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?
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’.
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.
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.
Some unusual volunteering roles to think about include:
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.
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!
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