Yup – all too common sadly

Despite the many thousands of pounds given over the last few years to volunteering lead bodies, there has been a resounding failure in raising the profile and status of volunteer managers in organisations.

This is seen clearly by comparing salaries, and also by looking at how in these austere times almost all investment being made is in fund raising with no thought as to how organisations can best utilise those funds if there is no one leading and implementing the organisations strategy with regards to volunteering.

Even in those organisations where the most senior person with direct responsibility for volunteers works to the CEO, AVM has had feedback that those people are salaried at up to 25% LESS than colleagues on the same level within the organisation.

AVM receives no funding, other than membership fees (which average at £25 per year per member), we have no staff and our board operate as volunteers, within our own time – sometimes with support from our employing organisations. We have had some successes – for example the statement recently released by Skills Third Sector about the values of the skills of volunteer managers, and the agreement that those undertaking the new apprenticeship in managing volunteers will need to be mentored by an experienced manager of volunteers.

With more members our voice is more powerful so think about adding your voice in our continued attempt to campaign and speak out on key issues affecting people who manage volunteers. https://volunteermanagers.org.uk/

It is key to speak out now, there is a new £30 million fund just released and we need to make sure it is invested in ways which enhance the work that we do and ensure that we and our colleagues are properly supported and rewarded for the work that we do.

I wonder if anyone has done any work around

I wonder if anyone has done any work around looking at providing wear and tear expenses to volunteers using their own equipment to carry out their volunteer role?

Obviously any mileage expenses paid out to volunteers using their own cars cover wear and tear on a car but has anyone provided wear and tear expenses on personal equipment such as cameras? Volunteers personal belongings are not covered by our insurance and we are wondering whether we should be providing some kind of wear and tear expenses on expensive equipment being used. Have any of you got any policies around this issue or can advise in any way?

My gut reaction is that the wear and tear on a camera (for example) would be extremely difficult to calculate as they are designed to work for many years. If the wear and tear policy was designed to protect the volunteers’ possessions against them becoming unusable through the volunteering (eg damaged), then it would probably be cheaper/ easier to buy an insurance policy to cover that. Anyway, there are many websites ready to offer cash loans online in UK like this new one, which has become my favorite.

The principals for refunding the expense would presumably be the same as those that apply to refunding car expenses, so I can’t see a reason why true wear and tear couldn’t be refunded, and given that it could be measured/estimated reasonably then I think it would be a nice offer to make if the volunteer is really experiencing a devaluation in their equipment through their volunteering. I’ve never heard of it being done though.


Temporary/Consultancy Opportunity- Volunteer Strategy Manager

Hello All, NCT has a temporary or consultancy opportunity within it’s Operations Directorate for a Volunteering Strategy Manager. Having recently gone through a period of organisational change, NCT will be looking to recruit a permanent Volunteer Manager in the near future but would initially like someone to be involved on an interim basis (approx 3 months tbc) to oversee some current operational needs while identifying and implementing the procedures, tools and support that NCT’s volunteers need on a strategic level in order support us to meet NCT’s 2020 strategy.

The role would be circa £35000 (tbc) Pro-rata. If you are a consultant please let us know your expectations. NCT is based in London w3. I can send a Job Description to those interested but in the meantime, some of the skills required are:

  • Excellent interpersonal, influencing and communication skills
  • Demonstrable ability to build client relationships
  • Demonstrable experience of people management and experience of managing through others
  • Experience of managing volunteers and working with community groups
  • Experience of working or volunteering in an environment dealing with parenting and family issues
  • Mediation skills and complaints resolution
  • Excellent Organisation and Project Management Skills
  • Self-motivated and able to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Excellent understanding and champion of diversity issues
  • Experience of delivering training workshops and devising and deliveringshort presentations
  • Ability to work under pressure and manage competing requirements
  • Demonstrates a professional, positive and constructive approach
  • Ability to think strategically and to implement organisational plans
  • Experience of leading and motivating teams

The answer to your question lies in the roles

The answer to your question lies in the roles you want your volunteers to be doing.

Often, when faced with plans or demands for more volunteers, organisation jump straight to the question of recruitment – how can we attract people to come volunteer with us so we can increase the number of volunteers we have. Sometimes this focus is on the message and other times it is on the medium, as you seem to be doing.

