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Supporting volunteers

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Once you've recruited and inducted your volunteers, they will need ongoing support.

Your volunteer policy should outline the standard of support and supervision you aim to have in place for all volunteers. Make sure you get to know the individual needs of the volunteers you’re supervising, so you can provide any additional support they might need beyond this.

You should have regular contact with all volunteers, but it’s good practice to offer one-to-one meetings to see how things are going and get to know each of them.

You could talk about:

  • what they are enjoying about their role
  • what their motivations are and what they would like to achieve
  • successes they've had
  • difficulties they've had
  • support or training they might need going forward.

It can be hard to find time to talk to each volunteer, especially if you are responsible for many. But it's essential to give volunteers the opportunity to give and receive feedback.

Make it clear who volunteers should contact if they have a problem, and when this help is available. Volunteers should not miss out on support because they volunteer outside of office hours or in a different location. If volunteers are active in the evenings or weekends, you may need to offer support at those times. Conducting a risk assessment will help you to identify what’s needed.

Supervising volunteers

Some volunteer roles will be easier to oversee than others. If volunteers are at home or in the community, you won't be able to check what they are doing all the time. Nor would that feel like a positive experience.

Give people the resources and guidance they need so that they can be as independent as possible. A reporting or logging system helps you see what volunteers have done. Debriefs at the end of shifts let volunteers talk through their tasks and any concerns they had.

Make sure it's clear to everyone who has responsibility for supervising volunteers. This might be a different person from the one who recruited and chose the volunteers.

Roles that are emotionally demanding or more specialist might need further supervision. Some volunteers offer caring or clinical services, such as counselling or psychotherapy. Be clear how they will get supervision to meet professional and ethical standards.

Encouraging feedback

Feedback from volunteers is vital to providing a good experience. You can learn what they enjoy about volunteering and what might be causing them problems. You can also find out how useful the training and support you offer is for their role.

There are different ways of getting feedback from your volunteers. You could:

  • use questionnaires
  • do interviews
  • set up groups of volunteers to come together and discuss things you would like feedback on.

If you request feedback from your volunteers, make sure you demonstrate the value of their feedback by letting them know what you learned, and what action you will take as a result. This shows volunteers that you value their feedback and will encourage them to continue sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Peer support

Volunteers are often the best support for each other. Make it easy for volunteers to speak to and learn from others. You can do this by setting up group sessions, having a buddy system or by having online spaces they can use.

In some roles, it's useful to have two or more volunteers volunteering together. Try to offer a range of options to suit different lifestyles and commitments.

Last reviewed: 12 April 2021

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 12 April 2021

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