National Volunteers’ Week: Guidance pack for VIOs

Volunteers’ Week is a national campaign which takes place between 1-7 June every year. It’s a chance to recognise the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities and say thank you.

Volunteers’ Week is supported and celebrated by small grassroots organisations as well as larger, household-name charities, who together run hundreds of activities across the UK. These activities showcase and celebrate volunteers and the contribution volunteering makes to our communities. As a Kingston Volunteer Involving Organisation, we’re asking you to join us in thanking and celebrating the brilliant volunteers giving their time across our borough.

We have created this organisation campaign pack to support you with communications and volunteer engagement through NVW2023. You will find advice and recommendations for ways to give thanks to your volunteers, including social media templates. We hope you find it useful!

Download our guidance pack here: National Volunteers’ Week Organisation Campaign Pack

Volunteering over Christmas, from a younger heart. 

Volunteers

I don’t know about you but I can’t think of a Christmas that has had so little joy in the build-up (and I consider the two Covid pandemic Christmas’s). A combination of war in Europe, the cost of living, the state of play with the climate, and even the weather with the recent cold spell seem to be inviting us to have a pessimistic outlook on the festivities. You could say there is no point fighting reality or you could, as I’m about to suggest, think of things from the heart and let that bring a glimmer of joy to the end of 2022. 

Christmas is always an interesting time for volunteering and volunteers. It is during this period that society notices the contribution of volunteers and the voluntary sector the most. The massive efforts put in to ensure rough-sleepers get some relief. The reaching out to the lonely and isolated. The collecting of items to pass on to children who have very little. The food banks bulging with generosity being distributed widely (too widely for a first world country in the 21st century, some would say) to families in need. All these things can be seen and they remind us that we still have a population that wishes to contribute and assist. 

It is also a tradition that people offer themselves up quite at this time of year, engaging in the volunteering activities listed above: a sign that the spirit and drive of volunteering lives on regardless of the harsh realities of the year that is ending. This annual influx of volunteers is made possible by the meticulous organisation and preparation of homeless shelters, toy banks, food banks and befriending schemes. All of them need to plan months in advance to ensure volunteers are trained and DBS checked.  

If there is one part of 2022 that lifts my spirits it is the age demographic change that has taken place. Understandably there has been a noticeable drop in the cohort we used to call “time rich” (retired in old money) since the pandemic. Usually, this would be a cause for concern but actually what has happened is a younger cohort, one we were struggling to connect with pre-Covid, has stood up to more than compensate for the decline in older volunteers. This is a development that raises spirits across the age demographic, even the most jaundiced of volunteer managers will be heartened by this development. 

Of course, if we can persuade those with extensive life experience back into volunteering we would have the best of both worlds. Combining the enthusiasm of the young with the knowledge of the old. Imagine the successful delivery of all the vital tasks needed over Christmas and New Year and the goals that could be achieved this time next year. Volunteering is being reinvigorated by the young who are putting their hearts into it, that for me provides more to look forward to than any lack of enthusiasm generated by the headlines. Christmas 2022 can be enjoyed and all of us at Volunteering Kingston wish you all the joy there is for the festive period.  

 

By Michael Green

The importance of looking forward

All the challenges of the last few weeks have rather counter-intuitively generated a sense of ambition within the Voluntary and Community Sector that also motivates volunteers. Respect for and contribution to local communities is now wider, it is more action-orientated and has more traction than that bygone age called 2019.

Looking at Kingston as a borough, how it performed, came together, and responded to challenges (lockdowns, needs, vaccinations, new levels of poverty previously hidden etc.) gives us a clear picture of how important it is to maintain and build on the partnerships and successes of our collective work. That includes the volunteer experience. To get there I have laid out a wish list, but first, a caveat: this list is what a possible future could look like albeit relying heavily on reasonable funds, resources and partnerships to make it a reality and success. The purpose of promoting these possibilities is to invite comments and stimulate alternative suggestions.