This jump straight to recruitment is, in my experience, tempting but flawed. It can lead to recruitment messages that don’t relate to what people will actually do (leading to dissatisfaction and turnover) and embracing new media without a clear idea of why or what result is to be achieved.

Much better is to do some focused work identifying the roles you want volunteers to perform within the organisation and considering who the ideal people would be for those roles. This then helps you to target your recruitment messages much more effectively, often resulting in diversity because of the specific requests made to people to give their time. It also enables you to select the most effective mechanisms for reaching people, be that online, face-to-face, posters etc..

I always remember Fraser Dyer talking about organisations’ who recruit in doctors surgeries and libraries because they are good placed to get volunteers. He wrote that without a clear idea of whether the people you need volunteering with you are likely to be found in such places they are in effect like the hands of a broken clock – they tell the right time twice a day but aren’t the best way to tell the time. In other words they may get you some volunteers but aren’t the most effective approach you could take.

I hope that’s of some help.


Sure you’ll get lots of good ideas from others

but I will add my vote for thinking about those volunteers who can also gain from the experience, have free time and can be extremely valuable, comitted and understanding of clients because they themselves have been previously marginalised – so, for example, asylum seekers, homeless, ex-offenders.

I’ve always found that extremely specifically targetted recruitment works best – so a lot of thinking first about exactly what qualities as well as skills and experience each specific role calls for, then what sort of people have those, then what would attract that specific group.

So, for example, when I worked at Victim Support, we had a real shortage of male volunteers and at the same time male clients who would have liked a man to talk to. They needed to be mobile, available out of office hours, sometimes able go to less salubrious areas so to be aware of safety issues, and good listeners. So we targetted mini cab companies, with surpising success – I guess they’d seldom been approached before!

Thinking about how to divide up the roles to meet the needs of ideal types of volunteers is also vital, and what hours they would find available (but only where that also meets your organisation’s own needs and resources).

Also highlighting bonuses of the role specifically to the target potential workforce. So offering a few hours orientation with staff at the Briish Museum was a big draw for recruiting outer London local museum volunteers, or offering a few hours’ help or even a workshop on updating CV’s to mums returning to the workplace etc.

hope that’s of some use/interest


Advertising volunteer opportunities

Over the next year The National Autistic Society will be expanding the amount of volunteers we are hoping to work with.

I’m really interested to know any new or innovative methods that people use to attract/recruit a diverse range of volunteers.

I’m particularly interested in how organisations have successfully used new media to attract new volunteers. I worry that if we always advertise in the same way then we are simply reaching the same group of people.

In the past we have used our website, do-it.org, mail outs to NAS members, volunteer events etc

I would appreciate any thoughts on this?

Do you engage with Volunteer Centres Daniel?

I know many national organisations don’t tend to engage with local Volunteer Centres for various reason, but quite often we are working with a diverse range of clients, have good local knowledge on what skills local people may have, and have good contacts with colleges, universities, public sector organisations, private sector groups looking for group volunteering, etc. They will also tend to have a database of people who are either existing volunteers or who have expressed an interest in volunteering. Here at Sefton we send out a monthly update, to our volunteer database, with information on new and urgent volunteer roles and we continue to see people on a regular basis in face-to-face interviews as well as providing advice over the phone and via email.

In my previous role with involved Sefton we did use Facebook and Twitter to promote new volunteering through Facebook and Twitter. Of the two Facebook was the most successful, but was still nowhere near as successful as sending emails out to our network.

I have seen PAID FOR volunteer recruitment adverts on Facebook, but have no idea how successful they are.

I also know some charities use texts as a way of circulating information on volunteering, but that would obviously be for people who are already in touch with the organisation.

If you are looking for volunteers in Sefton, or on Merseyside, feel free to get in touch.


Being clear about what your learning objectives are

Other Jayne gives you a great steer as ever. I think being clear about what your learning objectives are at the start is a really important starting point.

