At Stone King we regularly work with charity trustees, particularly those who are newly appointed and need a little help to learn what the role involves and guidance on best practice. Most charities rely on help from volunteers to carry out their charitable work, so it is important for trustees to think about how they can support them in return. Charities that spend time making sure their volunteers are happy and looked after will find it easier to retain volunteers and their contribution will ultimately be more helpful to the charity and its beneficiaries.
The following is a succinct, seven-point checklist of things to consider if you are a charity trustee or manager working with volunteers.
- 1. Volunteering is a two-way relationship
A volunteer is willingly giving up their free time to help your organisation’s cause, so the volunteer-charity relationship needs to work both ways. Volunteers need to understand how they can best support the charity and the charity needs to recognise why their volunteers have chosen to support their cause and what skills and time they can offer.
- 2. Listen to your volunteers
Your volunteers’ ideas, concerns and general feedback is likely to be very useful for the charity to take on board and by listening, your volunteers will feel valued.
- 3. Clearly define their roles and responsibilities
By taking the time to clearly identify what your volunteers’ roles and responsibilities are, supported by appropriate literature and training as appropriate, you will minimise any misunderstandings when new volunteers come on board that may take up resources to resolve and, in the worst cases, have damaging effects on the charity’s reputation.
- 4. Get to know them and their skills
Every volunteer has different skills and has decided to offer your charity their time for a specific reason. By getting to know them you will be able to benefit from the skills they have and they, in turn, are likely to find the experience more rewarding because they know they are making a real difference.
- 5. Communicate with them clearly and openly
An open and two-way line of communication is vital for a successful volunteer-charity relationship. Charities need to communicate clearly about the roles and responsibilities they have taken the time to define for their volunteers, and volunteers equally need to feel comfortable that they can raise any issues and know who to speak to.
- 6. Give them opportunities to develop
Volunteers give up their time because they choose to, but to help keep them involved in your particular charity’s work and to give something back in return for their support, charities should try to offer their volunteers opportunities where they can learn and hone new skills.
- 7. Develop an appraisal system
By dedicating time to your volunteers to provide feedback on their support, perhaps once per year, it will help them to realise how appreciated and noticed their efforts have been. Any appraisal should of course focus on the positive contribution they have made during the year, but it might also be an opportunity to help their development with constructive and tactful feedback, if appropriate.
We run charity trustee training sessions across our network office network. It offers a series of workshops covering topics including charity volunteers, employees and safeguarding; traditional and innovative ways to raise funds; accounts; data protection and commercial issues; and buying, selling and maintaining property, among other topics.