Supporting your volunteers
All volunteers should have a named person who will offer on-going personal support that allows them talk through any issues and problems that they have.
This can be offered in a variety of ways, including:
regular, pre-arranged one-to-one support sessions
informal day-to-day support, for example, checking in with volunteers at the end of each session
review/development/evaluation sessions at fixed points during the year
getting in touch at key points, for example, after a potentially stressful session
group support – getting volunteers together to share ideas and experiences
peer support – using experienced, long-standing volunteers to support new volunteers
training – all volunteers should have the training necessary to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to carry out their tasks safely and effectively
The way in which your organisation offers support to volunteers will be determined by a variety of factors, such as:
the type of organisation
the nature of the volunteer task
the needs of individual volunteers and the resources available
A good support system will incorporate elements of practical, organisational, information and personal support to volunteers. At the start of a volunteer’s involvement with the project you should take the time to discuss what they think their support needs will be and what you feel is appropriate to their role and agree on the best method of providing support.
Remember that a volunteer’s support needs may change during their involvement with you and so it is important to review regularly the way in which support is offered.
A good support system for volunteers will:
ensure volunteers can claim their rights
ensure that volunteers can carry out their responsibilities in line with their role or task descriptions and the volunteer agreement
assess and identify training needs
exchange information and ideas
allow early intervention in problems or issues
help you gauge the stage and needs of the volunteer
a time to praise particular aspects of their work or conduct etc.
Making the support effective
When considering how you are going to structure your support and supervision sessions, it is a good idea to think about what factors can affect how effective the session will go with your volunteer, particularly if you need to address something with them.
For a session to be effective you should:-
schedule enough time
ensure there is privacy
have clear structure
keep appropriate records
set date for next session
agree future plans where appropriate
finish on a positive note
A good support session is essential and therefore you should avoid:
appearing like you are in a rush, distracted or allow interruptions
no summary at end of session
no agreement when next session will happen
finishing on a non positive note
Remember that your support and supervision structure has to suit your organisation and your volunteer roles. It is a chance for you and your volunteer(s) to have space to look at all aspects of their volunteering.
It is also an opportunity to:
empower and coach your volunteer
evaluate how the relationship and role is working