Keeping up volunteers productivity

Keeping up volunteers productivity within in the third sector

More people are signing up to volunteering but the amount of hours they spend volunteering has decreased.

Between 2014 and 2015, the value of formal volunteering fell from £22.8bn to £22.6bn. This was mainly due to a fall in the total number of hours volunteered between these years.

In Kirklees 25% of residents regularly volunteer at least once a month. People aged 65-74 most likely to volunteer, 25-34 and 75 plus are least likely to Volunteer. CLIK 2016 

According to the Trends in the Third Sector North of England report, ‘’the majority of TSOs, and particularly the smallest organisations, have very limited income and do not employ staff. They are, as a consequence, entirely dependent upon freely given time to manage organisations and deliver the work needed. As organisations become larger, they depend much more heavily upon employees – but volunteers continue to play an important role in their governance and the delivery of their work.’’

So how can third sector organisations ensure that when they have volunteers enrolled, to donate their time and skills, they see value stay enthused and productive?

The solution

Oxfam Waste Saver, based in Batley, deals with large numbers of charity donations that don’t go into the high street shops is sent to the Wastesaver warehouse, garments are passed along vast conveyor belts with skilled staff picking off different items for different end-uses.

Oxfam have over 20 volunteers and the company puts a lot of time into inducting new voluntary employees and keeping them engaged.

The company has recognised that for some volunteers, perhaps retired or part-time workers, volunteer with Oxfam because they believe in the cause and these are our longer term volunteers. While other volunteers, perhaps students or job-seekers, are volunteering to gain or share their skills and experiences before they move into long term employment.

So to keep them engaged from day one, Oxfam have an induction process put together for new volunteers to help them hit the ground running from day one and see what the time and resource they put into the company benefits others across the world.

Every volunteer is given a briefing of what Oxfam does and where the money they raise will be spent. They are given a full tour of the premises and a look at the online product life-cycle. From this they can pick what role(s) they would like to try and this is where they will give them training on.

The team managers aim to keep the environment fun and offer training across different areas of the business to help keep tasks varied for people so they don’t feel as though they are doing the same task each time supporting a productive environment and keeping volunteers engaged.

From there the staff regularly check in and feedback to the volunteer team, both individually and in monthly team meetings to ensure they happy with what they are doing and let them know we are here for extra support and to answer any questions.

This has supported the company to keep a level amount of volunteers within the organisation and be consistent. The common reasons for staff leaving is that volunteers either return to university or find employment. So volunteers in the pipeline can see that volunteering can be a benefit to themselves regarding gaining future employment.

Holly Bentley Online Manager, Oxfam GB said;

"Whilst retention and productivity are very varied when it comes to volunteer roles, I think people are happier in their role when they have a thorough understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it.

We always try to create a fun volunteer environment, we are transparent about figures, hold monthly team meetings and talk about how volunteers’ contribution is helping Oxfam's work worldwide."

Some thoughts on volunteering

Whilst volunteers can be difficult for third sector organisations to retain, having an informative induction process has shown to help volunteers understand the wider picture they are contributing to can help with motivation.

Offering a variety of roles to volunteer within can help keep people engaged because of the opportunity to learn multiple skills that can be carried forward support them in gaining experience for their CV to find paid employment.

Becky Bracey from Volunteering Kirklees comments

"Although we are seeing formal and regular volunteering is becoming static, we need to acknowledge that people want to volunteer more flexibly. Informal volunteering and less regular volunteering are more popular."

Things to consider

  1. Can a volunteer role be carried out remotely / from home?
  2. Does a Volunteer need to come at a certain day or time or can you offer something more flexible?
  3. Could you offer more one off/ group social volunteering opportunities which could provide a taster for people who haven’t volunteered before?
  4. Also consider barriers to volunteering – do travel expenses for example create a barrier to start volunteering.

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