Volunteer Centre News Update – week beginning 3 October 2022

Welcome to the latest edition of the Volunteer Centre News Update. Remember that you can contact us with your thought and ideas about what you would like to see here. Your feedback is always appreciated.

Volunteering Insights

Since we began using our new online volunteer portal in November 2021, the site has received 6,993 page views, from 1,282 unique visitors. That is almost 1,300 different people in the last 11 month who have visited our website looking for volunteering opportunities.

Nearly 80% of people searching our site over that time have looked specifically for COVID related activities, which could indicate that many people are still very interested in volunteering roles that support people with the effects of the pandemic.

How are these insights useful?

They could help us to better target roles to potential volunteers. One of the intriguing things about this search data for example is the ‘why’ – why are people looking for COVID related activities, even now so far beyond the lifting of restrictions?

One possible explanation is that there are still many people out there who want to do something, but can’t commit to ‘traditional’ volunteering models, such as coming along to a venue once or twice per week, every week, and are instead looking for much more flexible volunteering opportunities, and they have decided that the best chance of a flexible role is something COVID related.

Reaching the right people

Knowing this can help us target volunteer roles, by using the search function to ensure that people looking for certain things find YOUR role.

You might want to describe, for example, how the role impacts on COVID support.

Even if the role itself is not COVID related, bringing it to the attention of someone searching might give them ideas that they had not had.

We might even use words like flexible in the descriptions.

Creating the Right Roles

This information can also help us to develop roles. Often we look at what needs doing and see it as a single role, when in fact it could be broken down into its constituent parts and become several distinct roles, each one requiring smaller levels of commitment and input, but in so being becoming more appealing to a larger section of the community.

Imagine for example a role of ‘Social Media Volunteer’. You might advertise that as a single role, one or two days per week. But within that role you might want someone to take photographs, which could be a role by itself.

Your social media platforms might be Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and each one of these is very different in terms of content and engagement, so you might look for a different volunteer to input to each one: Facebook for example might suit someone more community minded, who is skilled at writing more detailed posts and is available at times of the day when Facebook tends to be more active.

A volunteer for Twitter on the other hand might have an eye for rapid promotional content, and be good at condensing messages to fit within the stringent character limits of that platform. Instagram might require someone with visual flair, or a skill for producing short, snappy videos.

One role suddenly becomes at least four, with each role being more focused, and your chances of finding someone to do the work is increased.

Being More Inclusive

The data from our website also shows us that over 90% of people do not identify as having a disability.

We know from experience and from conversations with colleagues in the sector that many people living with disability do want to volunteer, but find that the roles offered do not meet their needs or requirements.

Those people are not reflected in the data because they haven’t applied for anything, and we want to work to make sure that there is more opportunity for everyone, which means supporting roles that are more inclusive and helping volunteer involving organisations meet those needs.

Other data from our review shows that while the majority of volunteers identify as white British, Lancaster has a higher proportion of BAME volunteers compared to the general population of the district (drawing from 2021 Census data). This is great news, but there is still more to be done.

Lancaster has an increasing population of refugees and asylum seekers for example and many of them would love to volunteer, but barriers include English skills and travel costs.

These are also areas that the Volunteer Centre would like to work to address.

The Future

Our online volunteer management system has a range of reporting functions built in, and as time goes on and more and more people use it, that data will provide further useful insights into volunteer trends in our district, from all the things above to maps showing concentration of volunteers, roles, and providers, and more. If you haven’t yet registered as a volunteer role provider, you can do so HERE. Registration takes a couple of minutes and once registered you can add roles directly or send information about what you’re looking for to [email protected]. Contacts us if you would like to discuss anything.

3 Top Tips for Engaging Volunteers

Permaculture UK recently ran a Masterclass session, sponsored by Zurich, where volunteer coordinator Behla Hutchinson from Hyde Park Source, a small environmental organisation in Leeds, gave her 3 top tips for working with volunteers.

Behla explained her top three tips:

1) First impressions 

  • Connect with volunteers 
  • Provide a really good induction, so that people know what to expect, how to give feedback if they need to and what the role is going to be about. 

2) Think about the role that the volunteer is going to be doing

  • Is it needed?
  • Is it a volunteer role? 
  • What sort of things do they need to bring to the role? Maybe creating a little template for your expectations and what expectations they might have. 

3) Support and celebrate

  • Make sure that people who were volunteering with your organisation or group feel supported in their role so that if they need extra support if they need help, if they don’t understand something then they’ve got someone to talk to, formally or informally. You could have a sit down with someone every couple of months. Or you could do it in the garden.
  • Check in with how things are going, how they’re progressing.
  • Celebrate the time energy effort and skills that the volunteers bring to your project.
  • Bring people together to celebrate one another’s skills, effort and energy to make sure that people feel valued within your organisation.”

You can see a short video of Behla going through her tips HERE.

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

African Proverb

Latest Roles and requests

Our latest roles include a Tree Nursery Maintenance role with Claver Hill; Ellel Village Hall are looking for a trustee with social media marketing experience; and Light Up Lancaster want people to make lanterns and perform with them at an upcoming event in November.

In addition to the above, we have potential volunteers at the moment looking specifically for admin/office type roles, and opportunities working with children between 11 and 14.

If you have projects in need of such volunteers, contact [email protected].

We are still also very interested in roles for people whose English language skills are not great, so let us know if you’d be happy to host volunteers in that category.

New Civil Society Almanac

FREE webinar, 18th October

If you found our insights above interesting, then you might want to register to attend the free, online event launching the new Civil Society Almanac.

The Almanac is the most detailed resource on the voluntary sector’s finances and workforce. It contains crucial information on organisations of all types and sizes, from income and assets to the demographics of our sector’s valued volunteers. 

NCVO say the event is particularly beneficial for anyone who needs to understand the operating environment for charities working with volunteers.

Taking place on 18th October, this webinar will introduce the headline findings, with a focus on financial data. You can register HERE.

Recruit and Manage Volunteers Online

How Does it Work?

Simply register as an opportunity provider HERE, then LOG-IN to access the dashboard. Once logged in you will be able to add new roles, manage existing ones, see volunteer profiles, send messages to volunteers, issue instructions, assign shifts and hours, and a lot more.

You may just want to use it as a simple promotional tool for your volunteer roles, and that’s just fine. We currently see a lot of visits to this site from people looking for new volunteering opportunities, and of course once it is on the site our Volunteer Centre team will be able to promote your roles in person when meeting potential volunteers, at events, on our social media, and in this bulletin!

For Volunteers

Using our platform, volunteers can: apply for or join opportunities; create a profile; track achievements; add CPD and qualifications; track opportunities attended; log hours. They can search for opportunities by keyword; categories; activities; distance and dates, and more.

For Organisations

Organisations can: create an organisation profile; create opportunities; manage unlimited volunteers; group volunteers; request references; access automated emails; upload documents; restrict opportunities; share the opportunity onto social media; link externally to your own website, and more.

Contact Us

If you need support with any aspect of volunteering or volunteer recruitment, from developing a policy to creating an impactful role description, or if you want to have something featured in this newsletter, please contact Mark Waddington either by telephone on 01524 555900 or by email at [email protected].

You can visit our website at www.lancastercvs.org.uk. Follow us on social media at www.twitter.com/LancasterCVS or www.facebook.com/LancasterCVS