In a previous job, I worked in VSO’s training team and introduced online learning as part of their pre-departure training for volunteers going overseas to work in developing countries. For us, peer learning and support was really key in the face to face training and we wanted to maintain this. Also we were aware that things aren’t always black and white in terms of the content and there weren’t always going to be right or wrong answers – it was discussion that was important and about exploring peoples’ attitudes. Maybe not to dissimilar to some of the things you might be looking at in developing training for befriends.

We plumped for using e-moderated message boards through VSO’s online volunteer area. This is based on Gilly Salmon’s 5 stage e-moderated methodology – you can Google her. We used Moodle, which is a free platform, although a bit clunky. It’s used pretty widely in schools these days. Volunteers do e-learning courses either side of two face to face training courses, with the face-to-face and online courses interlinking with one another.

I have to admit to not being completely sold on the whole online way of learning prior to taking on the project – probably prejudiced by my own learning styles! But it’s been really successful and gets good feedback from volunteers. I’ve moderated courses with participants dotted all over the UK, in France, Morocco, India, the States all at the same time – makes for some really interesting debate!

Happy to have a chat with you on the phone some time if you want – mail me directly to arrange a time.

I work for CHAS in Edinburgh, and am just about to trial online training for our volunteers, who are Scotland-wide. We already have a system in place for our staff, so we want to see how well it works for volunteers. This is to cover statutory / mandatory training (and some of it will need to be blended with face-to-face sessions).

As you’re also in Edinburgh, do you want to contact me direct for a chat?

We are also considering online training / E-learning for volunteers at The Blue Cross. I have a similar question I’d like to ask as we’re at a slightly earlier stage in the process! How do people decide which training / learning opportunities are suitable to be delivered online? Do you use any criteria to assess existing learning opportunities to decide whether they could/should be delivered in another, online format? All thoughts welcome!


At present the training is anticipated to be for telephone

Thank you for you reply at present the training is anticipated to be for telephone befrienders for isolated elders and has a very national span.

The thinking is to look at compiling perhaps a variety of ways to do this so sorry to be vague. It is a new concept for me and i would welcome ways of learning, platforms any examples of use etc from others .Challenges things to consider .

It would require helping volunteers to look at communication styles , bust steroetypes cover boundaries, reporting, support and of course check the volunteer has the skills and acquired through the the learning and induction process .

is that any use just need to get ideas from A to Z

I’ve not come across many examples of online training for volunteer managers that are specific to the UK, certainly not any that go wider than just one topic.

I think part of the problem is that many people still seem to be quite wary about engaging in online training. I know from experience of setting up this group how long it took for people to be comfortable engaging with others and asking questions online and I think that evolution in training provision is still ongoing. I certainly see and hear of scepticism when online training solutions are offered, even when these are much cheaper than face-to-face training.

Perhaps other countries like the USA and Australia don’t have the same anxieties, in part because of the distances involved in travelling to face-to-face training?

All that said I do think there is potential here and I think that if people can overcome their anxieties around the medium and the tools for delivering and engaging in online training there could be more available.

I am delivering a webinar with VC Warrington this afternoon that will be my first experience of delivering online to a live audience. I have also done a course for KnowHow NonProfit on developing volunteer roles which is available online at https://knowhownonprofit.org/studyzone/get-the-perfect-volunteer-creating-volunteer-roles

If you’d be interested in talking about delivering training for you online then I’d be happy to speak with you.


Based on my experience of developing learning strategies

Based on my experience of developing learning strategies in a big private organisation, we used e-Learning for reaching the first level of skill required for a certain competency. To be more precise, the company had defined the various competencies and for each of them the level of skill required by his employees in order to be able to perform the tasks required for a specific job.

The lower skill level was awareness and the highest was mastery. E-learning has been extensively used for employees needed to reach the “awareness” level. It could also be a prerequisite for attending some face to face training sessions where attendees must have read and understood some preliminary information. e-Learning is commonly used to reach awareness about mandatory processes, risk and security related issues….

Having said that, a cost, benefits analysis needs to be made before starting any development of an e-Learning module. Volume is key, the more people to train, the better the business case is. A lot of courses are available on the market which saves development but you miss the opportunity to customise it to the specific needs of your organisation.