  • Hubs, e.g. in pubs/shops/community spaces. Take a model of community space as promoted in the 2021 report on Surbiton Resilience “Every-day life in Surbiton” and replicate where practicable across the borough. Volunteers are attracted to helping in their micro-local locations, this would be a brilliant stimulus to that.
  • Food Heroes. Embed the foodbank street collection system that sprung up locally during the pandemic into the fabric of the borough so that it survives and thrives going forward
  • Time-bank/Skills exchange. Create a borough-wide system with a focus on stimulating volunteering in women whose first language is not English. This would both increase volunteering numbers and be a massive boon to the volunteer experience of a significantly socially isolated part of our community.
  • “Friends of” groups. Expand existing groups for parks/open land/under-utilised green spaces, which is being demonstrated by successful models in other localities. Friends of groups tend to tap into individuals not engaged in their communities already.
  • Bringing together a range of volunteer-led sporting activities/clubs under one banner that stimulates physical activity. Sports volunteering could add so much positive value to public health campaigns. This model could equally apply to the local smaller arts and culture groups.
  • Kingston Stronger Together Hub. Evolve it into a Kingston Council funded “Sustainable Volunteering” Hub, requiring both the Council and partners to be involved. Sustainability projects for volunteering by definition will change the borough landscape positively.
  • A social action portal. Create a web-based interface that advertises all social action activities locally no matter how small/micro in nature. This would be really helpful in attracting younger people to activities.

This list is not definitive, as they say, “other pipe-dreams are available” but I commend them to your thinking if, like us at Volunteering Kingston, re-imaging the Volunteer Experience is important to you.

Nothing about us without us – the importance of involving disabled volunteers

Then Barbara met Alan

Many people will have seen the recent programme on the BBC, Then Barbara Met Alan, which explores the history of the disability rights movement and the phrase ‘Nothing about us without us’. It highlights the importance of disabled people living their own lives and the patronising attitudes that charities can have towards disabled people.

What do you think of when you think of a disabled volunteer?

  • A teenager with a learning disability looking for work experience.
  • An autistic parent who wants to use their perspective to help families with autistic children.
  • A wheelchair-using CEO who wants to give their business expertise to help struggling charities tackling food poverty.
  • A person with an anxiety disorder who wants to meet new people and make friends.
  • A marketing executive with chronic asthma who wants to join an environmental campaign.
  • A visually impaired accountant who wants to volunteer as they’ve been told it will help them get a promotion.
  • A deaf student who volunteers at a charity shop because they’re obsessed with vintage fashion.

Disabled volunteers volunteer for as many different reasons as non-disabled volunteers. Take our volunteering service in Waltham Forest, for instance, 13% of volunteers self-declare as disabled or say that they need additional support. That’s a lot of volunteers who are excited to give their time.

If you think of disabled volunteers as one type of person or with one set of needs, then you’ll be missing out on a lot of talent, enthusiasm and perspectives.

For organisations that want to involve disabled volunteers, here are some top tips:

  • Learn about the social model of disability and challenge your thinking about where the limits of disabilities are. For example, when you see someone wearing glasses do you think of them as ‘disabled’?
  • Take care that you use modern, up-to-date language. See this guide for some suggestions.
  • Look carefully at the required skills and experiences for your volunteering roles – what is essential and what is a ‘nice to have’. If you have an autistic volunteer who does not use the phone, but would be excellent at other parts of the role, consider making adaptations.
  • Consider having versions of your role descriptions in large print, audio recording, BSL interpretation and Easy Read form.
  • Provide information for others to make decisions, rather than deciding for them. So, if your building has a step, do not say “not accessible to wheelchair users” but rather “there is an 8cm step”. The volunteer can then decide for themselves.
  • Allow volunteers to give their time from home if possible.
  • Consider, if able, providing travel expenses for taxis.
  • Use disabled people to stock recruitment photos.
  • Money is tight, but when making funding applications consider how you can ask for things that make you more accessible and inclusive.
  • Be willing to have an honest and open conversation about disability and the needs of your volunteers.
  • Accept that sometimes a volunteer’s disability may mean things take longer or are done in different ways.
  • Have a clear code of conduct which lays out clear expectations. Do not tolerate abuse or discriminatory ‘jokes’.
  • Get in touch for specialist support and advice (emails below): Waltham Forest (Legends of the Forest), Volunteering Barnet, or Volunteering Kingston

