By keeping the conversations flowing with your young volunteers, you will know in advance if a student is going home during any holidays and therefore not available for some shifts.
  • Make your volunteers aware of any chaplains that may be available if they wish to chat to someone.
  • As a safeguarding measure, if a young volunteer does not turn up for a shift after 30 minutes the parents/carers or young person will be called.

Social and Face-to-Face interactions

Many of you have coffee and catch-up sessions with groups of volunteers. Encouraging volunteers to come along can often be a challenge.

One organisation found that during their chat sessions the conversation could be somewhat negative. They saw this as an opportunity and made sure that their Engagement Team is now in regular contact with the volunteers, and they now have a chosen topic that will be beneficial and ‘kick off’ the conversation.

More top tips and ideas from our guests

  • Try different times of the day.
  • Instead of once a month try every 6 weeks.
  • Send out a poll. Include several suggested dates and times allowing you to choose the most popular. There are various ways to set up a poll free of charge and include Microsoft Forms and Doodle Poll.
  • To increase ownership and encourage your volunteers to attend events ask them to suggest or organise an activity.
  • Weather permitting, try outdoor activities like walks or picnics.
  • Have regular one-to-one catch-up sessions or reviews and if they wish to get them to take part in a well-being assessment.
  • Always get feedback from them about the activity and the venue.

Keeping your volunteers feeling that they are important part of the team

  • Make sure that when taking on volunteers it is a two-way relationship and that both parties get what they want out of the volunteering.
  • If they are looking for work, help them to find free training that will not only assist them while volunteering but help them achieve their long-term goals.
  • Include your volunteers in staff welfare initiatives. For example, make them aware that they can apply for the Blue Light Card.
  • Include volunteers in staff induction days.
  • ‘Lunch and Learn’ session with staff and volunteers.
  • With one-to-one sessions, some volunteers will prefer them more regularly than others. The key is to be as flexible as possible with your volunteers as they all have different needs.
  • One organisation uses reflective practice which is offered to volunteers who have been in a placement for about four weeks, giving them the opportunity to meet a volunteer who has a therapy background to make sure that they are happy with their role.
  • Do exit sessions with volunteers who are leaving, allowing them to feedback on their volunteer experience. This will give you vital information about making future improvements to your service.

Supporting staff who support volunteers

There is not always the time to give staff individual support and guidance. However, one organisation has just finished writing a ‘How To’ guide. This is yet to be rolled out, but no doubt will be very useful. Other organisations have ‘CAN AND CAN’T DO’ lists to stop volunteers getting involved with regulated activities.

Retaining the boundaries of confidentiality during a Teams meeting

This great question was asked by one of our guests. Some check-in and chats are done by video link, and someone may raise a concern that they would prefer not to be discussed outside of the group. No-one in the group had seen this as an issue yet but could see where there would be concerns.

Confidentiality is usually covered within a volunteer’s initial training so there should be an understanding that anything like this would not go outside of the group.

Useful Links

Find more reports of previous discussion groups by topic in the Forum Library.

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06 March 2024 at 9:11am

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Thanks Debbie, great content :)

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