Three Simple Rules for Supporting your Volunteers

Here are three golden rules for looking after your charity's army - the simplest, easiest, seemingly obvious things - that can be sometimes forgotten in the madness of running an organisation.

Woman smiling In my experience, volunteers are the lifeblood of every organisation, quietly pushing the cause forward with their dedication and humility. They are also, however, human beings, who won't just keep working and working on something if they feel invisible. Here are three golden rules for looking after your charity's army - the simplest, easiest, seemingly obvious things - that can be sometimes forgotten in the madness of running an organisation.   

1. Remember names and use them.  
I wasn't kidding about these golden rules being simple, but this is imperative in making people feel valued. You wouldn't believe how many times, as a volunteer, I've helped people out for months, even years, without being called by my first name. I've made it my personal mission as a Volunteer Coordinator to learn the names of every single person in the charity so everyone feels valued. Learn the names, use them at every opportunity. Simple and effective!   

2. Return expenses the same day.  
Returning expenses is absolutely imperative to supporting your volunteers. If you don't return them, your volunteers are paying to give their time. It may only be a few pounds here and there, but it adds up quickly, and within a few weeks they're down enough money to buy a food shop. Do not wait for a volunteer to ask - it's embarrassing, nobody wants to do it, and they shouldn't have to. Ask them every time and make it pain free. It could be the difference between keeping and losing your best volunteers.   

3. Have a real conversation with every single volunteer.   
When I started as a Volunteer Coordinator, I was so focused on sorting out my piles and piles of paperwork, I barely stopped to say 'How was your day?' to the people who were making the whole thing possible. I very quickly realised that without getting to know more than their names, I wouldn't be able to get anything done in my role. I sat down one-to-one with every single person, found out about them, how they like to communicate, where they are at in their lives, what they want to get out of volunteering... this information gave me everything I need to coordinate everyone exactly how they wanted me to. I soon found that I’d familiarised myself with the most inspirational group of people I've ever met.  

If you are starting out in volunteer management I'd recommend the excellent Supporting and Supervising your Volunteers training course from Voluntary Action Leeds, which goes into detail about how to cultivate a happy, well supported body of volunteers.   

Find out more about volunteer management from The Association of Volunteer Managers and NCVO KnowHowNonProfit    

Emma Bennett works for an elearning company in Ilkley, High Speed Training, who provide CPD accredited online courses in a variety of Safeguarding topics. Emma is a volunteer coordinator and trustee for CLASSS, Charity Blogger and former volunteer administrator and researcher for Young Lives Leeds and Voluntary Action Leeds.
@emm_benn 01943 811429

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