July 31, 2010

Being Volunteer Friendly

Posted in Leading Volunteers, Valuing Volunteers at 11:29 pm by Sue Hine

A Volunteer Centre in Dundee, Scotland has come up with a smart-sounding idea, the Volunteer Friendly Award. 

It’s designed “to support, recognise and reward groups who are good at involving volunteers”.  What a great idea to demonstrate how an organisation values volunteer contributions, and the management of volunteers.  What a great carrot to attract new volunteers.

You can find out more at http://www.volunteerfriendly.org.uk/.

Except when I look at the detail the process of achieving the award is based on a paper trail to ensure we are meeting national standards.  Silly me.  I thought being volunteer friendly was about the meeting and greeting stuff, getting to know volunteers by name, making sure they have a worthwhile job and a sense of belonging to the organisation, and showing appreciation for their contributions in both tangible and intangible ways.

Yes I know the paper work is important, that getting some consistency with national standards is a way of raising the bar in managing volunteers.  Yes, we need the policies, and job descriptions, the induction and training programmes.  We need to attend to all the health and safety stuff – after all, employers are charged with ‘a duty of care’ which applies to volunteers as well as paid staff.  And to be fair, the Volunteer Friendly Award is designed to encourage and support small organisations before getting into the big league.

But all that management formality needs to be balanced with good leadership.  And one of the qualities of leadership is friendliness.   Being friendly means I have an open positive style of communication; I am welcoming, and supportive when needs be; I guide, rather than direct; I stimulate, encourage and enable volunteers in their roles.  And it pays off in spades.

The benefits of being friendly are seen in the bigger and better volunteer performance, increased job satisfaction, the organisation’s growing reputation in the community and no worries when it comes to recruitment.

I reckon we could be asking volunteers to nominate what they think ‘Volunteer Friendly’ organisations look like.  As the people in Dundee are saying:

It has never been more important for groups to be able to show how good they are at involving and managing their volunteers.



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