If you are disabled and interested in volunteering, we’d love to hear about your experiences and how we can improve our service. Please get in touch with one of Groundwork London’s volunteering services: Waltham Forest (Legends of the Forest) – wflegends@groundwork.org.uk, Volunteering Barnet – enquiry@volunteeringbarnet.org.uk, or Volunteering Kingston – enquiry@volunteeringkingston.org.uk.

 

Molly Sweeney, Volunteer Development Coordinator – Legends of the Forest

 

You can find out more about how you can get involved in this year’s Volunteers ’Week on the official page here.

In the meantime, if you are looking to volunteer and start a new exciting journey today, you can discover all our available roles below:

Volunteering Kingston

Legends of the Forest, Waltham Forest

Volunteering Barnet

The Future of Volunteering

Volunteers together

When thinking about the future of volunteering, honestly, I get quite excited. This isn’t just because I work in this sector, or because I am a volunteer myself, it’s because I have started to see a greater understanding and appreciation for volunteers over the last few years.

The pandemic changed a lot of things for a lot of people, come of which is overwhelmingly positive. A stronger sense of community and supportive environment blossomed, supporting those most in need and this, for me, is the true beauty of volunteering. So many people who potentially hadn’t been touched by the world of volunteering saw how powerful it really is. People who had never previously needed to access services supported by volunteers soon came to rely on them.

Volunteers delivered food to houses across the nation and many organisations developed befriending services to speak to those who were isolated with no contact or company. Even if you didn’t directly come across volunteers in the pandemic, you will have known someone who did, seen them on the news or heard about them from one of your neighbours. Volunteers became an essential part of the community during the pandemic, something that I see living on now.

People who had never volunteered before but wanted to help, who may have been furloughed and had new time on their hands, took to supporting vaccination centres and developed what I like to call the ‘buzz’ that is volunteering. I think if you have ever volunteered you will understand what I mean by that; the joy that you feel. The sense of fulfilment and community that surrounds you can never be replicated. When volunteering myself or speaking to volunteers, there is rarely a grumble or a moan about the hot day, the need to stay just that little bit longer or the sometimes not so exciting sandwiches. Volunteers give their time because they want to. Being a part of something bigger excites and intrigues them which creates this amazing bubble of wonderful characters.

The pandemic has shown us the full power of volunteering. Many individuals have fallen in love with it, while others have continued to do what they have always done. This excitement and drive to volunteer is still evident, people have seen and felt the benefits not only for themselves but for those around them. As more people work from home, change careers, and have new priorities, now couldn’t be a better time to dip your toes into volunteering. Volunteering offers new skills and experiences, increased confidence and the opportunity to help put a smile on someone else’s face.

I am excited to see where this new energy behind volunteering goes and I look forward to meeting so many new and exciting characters along the way.

Thank you to all of those who supported efforts throughout the pandemic, and before! And best of luck to all those joining this amazing community of people.

 

Parker Hollants, Volunteer Officer – Legends of the Forest

 

You can find out more about how you can get involved in this year’s Volunteers ’Week on the official page here.

In the meantime, if you are looking to volunteer and start a new exciting journey today, you can discover all available roles through Groundwork London’s volunteering services below:

Volunteering Kingston

Legends of the Forest, Waltham Forest

Volunteering Barnet

The importance of celebration in a troubled time

Volunteers Week 2022

This year, National Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) coincides with an extended celebration of the 70th year on the throne of Queen Elizabeth II. Manifesting itself with a four-day bank holiday weekend, the country will no doubt dig deep into its reserves of unity to ensure a celebratory mood. Not only this, but these events have fallen in the month of June, which is dedicated to celebrating Communities.

