Involving volunteers in this most unusual of festive seasons

Lots of people get the volunteering urge in the run-up to Christmas, from the desire to teach their children that there is more to the day than presents to the need to clear their head after too many mulled wines, it Is always a period for people to give their time.

This year, with many of the usual celebrations altered or stopped altogether, many people will be even more keen to volunteer.

For organisations, managing volunteer interest during a busy time can be a challenge. Please see the tips below for how to support and involve volunteers – and make the most of the season of goodwill.

Keeping Christmas safe

Regardless of restrictions, people have always been permitted to volunteer outside their home if necessary. People who are extremely clinically vulnerable are advised not to go to work or volunteer outside of the home. When recruiting for roles which involved leading the home, please inform volunteers of the steps you have taken to keep them safe and ask them to confirm that they are not in a group asked to take extra care.

Organisations must take precautions as much as possible when using volunteers to deliver services in person. Please check our resource bank and the government guidance on how to keep people safe. Please get in touch with us if you’d like some bespoke advice.

Spreading joy at home

As we will be spending a lot more time at home why not encourage people who want to volunteer to get involved from the comfort of their sitting rooms? This is a great way of softening the blow to people who wanted to get out there volunteering, as well as keeping your current volunteers engaged and feeling rewarded.

Ideas to encourage volunteering from home:

*  Writing Christmas cards to service users – whether you give out their names (with permission) or just have people write ‘Hello’, this can be great if you are supporting people likely to be lonely this Christmas.

*  Zoom carol services.

*  Lots of people have clear-outs before and after Christmas – so encourage them to donate to your charity shop or why not look into creating an eBay shop?

*  Socially distanced Santa fun run. Rather than a parade of Santas running down the high street, you could have people run their usual running route in fancy dress and encourage people to spot Father Christmas ‘in the wild’.

*  Families will be looking for lots of activities to get the little ones busy over the Christmas holidays. Here are some ideas that engage families – they could be charged for as part of a fundraising campaign, but it is worth bearing in mind that many families will be struggling with finances this year, therefore, price accordingly – you could also allow entries based on ‘pay what you can’.

  1. Christmas drawing competitions
  2. Photo competition – the strangest place to find Santa’s elves
  3. Creative writing – e.g. wishes for 2021
  4. Toy clear out – encouraging donations for your charity shop. Send out digital certificates for children who donate toys etc.

*  Recording Christmas messages for service users – a great task for existing volunteers. They could record themselves singing Christmas songs, reading Christmas stories (for children in particular) and tell so-bad-they’re-good cracker jokes.

Once someone has been involved in a small way, they often are interested in volunteering more. Make sure to follow up with volunteers (if they consent!) with details of any volunteering opportunities in the new year.

Christmas free zones

Some people, after a difficult year, will be looking forward to the festivity and joy of this period. Others may find it hard to celebrate this year, especially if they have suffered from bereavement or are facing a lonely Christmas.

You may find that you want to focus more on 2021 and a fresh new start that the new year brings. Focusing in on the benefits that any new volunteers might bring, or what you are planning in the new year may be more effective.

Of course, there are many people who do not celebrate Christmas. Consider noting other religious holidays in your communications.

Some Jewish people volunteer on Mitzvah Day which this year was held on 15 November. We spoke to Rebecca Singerman-Knight, the Deputy Chair of Kingston Liberal Synagogue, who said:

“We have been involved in two volunteering projects for Mitzvah Day this year. For the first, our members recorded videos of themselves singing favourite songs or reading poems, and we compiled a playlist to share with elderly residents in Jewish Care homes across the country who have been suffering this year due to lack of visitors.  You can watch the playlist here.

 

We are also running an ongoing project in which our members are putting together personal hygiene bags for homeless people and we will be delivering these to Kingston Churches Against Homelessness at the end of November”.

Why not get in touch with your local place of worship to ask if they are interested in celebrating a particular holiday through volunteering.

Directing people to opportunities

If you have people interested in volunteering who you can’t accommodate, encourage them to read this festive volunteering blog and find out more about activities they could take up this festive season.

You could also encourage them to search for roles using our new website.

Remember, we are always here to help and support with any aspect of involving volunteers.

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