I made a leap of faith from the private sector to the third sector just over 9 months ago. I wanted my 40 hours a week to actually have an impact in real terms….not profit….but people. So I came to work for wHoo Cares, a small organisation with big dreams. With a team of only 3 staff and 30 volunteers, our aim is to tackle social isolation and support vulnerable adults in a rural area of Medway. Previously I worked for a facilities management company that employed over 300 staff and although I managed staff I had a wonderful HR department that I could turn to for support. We butted heads a few times but at the end of the day they had the knowledge and experience to make the right decisions and it was their call. The buck stopped with them…. read more
I have worked in the third sector for over a decade - and yet I’ve only worked alongside ex-offender volunteers a handful of times. It wasn’t until Medway Volunteer Network started to speak to so many organisations that support ex-offenders, and those who welcome them as volunteers, that I really began to question, why? read more
Volunteers can be hard to come by, once you’ve attracted your ideal candidate and followed all of your organisations processes and training you’ve invested a lot of time and potentially money in recruiting the volunteer of your dreams.
The next challenge you’ll face is retaining that super star and one of the simplest ways to do that is to thank them! Recognition may not be the reason that they’re volunteering but it’s just one way to keep them doing just that.
There’s more than one way to thank them here are a few ideas we use successfully at Medway Voluntary Action ….
Support and supervision
While we mustn’t treat volunteers as paid staff it’s still good practice to regularly discuss their progress and thank them for their time.
The amount of time and resources you use to support a volunteer will be dependent on their role in your organisation however you should set aside some time to meet with your volunteers to help them understand their importance to your organisation.
You can use this opportunity to recognise the work they have done and thank them for it, you could also use this as an opportunity to discuss their future allowing you to plan ahead and anticipate any changes in their availability. Regular meetings will also give you the opportunity to ‘check in’ and support your volunteers.
Investing in volunteers’ personal development can be a way of acknowledging their importance to your organisation. Upskilling your volunteers will also have obvious benefits to your organisation in increasing the skills available to you. You may not have a huge budget for training; however you may have some staff or other volunteers who could share their skills in a workshop or look for online or e-learning course’s there are a number of discounted training course available for voluntary organisations in Medway (for more information visit North Kent Training Service .)
Volunteer engagement events
If you have a lot of volunteers who spend their time away from your office or base (for example a befriending volunteer or mentor) they may not spend a lot of time with other volunteers and could be missing out on some peer support and some of the more social aspects of volunteering in a team.
Inviting them all in for a coffee and some cake to thank them also can give you the opportunity to tell them a bit more about the organisation they volunteer for and give them the chance to share their experience with their peers.
Some volunteers may think that time and money spent on thanking them could be better spent elsewhere in the charity. Being transparent about cost and explaining the value of a volunteer vs the amount spent on recruiting new volunteers may be enough to change their opinion but if they would rather not be thanked its important to respect that and find alternative ways to keep them engaged.
Receiving regular communication either in the post or via email that is tailored towards volunteers can be enough to show a volunteer that they are being thought of and valued. Adding a heartfelt thank you at the end from different team members will show your appreciation. You could also expand on this and send thank you cards in recognition of milestones such as 6 moths and a year of volunteering. Acknowledging these milestones lets your volunteers know that they’re making an impact on your organisation and encourages commitment.
You could set up an award which staff and volunteers can nominate and vote for other volunteers or they could be awarded at milestones such as a year or 5 years volunteering with your organisations. If your organisation is small or only has a small number of volunteers an awards event might not be feasible however you could nominate your volunteers to receive existing awards such as Medway Voluntary Actions, Barry Clout Award or The Pride In Medway Award for Volunteering.
As a relatively new volunteer, I was interested to listen to the NCVO podcast that discusses the trends in volunteering numbers and how to retain people. It seems that 75% of people move in and out of volunteering, and the focus should be on retaining them, as well as trying to attract new volunteers. The podcast resonated with me, so I was keen to share my own experiences as a volunteer and why I intend to stay one for a while yet. read more