National Volunteers’ Week (NVW) is all about gratitude and so it should be. If ever there was “a time to say thanks”, the theme of this year’s NVW, to volunteers and the groups that come together in our communities, it is now. The contribution of volunteers has ensured our society remained functioning over the past two years of peaks and troughs.

The thought of celebrating may not be appealing right now, while the demand for foodbanks reaches a new peak, being positive whilst millions of displaced Ukrainians look for safety and money is tighter than usual. Personally, whilst I understand this thinking, I believe greater hurdles calls for a greater need for trumpet blowing. June 2022 and the co-incidence of NVW, Communities Month and the Jubilee is one such occasion.

Groundwork London’s volunteering services in the London Boroughs of Kingston, Barnet and Waltham Forest will be celebrating National Volunteers’ Week to show our appreciation to volunteers who have dedicated their time and effort to support their communities. We are working with others to ensure “a time to say thanks” continues later into the month. Events will be held in each Borough to not only mark our appreciation but to be central in strengthening bonds that bind individual volunteers, volunteer-involving organisations and the statutory sector locally. Keep your eyes peeled it will be celebratory and if circumstances allow, fun.

 

You can find out more about how you can get involved in this year’s Volunteers ’Week on the official page here.

In the meantime, if you are looking to volunteer and start a new exciting journey today, you can discover all our available roles through Groundwork London’s volunteering services below:

Volunteering Kingston

Legends of the Forest, Waltham Forest

Volunteering Barnet

Reflections on partnership

partnership

As National Volunteers’ Week 2022 looms on the horizon, I have found myself pondering the nature of partnership and specifically how adversity drives organisations (and people) to answers they otherwise would not have found. Specifically, from a Volunteering Kingston perspective, it manifested itself with the partnership that became Kingston Stronger Together (KST). As we tip-toe back to a world where pandemic viruses are not all-embracing and other issues become dominant in the media it is worth taking a moment to appreciate some of the gains made. 

The KST came together in late February/early March 2020 at the beginning of an unprecedented medical crisis. It started because the then Leader of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (RBK) had a clear vision of genuine partnership for Covid-response and she found the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations willing collaborators. Civic leadership has changed since then and the individuals who were the core elements of that partnership also moved on but the mechanics of partnership remain.  

From Volunteering Kingston’s (Groundwork London) perspective the value in the KST came from the partnership approach and the utilising of resources that accrues from it. By engaging the VCS as equals rather than as sub-contractors (something at the time we hoped to be reflected in the conclusions to the RBK Voluntary Sector Commissioning process review) RBK had been able to garner almost unique levels of service delivery cooperation and ensure a communication cycle unpreceded within the borough. For just under two years, the partnership was central to safeguarding the local community. 

There was a sea of goodwill from within the community of Kingston borough which saw an initial rush of 1200 volunteers for Covid-response.

This, combined with the contribution of informal and spontaneous localised groups, was pivotal to supporting professionals in coordinating the various delivery tiers. Despite an over-supply of willing volunteers (which mirrored the experience of the NHS volunteers) the volunteer experience in the borough rose to new levels and looked like it would continue to do so for some time to come.  

About a year in, whilst others were looking ahead, we understood it was absolutely vital that the core elements of the KST/Hub approach were maintained. 

The organisation’s key to success was retaining the leadership element whilst remaining open to all civic and stakeholder contributors.

The response to Covid-19 demonstrated how co-operative and collaborative approaches can be enacted quickly and become efficient and effective. Between March 2020 to March 2022, the KST proved to work and, in some form or other, it must continue. 