Finally, you have to make sure your target audience is ready to benefit from an e-Learning approach. Not only the tools (computer, network…) but the mindset. They need to be convinced about the advantages of e-Learning in order to make it a success. Unfortunately, I am not being able to provide a specific example with content relevant for volunteers but I hope this helps.


Mini-blogs and discussion points

Hi there, Just wanted to point out a couple of really interesting pieces that have emerged via the social action networking site ivo.org If you haven’t already registered for this website – then do check it out. It’s a fantastic resource to complement the great discussions generated. And you can advertise your volunteering opps and events.

Currently, there are some thought provoking articles about volunteer involvement and risk – in particularly focusing on getting organisations to involve more under 16s. Take a look at the following blogs: ‘Feel the fear and volunteer anyway’ and ‘A request to those re-developing volunteer policies for their organisations’ to join in this debate and share some examples.

Also of interest is ‘Volunteering whilst under the knife’ – a fascinating piece on involving service users as volunteers. One which includes an indepth and very insightful response from a fellow volunteer manager about her experiences and learning in this area. If those topics don’t float your volunteering boat then there are plenty others on there that might. What are you waiting for?

Make a cup of tea and take some time out to read, reflect, challenge and share. Enjoy!


I think this is a really interesting question

and as a trainer and training designer I am really pleased to hear you thinking about this stuff before you jump straight in.

Traditionally, on-line learning has tended to focus on more information and knowledge based learning – perhaps having developed from the previous computer based training packages often designed in-house by organisations needing to ‘test’ learners’ understanding of key processes and technical knowledge of a role. There is a huge shift now though to make the most of the interactive options provided by the on-line approach – the use of film, case studies, embedded power point, discussion groups, blogs and social media are just some examples.

So, with this in mind, you could make a case for any sort of learning being easily transferred into this format, but there will always be the challenge of how you replicate the ‘classroom’ experience. I do think it’s important with on-line learning to ensure there is a balance with either face to face or telephone/email/video conferencing contact. These aspects can be built in to complement what you are offering on-line and help you create a truly ‘blended’ learning experience. Remember also, that some learners will completely embrace the on-line approach and simply see it as an extension of how they would usually learn, reflect and gather information. For others, it will be about learning a new way of learning before they can even begin to engage with the content.

In terms of determining which aspects of your programme to start with, think about these questions:

  • How might the use of technology add value to specific areas of the learning?
  • Why do we want to incorporate an on-line aspect?
  • What do we want learners to be able to know/do/understand from this learning?
  • How can we ensure the content remains current and relevant?

There are many more questions I am sure, but hopefully these will be useful. And, a great resource for all things training is the website Training Zone – http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/ There are some really useful articles about learning technologies as well as resources and discussion groups. You will need to register to gain full access to the content, but it’s free and I would highly recommend it.

Hope this is helpful.



We have a volunteer training programme


We have a volunteer training programme we use locally. I asked the local organizations what skills they required from a volunteer joining them, and subsequently designed a course to fit those local needs. We cover things like Diversity and Equality and what that actually means in the context of the organizations they might be volunteering in.

Communication skills – with some emphasis on certain client groups and how communication has to change. Risk and safety, supervision and support. There are other modules, but our course is quite a bit longer than I think you’re looking at. Best advice I can give is to approach your local organizations and ask them what kind of knowledge THEY want the volunteers to already have.

Then equip the volunteers with information about their rights and responsibilities as a volunteer, what to expect and who to speak to if they have any problems. If you can get the volunteers to bond as a group, you may be more likely to retain those volunteers and keep them in touch with you.


Volunteer Induction/Training

Hello everyone,

This is my first post so apologies if this has come up before. I’m currently working as a Volunteering Facilitator for the University of Cumbria Students’ Union and part of my role is to work with students to find out their interests and give them options for the types of volunteering they can do and the organisations they can get involved with, along with coordinating one off volunteering projects. At the moment when students register as a volunteer we send them an email with all the info they need to know about volunteering which is very lengthy and I’m sure no one really reads it.

I’d like to introduce some proper training so that we can retain volunteers and support them before they go to volunteer with different organisations around the area. Does anyone have any good advice on what sort of things would be good to cover in the first session with potential volunteers. I’d like to make it really informal and quite short but what are the key things people need to know? I’d like to make the sessions really interactive and any tips and examples people have would be very much appreciated.


