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Supporting and retaining staff and volunteers during the cost of living crisis

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This page is for senior leaders and decision-makers in voluntary organisations to learn about practical ways, to support your staff and volunteers.

The impact on staff and volunteers

The impact of the cost of living crisis on staff and volunteers is evident. Research has shown that:

  • 28% of employees worry about money everyday. Most employers underestimate this and think the figure is closer to 3% (WageStream: State of Financial Wellbeing 2023).
  • 52% of employees are more worried about money than anything else (Atkinson HR internal research).
  • Seven in ten employers have hard-to-fill vacancies (70%) saying that current staff were facing increased workloads as a result (Running hot, burning out, Pro-bono economics and Nottingham Trent University, March 2023).
  • 26% of volunteers feel that volunteering is becoming too much like paid work (Time Well, NCVO, Spent 2023).

Given the evidence, we share some tips to help you support and retain your staff and volunteers through this difficult period.

Tips to support and retain your staff

Pay your staff a living wage

Doing this will help you compete in a competitive jobs market and increase staff morale and motivation. In practice, you can:

  • Review your pay policy regularly and have a fair and transparent pay framework that is financially sustainable.
  • Carry out regular benchmarking of staff salaries to understand where you stand in the market. Make sure you consult staff when making any changes.
  • Make sure that different methods of progression - such as training, learning and development opportunities - are available for all staff and managed fairly.

Check the real living wage on the Living Wage Foundation’s website and read our guidance on setting salaries

Consider the perks and benefits you offer your staff.

The perks and benefits you offer staff can help them cope with the financial and well-being pressures associated with the cost of living crisis. Here are some common perks or benefits you can include:

  • Offer flexible working opportunities where possible. Flexible working can help reduce expenses like travel, food and childcare.
    • For example, consider allowing staff to work from home, change their working hours or travel to site off-peak where possible.
    • For roles that cannot be done from home or that have set hours, you can consider measures including extended vacations and allowing employees to swap shifts.
    • Be clear about what forms of flexibility can be considered and how staff can access these. Developing a flexible working policy can give reassurance to staff and make sure this is consistent.
  • Offer generous annual leave. Most staff who work a five-day week must receive at least 28 days of annual leave a year. Consider offering additional annual leave to reward loyalty or long service and or to support staff wellbeing.
  • Offer generous pension contributions that go above the legal minimum of 3%.
  • Identify clear ways to support staff wellbeing. This may be through allowing staff to access Employee Assistance Programmes and or providing mental health first aid training.

Learn more about flexible working and developing a flexible working policy. Read our guidance on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of your team.

Support staff with rising costs

Financial worries can have a negative impact on staff wellbeing and affect wider staff performance and morale. Here are some simple ways you can support staff with their financial worries and rising costs:

  • Make financial matters part of everyday conversations. Talk about financial wellbeing in staff meetings and 1-to-1s. Identify financial wellbeing champions amongst your staff and encourage them to share tips.
  • Support staff with some of their biggest outgoings by doing these simple things:
    • Offering season ticket loans.
    • Where possible, setting up salary sacrifice arrangements meaning that people can save through payroll.
    • Providing free refreshments in the office.
    • Providing free menstrual products in the office.
  • Provide financial education and signposting to national and local money advice services.

The charity Mind has tips for managing money and mental health.

Tips to support and retain your volunteers

Supporting your volunteers goes hand in hand with retaining them. It goes without saying that volunteers who feel supported and have a positive experience are more likely to continue volunteering.

Demonstrate increased awareness of volunteers expenses

The financial impact of volunteering is an increasing concern. In Time Well Spent (2023) 14% of non-volunteers said that the worry that they would lose money was a barrier to volunteering.

To address this you can:

  • Consider developing or reviewing your expenses policy. Consider putting into practice these simple things:
    • Talk to your volunteers about when they need their expenses reimbursed, considering peaks and troughs in their disposable income.
    • Make sure that the process for reimbursing expenses is easy to complete.
  • Make clear in every volunteer interaction that there is an expense policy which shows your commitment to volunteers not being out of pocket. Where volunteers don’t claim expenses then ask them proactively if they want to and make it part of regular supervision or support meetings.
  • Profile volunteers who share their experience of claiming expenses. By normalising claiming expenses as part of regular volunteering activities, you can minimise any embarrassment volunteers might feel.

Read our guidance on paying volunteer expenses.

Actively consider flexible volunteering

Flexibility matters. Volunteers want to be flexible about the way they give their unpaid time. Flexibility can support volunteer wellbeing and allow for a more diverse pool of volunteers. Sometimes flexibility will not be possible but you can consider these idea:

  • Continue to ask yourself how you can make volunteering more flexible.
    • Can a role be done online?
    • Do we really need a regular time commitment?
    • Can we provide more structured breaks, sabbaticals and opportunities for people to step away and step back?.
  • Share case studies of volunteers who share their experience of flexibility. This can help embed a culture where flexibility is valued and supported.

Maintain a positive volunteering experience

There are lots of ways you can help to ensure your volunteers have a positive experience. You can:

  • Make time for one-to-one meetings and supervision. This will provide volunteers with the opportunity to talk through what they have been doing and raise any concerns they have as and when they arise.
  • Encourage feedback. This will allow you to learn what is working well and where things can be improved.
  • Give space for volunteers to get to know each other and offer peer support. This might be through group sessions, a buddying system or an online space.

Read our guidance on supporting and managing volunteers

Last reviewed: 30 October 2023

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 30 October 2023

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