It is now May 2022 and, as needs decline, not all physical manifestations of that partnership are still in play, understandably. However, the KST has made the concept of positive partnership a reality, supported by a massive body of work and experience. The VCS* side is still here and responding to needs. It is still the place where individual volunteers connect to be part of the whole, still being partnership personified. On reflection, it was a massive achievement!   

By Michael Green, May 2022. 

 

* Including Volunteering Kingston, Kingston Voluntary Action, as well as organisations such as the Foodbank and Voices for Hope and informal contributions from the Good Gym groups etc. 

Barriers made gateways

When those of us in the Volunteer Services business think about barriers to volunteering we are inclined to think in big picture terms. Accessibility, diversity and ensuring a positive volunteering experience are all important issues to think about but do they reflect the reality of the individual?  

 Often for those of us professionally working in the Voluntary Sector and engaging with volunteers, we miss some of the nuances of what prevents people from putting themselves forward. The large number of people who have appropriate skill-sets but don’t seem to be able to take an intention to serve their community through action is a resource opportunity missed. Sometimes the barriers are smaller than you think, don’t require extensive training courses or attractive volunteering opportunity scopes and that begs the question what can be done to overcome them? The answer can sometimes be found in the human experience. 

 Let’s take my better half as an example. A very busy life, bookended between civic responsibility and parenthood and yet still keen to somehow do more. Whilst she has been a volunteer in various organisations for many years, the idea of stepping up a level was one she baulked at. Now, as much as I’d like to say my persuasive coaxing helped her grasp the nettle the reality is that it all came from her. In her own words, this is what allowed her to take that extra step: 

 I took on my first voluntary board member role earlier this year. The organisation is a housing association for people with complex mental health needs. A lot of my volunteer roles have centred around mental health, an issue close to my heart, so it seemed an obvious step. 

 I was warmly welcomed by the other board members and officers and got stuck straight in. It is different to the more personal volunteering support I was used to, but just as rewarding. I’m looking at the financial sustainability of the organisation; the long-term vision and goals; the quality of services; better working with stakeholders and the community; and the set-up of the organisation itself. Because of my skill-set, I’ve joined a subcommittee looking at quality and compliance, including resident and stakeholder satisfaction. As a regulated service working with NHS and local authorities, there are multiple aspects to this work, but putting clients and service users first is a must for me. They come to us via various methods, but all of them need support and care to help them move on to more independent living. Their voice is vital in the running of the service, so we take time to listen to what they want and need. 

 I was worried that the time element would make it difficult for me, but that hasn’t been the case. We have board meetings every other month in the early evening, then there are a few emails and papers a week to read through, some mandatory training videos and occasionally an away day. I can fit this into my schedule without any problems and mostly work at a time that suits me and my family. 

 I know that by being a board member, I am helping shape the organisation to provide what the organisation and the clients need. The reward of joining a board comes in knowing that my work will help change their lives for the better and there is nothing more satisfying than that. I’m glad I made this step. I’m still doing the personal volunteering in other organisations, but this has given me the chance to help with wider changes that need to be made to give the best services to this vulnerable group of our community. 

 I use this close to home example to show that even though my partner had access to someone like myself, with best practice and up to date volunteer stimulation skills, it was the ability to fit her new responsibilities within an existing busy life that drove this forward. Volunteering and the roles we create in its name isn’t a vacuum, it has to reflect the real-world experience of the community you are hoping to tap into. This is the case even more so in the current hybrid “nearly post-pandemic” age where reluctance has been increased. 

 The lesson for me, and I suggest for others, is that whilst it is very important to have a good policy framework for encouraging volunteers it is the capacity to be flexible that allows an individual to see where they can add their unique value. Talking to individuals can go a long way to opening up possibilities. Once a person is freed from the restraint they can quickly become an asset. Barriers become gateways and we all benefit.  

  

Michael Green. March 2022. 

