Volunteers are a vital asset for any third-sector organisation. They are the backbone of many frontline services; helping to run foodbanks, provide support to vulnerable beneficiaries, managing giftshops and running activities in community centres. Without the support or reliable and skilled volunteers, many key organisations would simply cease to exist. But are we always making the best use of them?
The reality of volunteering
NCVO’s Time Well Spent Study is a thorough examination of the ways in which people engage with volunteering, how it fits into their lives, and how better to engage potential volunteers. Their findings showed that the best volunteering opportunities are: inclusive, flexible, impactful, connected, balanced, enjoyable, voluntary, and meaningful.
This means that organisations recruiting volunteers should make it easy for volunteers to get involved, consider what they have to offer rather than just what the organisation needs, and engage with volunteers to understand what is important to them.
They also found that: ‘whilst a proportion of a volunteers want to gain skills through volunteering, the majority of people want to use the skills they have to give back to the community’.
What does this mean for my organisation?
Consider what skills and interests your existing volunteers have. Are you making the most of them? Perhaps you could have a conversation with them about what aspects of their role they enjoy the most and if they have any other areas of the organisation they would be interested in getting involved with.
Consider, also, what skills gaps exist in your organisation. What do you currently need support with? It may be that you need someone to perform an audit on your current website or support you with your social media accounts? Or maybe you need help with creating a cashflow forecast or with your branding and messaging?
Do not limit your volunteer roles to low-skilled positions or front-facing tasks – while these are critically important to the running of your organisation, there is really no limits to the creativity and capability that volunteers to a not-for-profit.
Where do I start?
Once you have spoken to your volunteers and thought about what support would be most valuable to your organisation, you can start to pull together some job descriptions for new volunteering opportunities.
A really creative way to approach this is to put out a generalised appeal for help. Ask the public what skills they have and how they could use them to help your organisations. You never know what responses you might get and this could help spark new ideas or tap into resources you might never have come across otherwise.
What roles should I consider?
Some unusual volunteering roles to think about include:
- Storyteller – (well, ok, writer) the story you tell about your organisation shapes the way the world sees you. It is worth recruiting a volunteer with a skill for writing to create moving case studies, blogs, articles, newsletters, and messaging for your charity.
- Grantwriter – anyone who works in the third sector knows how much time and effort goes into writing grant applications. Why not take on someone with experience in this area to support you in creating these applications?
- Content creator – creating marketing collateral is probably on your to-do list, way down the bottom after you have dealt with the million other pressing things that never leave the top of it. Someone with experience in the creative industry could assist in creating some attention grabbing graphics, informative videos, and fun infographics to populate your site and social media accounts.
- Graphic Designer – someone to create snazzy graphics for your organisation. Think anything from blog banners, to slide decks, artwork for impact reports, infographics, logos, adverts – the opportunities are endless.
- Photographer – avoid using cheesy stock images across your website and social media, and capture professional images from events, or daily activities to use in your impact reports.
- Videographer – having a videographer to create moving promotional videos showcasing your services, or create testimonial videos for your website.
- CRM Expert – data management can be a total nightmare; messy email lists and muddled data do not make for good communication. Recruiting someone who is familiar with whichever CRM platform you use (Hubspot, Pipedrive, Salesforce etc.) can help you get your contacts in order and facilitate smoother communications.
- Digital Services Coordinator – if your organisation is considering moving some of your services online, or updating your digital processes in order to be more accessible, it is a good idea to take on a volunteer who has experience in this area and can help you get up to date with the latest softwares amongst other things.
- Workflow Design/Process Mapping – do not underestimate the value of having clear process maps and guides for each process your organisation uses. From taking on a new member of staff or volunteer, or working with a new beneficiary, logging data, filing reports, keeping track of grant funding – having clearly outlined rules and definitions will make life easier for everyone involved.
- Volunteer Ambassador – having someone whose role is to speak to external groups and publicise the volunteer roles you provide will take so much of the pain out of recruitment, think of them like a cheerleader for your organisation.
- Data Analyst – skilled volunteers could help you with the headache that is impact measurement and reporting. A data analyst could help you put together effective surveys and make sense of the data you collect.
- Grant Researcher – if you feel like you spend a lot of valuable time searching down relevant grants and chasing funding then recruiting someone to support this task could help you refocus your energies on those other jobs that always get put off.
- IT Support – imagine how useful it would be to have someone you could contact with IT queries, or a ‘this button won’t work’, ‘how do I transfer that file in the right format’ or ‘why are my emails not coming through’ type question. Having an IT specialist you can reach out to would make everyone’s life easier.
- Translation – if you regularly work with beneficiaries for whom English is not their first language, make sure you have someone on your team who can translate your adverts, flyers, and other information into whichever languages you need.
- PR Advice – having someone you can ask for PR advice from is a great way to help boost your public image and increase awareness for your organisation
It is important to remember that while these are all great volunteer roles, volunteering is not simply free labour. George Thompson, chief executive of Volunteer Scotland says:
‘The involvement of volunteers should add value to and support the work of paid staff and should not be used to displace paid staff or undercut their pay and conditions of service.’
While specialists such as lawyers or designers may be happy to offer advise or occasional pro-bono work, this should not replace someone’s work or stand in for a position your organisation may need to recruit for more permanently.
Over to you
These are just some suggestions of the skilled roles that volunteers can help with in your organisation. Think about what your specific needs are and get creative!
On the Social Good Connect platform, volunteers can search for opportunities against their skills and interests. If your organisation needs support with advertising unusual or skills-based volunteer opportunities, please get in touch with us here!