Supporting Volunteers

Volunteers, just like everyone else, need some form of ongoing support to help them in their volunteering roles.

Implementing a good support system will help volunteers to carry out their responsibilities within your organisation, catch minor issues before they get bigger, get the most from their volunteering experience, and will demonstrate to volunteers that their work and development is important to you.

This Good Practice Guide will help you create a positive support structure for your volunteers.

Regular and planned meetings with your volunteers will help you get to know them better, help highlight where changes in their role or times may be necessary, aid in creating positive volunteering environments, and be a means to garner feedback on your volunteering programme from the volunteers themselves.

Why have a support system?

An effective support system will provide a means of tackling problems before they can get out of hand. Support is an enabling activity that focuses on the person, rather than their tasks, and can involve:

  • Giving volunteers the space and encouragement to share thoughts and feelings
  • Listening to what your volunteers have to say
  • Being reliably there for other people
  • Increasing the other person’s self esteem
  • Enabling the volunteer to cope with effects from their volunteering role
  • Providing practical assistance and signposting
  • Keeping a written record of supervisions
  • Helping to identify ways in which volunteers can grow and develop in their lives and in their volunteering roles.
  • Identifying latent skills or areas of interest that would be beneficial to the organisation.

As with most areas of volunteer management, there is no single “right” way to offer support to volunteers. Different volunteer tasks will require different types of support, and you will also need to take into account the differing needs of individual volunteers. For example, volunteer management committees or board members will usually need different inductions and support from volunteers delivering direct services. 

What is important is that an appropriate support system is in place from the beginning of each volunteer’s involvement with you. Remember that supporting volunteers includes practical issues such as expenses, their training needs or making sure volunteers are given up-to-date and comprehensive information.

Ways of offering support

All volunteers should have a named person who will offer on-going personal support that allows them to talk through any issues and problems that they may have. There are many factors to consider when offering support:

  • Regular, pre-arranged one-to-one support sessions
  • Informal day-to-day support, e.g. checking in with a volunteer at the end of each session
  • Telephone support
  • Review/development/evaluation sessions at fixed points during the year
  • Getting in touch at key points, e.g. after a potentially stressful session
  • Group support – getting volunteers together to share ideas and experiences
  • Peer support – using experienced, long-standing volunteers to support new volunteers
  • Training – all volunteers should have the training necessary to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to carry out their tasks safely and effectively.

The way in which your organisation offers support to volunteers will be determined by a variety of factors, such as the type of organisation, the nature of the volunteer’s task, the needs of individual volunteers and the resources available. A good support system will incorporate elements of practical, organisational, information and personal support to volunteers. At the start of a volunteer’s involvement with the project, you should take the time to discuss what they think their support needs will be and what you feel is appropriate to their role. You can then agree on the best method of providing support.

Remember that a volunteer’s support needs may change during their involvement with your organisation, therefore it is important to regularly review the way in which support is offered.

 

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to gift it away.”

– William Shakespeare

Further Support Available

Stockton Volunteers is dedicated to supporting volunteer involved organisations in Stockton-on-Tees. Further support is available through our website, where you can:

  • Download more Good Practice Guides
  • Find out more about the Stockton Volunteers Good Practice Kite Mark
  • Place volunteer advertisements
  • Get information about our latest Stockton Volunteers Partnership Meeting
  • Contact us for advice and support on your volunteering programmes
  • Get advice on policies and procedures for volunteering.

The Stockton Volunteers Good Practice Kite Mark is awarded to organisations who demonstrate commitment to supporting and nurturing their volunteers.

Recognised across County Durham and Stockton-on-Tees, the Stockton Volunteers Good Practice Kite Mark follows the ethos of Volunteer England and National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).