I’d strongly recommend talking to your local volunteer centre about this, and looking at the Volunteering England website.

I have developed a lot of induction materials and training for different volunteer roles, but they are all very specific to each organisation and role – frankly any organisation taking volunteers should be responsible for a good induction for them there, rather than beforehand – but suspect that is sometimes more a wish than reality!

One doc I have developed that might be of interest is a one-page “tips for getting the most out of your volunteering placement” – I have 2 versions, one for those long-term or never previously employed, and another more general one for those looking to add to professional skills and to improve their CV’s through volunteering – can e-mail it directly to you if useful? Would always recommend adapting it for your specific client group (students) though.


We have volunteer visitors in many of our branches

We have volunteer visitors in many of our branches but it is not a scheme that they have to offer although it is becoming more popular as we develop teams of support volunteers. As such we don’t have a detailed breakdown in costs but there are several things that we do that can be used as a costing guide. The branch will cover the expenses for the volunteers and these will obviously vary according to the branch location. For all of our support volunteers (of which visitor is one of them) we now run a four day training programme that they must attend.

We are in the process of developing a national resource to give guidance to our committees about all support work and we also have a specific induction pack and toolkit for all of our support volunteers. All of which has a cost. At our national centre we currently have 3 people who provide support to this work, although this is under review. For one member of staff, while it is resource intensive currently due to a staff vacancy, their input is a percentage of their post, one post is full time and acts as a project coordinator and another is part time to do the training administration, although if you are running the scheme UK or nation wide I’d suggest that you have this post as a full time post. We are currently looking at the training resource that we need. Our training is co-facilitated by a local member of staff and national member of staff so this has a cost implication as well.

Depending on the scheme that you choose to run, number of volunteers involved and budget, this will have an impact on how many trainers you need and can resource. We are also developing some e learning tools which again will have a cost implication. We are fortunate enough to be a charity partner of the year for a company that is offering us some pro bono work on this for our first phase but this has the potential to have high costs. We feel that this is necessary however as we have a large number of volunteers who are affected by MS and due to the resource constraints we have and the length of the training sessions this can make accessibility of training difficult.

I’m sorry I can’t offer more concrete information on costs but this will vary from organisation to organisation depending on how you grade staffing costs, your printing arrangements and the types of venues you need for training. We are currently looking at the budget implications for this area of work to budget for the next few years. I don’t know if you have already but it might be a good idea to link up with MNDA, they have association visitors so may be able to offer you further insight. Best wishes


The cost of running volunteer home visiting schemes?

Hi All,

Our Board are keen to develop a national volunteer home visiting scheme in which volunteers visit people with Parkinson’s in their own homes to provide advice and support.

At the moment I am developing a paper which highlights the resources, staff and support that is required as well as the various policies and procedures in order to facilitate volunteers to do this safely and effectively.

I’d very much like to present them with some costsing and wondered if anyone else ran similar schemes? could provide figures on how much a volunteer service of this nature costs to resource?


Not sure the scheme I run will quite compare as it’s a local scheme – but we recruit volunteers to visit people with a Visual Impairment in their own homes (may include going out together) on average weekly for about two hours – we cover only the City of York area. We currently have about 75 partnerships – some vols have two clients – a few clients have two vols, and there are always a few vols resting – that means we do actually average a case load of about 70 supported by about 75 vols. Vols are offered travel expenses from their home to the client and back – very few take them up – costs of going out together are met by the client.

I am employed for 27 hours per week but have a remit also to manage all the volunteering in the organisation – this probably means about half a day a week on that. Many of my partnerships are very long term so the hands on management reduces as time goes on – I do no formal supervision but aim to keep in touch with all volunteers and clients on a reasonably regular basis – vols are required to report on paper on a quarterly basis.

I have a volunteer who does monitoring visits to clients on an annual basis. We are funded to the tune of £18k (just taken a 4% cut to that level) – and we more or less work to budget which covers my (not huge!) salary and admin costs as well as sundry costs such as food for events, training etc. I suspect that we manage on a pretty tight rein – it will be interesting to see how others compare!