Top 10 Tips for Recruiting Volunteer Trustees

Looking to recruit volunteers? Here are some top tips

  1. Brainstorm all of the possible motivations for a Trustee for your charity whether that’s giving back, career development, passion towards the cause etc.
  2. Reach out to your networks, current and former volunteers, service users and their families, supporters and anyone connected to your organisation.
  3. Have a look at Reach Volunteering’s amazing resources on Trustee recruitment.
  4. Ensure that your recruitment is accessible – especially if you are a disability charity.
  5. Keep things up to date – terms like ‘Treasurer’ may be off putting to younger volunteers. Use terms like Finance Trustee instead.
  6. Have a look at Getting on Board services and resources.
  7. Think outside the box and remember that Trustees don’t have to be ‘pale, male and stale’.
  8. Make it clear – the difference the volunteer will make by volunteering for you.
  9. Offer to have an informal chat or visit with the Trustee.
  10. Get in touch with Volunteering Kingston for a one-to-one advice session.

‘Getting on Board’ – opening up charity boards

This Trustees’ Week, Getting on Board is trying to open up charitys’ boards. Want to know how? Then read on to find out all about it.

About Getting on Board

Getting on Board is a trustee recruitment and diversity charity. It’s our guiding belief that diversity in the board of Trustees is key to effective decision making, better delivery of a charity’s services and the broader goal of creating a more equitable society.

Getting on Board supports people to become charity trustees, particularly those who are currently under-represented on trustee boards. The aspiring trustees we support include young people, women, people of colour, disabled people, LGBTQ+ people, working class people, and people with lived experience of marginalisation.

We help charities in their mission to become more representative of the communities they serve by recruiting and retaining trustees from a diversity of backgrounds and lived experiences. This is fundamental because charities need access to the broadest possible talent pool to function at the highest level. This is only possible when diversity is preserved in every aspect of the trustee recruitment and retention process – not seen as a box ticking exercise that equates to lowering the bar.

To keep up to date with our training and programmes, please sign up for our newsletter.

 

Festival of Trusteeship

Getting on Board’s online Festival of Trusteeship will take place 1st-5th November 2021 and they are offering our registered volunteers a 50% discount. The Festival is packed with exciting events for people who want to become trustees, trustees who want to keep learning and developing, and for charity leaders who want to understand best practice in trustee recruitment and diversity. Use the code LOCAL50 to receive a 50% discount. The code also works on weekly passes, bringing the ticket fare down to £12.50 and allowing you to access as many of the 24 events as you’d like. Click here to explore all the scheduled events.

 

Training and resources for aspiring trustees

Learning from experts in a supportive group of likeminded individuals can make the process towards trusteeship easier and more enjoyable. All our training is designed to be easily accessible to all aspiring trustees and all programmes are excellent value for money.

If you’re an organisation that wants to train or support a number of aspiring trustees, you can find all you need here.

✦  Our Charity Board Leadership Programme will teach you what makes an effective, strategic and responsible trustee. If you’re ready to take up a trusteeship and need help getting the process over the line, this is the programme for you. Many delegates find a position within weeks of completing the course (some even find a position while the course is still ongoing!). Our flagship six-week programme runs six cohorts a year and costs £875 per person.​

✦  If you’ve decided that you want to become a trustee, have a working knowledge of what being a trustee involves and are looking for some one-to-one help with your trusteeship position research and applications, then Board Match one-to-one is right for you. You can find out more here.

✦  Are you between 18-30 years old? Do you want to make an impact to a cause or community you’re passionate about? Getting on Board’s Future Trustees programme teaches you everything you need to know about what being a trustee involves and the steps to take so you can become a trustee too.

✦  There is also our regular, one-hour ‘What is a trustee and how do I become one?’ webinar, giving you an introduction to what trustees are, what they do, and top tips on how to become one.

 

As well as support from Getting On Board, you can always speak to Volunteering Kingston about all aspects of getting involved in volunteering and trusteeship.