Dave Thomas, Volunteering Development Officer at NCVS, writes...
Six months ago, in August 2020, when the first wave of the pandemic seemed to be easing off and lockdown was lifted, I wrote a blog post asking Leaders of Volunteers to review their pre-lockdown opportunities.
From where we are now, in March 2021, it is easy to see that I floated that idea too early. We couldn’t have predicted the second wave of the coronavirus at that time, or the subsequent impact it would have on the voluntary sector.
At that time, many voluntary/community organisations were effectively closed, some staff were on furlough and some existing volunteers were shielding. Volunteering opportunities were modified and a lot of new ones were developed to take into account socially distanced and remote volunteering. But almost two-thirds of pre-lockdown volunteering opportunities in Nottingham were put on hold. This meant that huge numbers of volunteers who were active before the pandemic had no role, and the continued demand, from them and from new volunteers, has been met by a smaller number of organisations and opportunities.
However, the Covid-19 vaccination programme seems to casting a ray of hope that life, and with it volunteering, can start to adjust to a gradual relaxation of the restrictions. So, I am sticking my neck out again and asking, “is it finally time to open up volunteer roles?”
There seem to be three possible answers to this question. For some of us the answer will be "no, it’s still too early." Others will say that we have already made the changes that are needed to keep volunteers and service users safe, and some Leaders of Volunteers may now want to look at how to re-open and re-build their volunteer programme.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
No, It’s still too early
If your professional opinion, as a Leader of Volunteers, is that it is still too early to start re-introducing volunteers into your organisation, I support you in this decision. However, it’s never too early to plan for the time when you can, once again, involve volunteers. Please read on.
We’re already doing it
In that case, you are one of the Leaders of Volunteers with the experience of changing your roles and your ways of supporting volunteers. I would love it if you would be prepared to share what you have already done, what you have learned and how volunteers have reacted to your new ways of working.
Would you be happy to write a guest blog on your experiences for the NCVS website or lead a discussion on this at a Leaders of Volunteers Network (LoVN) meeting? If so, please get in touch with me, by emailing email@example.com
I’d like to restart, but don’t know how
The first thing to remember is that we are not going to simply return to the situation that we were in at the start of 2020. Every role now needs to be reassessed, to take into account the needs and safety of your organisation, service users and volunteers in regard to Covid-19.
This presents an exciting opportunity for us, how often have you had the chance to rebuild your volunteer programme from the ground up? We can seize this moment and bring our volunteer programme right into the 21st Century. For example, over the past year, technology has become much more integral in our day-to-day life, with many people, who may not have relied on the internet before, using it as their main source of information and communication - how can we adapt our volunteer programmes to reflect this?
I've set out ten planning questions below to get you started with considering and planning how your volunteer programme could look now.
Ten planning questions
- How are we going to use volunteers’ new digital skills in our volunteer programme?
- Will we continue to provide home-based roles?
- What flexible opportunities can we offer?
- What additional risks will have to be managed?
- How has our organisation, beyond the volunteer programme, changed?
- How can whole families be more involved as volunteers?
- Are we ready to give volunteers more responsibility?
- Can we re-engage with existing volunteers who haven’t been active during the pandemic, or will we have to recruit a new team?
- What changes do we need to make to our volunteer recruitment, induction and training to reflect the world we now live in?
- Why will volunteers want to come to us, or come back to us?
In August 2020, I wrote, “Now is the time to take a look at the roles you promoted six months ago and review what needs to be changed to make sure your opportunities fit the reality that we are now inviting volunteers to join.”
This is more true now, than when it was written six months ago. I’d love to help you to redesign your volunteer roles, contact me at the NCVS Volunteer Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org