Stone King is getting behind #VolunteersWeek, which runs from 1 to 7 June every year. It is an opportunity to celebrate volunteering and say thank you for the incredible contribution made by millions of volunteers across the UK each year.
To mark the 2018 initiative, Stone King’s Sarah Clune is sharing a series of insightful articles related to volunteering and organisations that rely on volunteers during the week.
Top Tips For a Successful Safeguarding Strategy
Here are six key safeguarding messages to think about when shaping your organisation’s approach to safeguarding vulnerable beneficiaries, staff and your volunteers:
- Safeguarding isn’t just about putting in place a policy or carrying out DBS checks, it’s about creating a safeguarding culture within your organisation. The Charity Commission has made it clear that safeguarding goes beyond protecting vulnerable beneficiaries and also requires organisations to take steps to safeguard staff and volunteers. Policies and procedures are great but everyone involved, including volunteers, need to be able to apply them on the ground, understand that they are taken seriously, and be aware of possible signs of abuse and grooming.
- Consistency is important in getting your safeguarding message across. Your commitment to safeguarding should be made clear through all points of engagement, including on your website, at events and in your publications. It is also essential when recruiting staff and volunteers, for example by obtaining DBS checks for those in close contact with children or vulnerable adults, ensuring that you have a thorough induction process and ongoing training not just for staff but volunteers too.
Sending out a strong message about the rigours of your organisation’s safeguards could deter an individual with malicious intentions from targeting your charity. Poor practice can be a magnet for someone to find a way to become involved with your organisation when they shouldn’t. Don’t be complacent.
- Proportionality is key – you need to consider the risk inherent in the activities that your organisation is carrying out and formulate your safeguarding approach with this in mind.
- You need to know when you are legally entitled to obtain DBS checks and barred list checks. I often come across organisations who are not obtaining the appropriate level of check for staff and volunteers – either they are not obtaining the checks that they should be or they have carried out blanket checks on all volunteers or members of staff regardless of their role or contact with vulnerable groups. Do you know which checks your organisation should carry out on its staff and volunteers?
- Remember when you are dealing with volunteers, they are giving up their time to help your cause – they are not paid employees. Whilst you should never cut corners where safeguarding is concerned, an overly complicated process could be a barrier to volunteering. Ensure that inductions, policies and procedures are clear and that volunteers can understand what is required. A code of conduct is useful and ensures that well intentioned volunteers and staff know what is expected of them and what is considered appropriate in order to avoid finding themselves in tricky situations where their actions or intentions could be misconstrued. Ensure that appropriate support and supervision is in place for all your volunteers.
- Just because someone is a celebrity or well-known either locally or nationally does not mean that proper safeguarding measures are not applicable to them. If your organisation has a visit from a high profile individual, apply the same rules. Many organisations found themselves in the spotlight as the horrors of Jimmy Saville’s prolific abuse came to light because they had not followed appropriate procedures when he visited vulnerable people.
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How to retain good volunteers
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.
Here is a succinct, seven-point checklist of things to consider if you are a charity trustee or manager working with volunteers:
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.