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  • Volunteering: ‘Not just hands but heads’ (Weekly blog, 11 June 2017)

    Posted on June 12, 2017
    A blog by Catherine Leonard, Secretary-General

    Volunteering was the theme of this week and I participated in an excellent webinar on Friday.  We’re hoping these will become regular Friday events in the future so do watch out for the next ones.

    INTO Volunteering webinar

    The webinar was led by Shila Brown, formerly National Volunteering and Community Manager with the National Trust of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (NTEWNI). She began by introducing the NT’s 2020 Vision for volunteering. The vision is firstly, for all staff to be capable and confident working with volunteers. And secondly, to involve volunteers in all aspects of the Trust’s work. This has meant making sure the offer keeps up with a changing volunteer market. The traditional audience is changing and we all need to stay on our toes to make sure that volunteering is genuinely mutually beneficial.

    ‘Not just hands but heads’

    Shila described this as lower volume, more hours, better retention and higher skills.   She also spoke about different ways of volunteering – digital, flexible or family volunteering and internships. She added that the Trust’s performance indicator for volunteering was around recommendation rather than satisfaction.  (So, would you help the Trust recruit other volunteers?)

    NTEWNI Family Working Holiday

    INTO members’ experiences

    There was a good diversity of organisations on the call, with difference levels of resource and experience in volunteering. Many INTO member organisations rely heavily of volunteers – a few (like FAI and NTEWNI) are operating a very sophisticated volunteering operation.

    Ian explained that the Guernsey National Trust was run almost entirely by volunteers with 2½ paid FTE staff.  There is a lot of competition on the small island (with over 400 other charities) and he wanted some tips on how to attract volunteers. Simone reported in advance that 99.5% of Din l’Art Helwa’s workforce was voluntary.

    Valentina works with a network of 300 volunteer co-ordinators who support around 700 volunteers during FAI’s Spring and Autumn Days. The FAI strategy talks about ‘keeping volunteers faithful’. They invest in training but still find it challenging to retain volunteers.

    Javier raised the issue of volunteers doing roles they think should be paid positions. Employment laws apply to volunteers.  Furthermore, volunteering is not a particularly common tradition in Spain.

    There were synergies and common ground, particularly around the changing audience.  More retired people now looking for employment or involved in caring for grandchildren.  And young people are too busy studying or looking for paid work.

    Volunteering strategy

    TEIA volunteers, Taiwan

    One top tip was to try family volunteering. Give groups of family visitors a task for a day – you can get quite a lot done and build engagement at the same time!

    The other strategies discussed included recruiting (the importance of recommendation, databases and social media); inviting people to special open days at historic sites (both for recruitment and reward); the use of contracts; involvement in staff events, conferences and training; corporate volunteering; working parties/holidays; communicating with volunteers and performance management.

    We recorded the session which is available here.

    INTO Africa Crowdfunding Project

    Our crowdfunding project partners in Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zimbabwe are just launching their video competitions!

    We all know how important it is to engage young people. Their passion and enthusiasm – combined with their savvy presentation skills and use of social media – can make all the difference. We’ve certainly seen this in action this week with the huge youth turn-out making all the difference in the UK General Election.

    The competition aims to harness the enthusiasm and technological know-how of young Africans in the celebration of cultural heritage. We are challenging them to create short clips or videos about elements of their cultural heritage, which they feel are important/exciting/worth sharing internationally.

    The best entries will be posted on line and people will be able to vote for their favourites. There will be one overall winner from each country, who will receive a prize!

    FAI’s Summer Nights

    FAI’s Summer Nights (Sere FAI d’Estate) caught my eye this week – an opportunity to visit properties by night (dusk until midnight) and enjoy moonlit picnics, concerts, tours, candlelit visits … What a great idea!

    Thanks for reading!

    You can find further information about:

    The NTEWNI’s volunteering strategy

    INTO’s Short Guide to Retaining and Recruiting Volunteers

    The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Investing in Volunteers: A Guide to Volunteer Management

    CCFU’s Working with Community Volunteers to Enhance the Decision-making Powers of Women


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