You WILL be useful…

“I have been in Calais the jungle and it was one of the most difficult times I have ever lived in. I have stayed in the forest for nearly a year and a half. I have enjoyed the most beautiful friends in my life. They devoted their time to us and did everything they could to meet our needs of eating, drinking, dressing and treating like never before.” Letter from a refugee to Refugee Community Kitchen

Take a bow Refugee Community Kitchen and all the Calais volunteers, in a month that’s seen Volunteers Week, Refugee Week AND Eid – thank you for humanising lives.

If you choose to volunteer with these guys it will be one of the most fulfilling, vital volunteer roles you wll ever do.


Rebecca (2)Or if you’re London based – our Stories and Supper project is bulding momentum towards its next outing at the Walthamstow Garden Party.  Referrals very welcome from projects supporting refugees, or other volunteers.

If you’re coordinating any of this great activity – pop in on an online Q+A in July.






Recruit – Retain – Motivate. Free Sessions

VST logo

Recruitment – Retention- Motivation – Evaluation…

The online classroom for volunteer coordinators will be underway by the end of March.  Come to a free introduction session to find out more!

For Volunteer Co-ordinators, Volunteer Managers, ANYONE involving volunteers

making a difference.jpg

Come into the live online training room! Meet the trainer, test your headphones, scribble on the whiteboard and have a text chat.    If you’re feeling REALLY adventurous you can try out a mic!
By the end of just half an hour you’ll be able to:

  • Operate the simple tools to interact with other attendees and the trainer in a live online learning situation
  • Share your own skills and experience with others live and online

Full one hour sessions include:

  • Creating Great Task Descriptions for Volunteer Roles
  • Positive Feedback.jpgRecruiting People to Stay
  • Involving the Busy People
  • Volunteers and Employment Law
  • Who Can Volunteer?  Age, Immigration and Welfare Conundrums
  • Creating Inspiring One-Off Volunteer Opportunities
  • Demonstrating the Impact of your Volunteers and your Organisation
  • Time-Saving Tech for Volunteer Coordinators

Choose a free introductory session here

Book full sessions here

Your questions answered here


Autumn 2016: Open Courses

feedingbackOpen courses with places in the next few months:

Demonstrating the VALUE of your Volunteers:  13th October

We’ll work out how to gather evidence of all that good stuff you know is happening,  and use it – to celebrate your own achievements, create great funding bids, or build partnerships with others.

Book here – prices from £25

More about the course here


Volunteers and the Law:  WHO can volunteer, and HOW?  16th November

Fully up-to-date, covering relevant employment law and minimum wage legislation,  health and safety, DBS checks and busting a few immigration myths along the way.

Book here – prices from £25

More about the course here

These courses are both in Chelmsford – a train from London, and well connected to Essex and Suffolk.  Please share!

Recruiting Volunteers – Accredited:  7th December

more info soon


FREE Live Online Workshops!

supported by santander

After a useful – (and highly amusing – thanks Tom for the Heavy Metal requests…) first session with attendees from around the UK we are ready for SESSION TWO!

Workshops and networking LIVE on the internet.  Why?!

We’ll explore some of the ways we can create classrooms online, some of the barriers and opportunities, and you will look at the times and places this would work in your projects.

Wednesday 21st October 1.30pm  ONE HOUR ONLY!

Think this is weird?  No idea what I’m on about?  BRILLIANT, please be involved!

I’ve been a teacher and trainer for 15 years and I love watching people take on new information and ideas.   I recently attended an online classroom  about live training on the internet.  It blew me away!  And I realised that in certain circumstances online classrooms are a great way to learn.

Join me to try this out:

Unltd – supporting social entrepreneurs – have a small fund to support networking, and I have a grant to pilot these ideasupported by santanders.



Sign up for everything here.  I’ll send lots more info and give you a call next week.  (IGNORE SESSION ONE QUESTIONS!)

Session 3  will be a group session at the Learning Lodge in Chingford E4 – what was all that about then and how did we find it?!  TWO HOURS.  WITH CAKE.   We will agree this date during session 2, so that it suits those that have signed up.

What I want from you.

Please give me feedback.  Honest conversations about this kind of networking and learning are essential!

What I can offer:

I have many years’ experience of involving volunteers and supporting others, and of standard learning environments, so I hope you’ll get questions answered and a broad knowledge of good practice.

I will also support you fully to access the training – logging in with you in the same location if necessary.  I’m interested in actively involving those who are the most nervous and sceptical about this kind of learning environment!

Hope to ‘see’ you online soon!

Networking and Training: Waltham Forest Autumn 2015

  vawf logo A series of opportunities to learn, share skills and network with other coordinators in North East London this Autumn. Sessions are facilitated by Rebecca Tully, in partnership with Significant Seams and Voluntary Action Waltham Forest.  Booking details below and at the Voluntary Action Website.significant-seams-logo

Involving the Busy People – planning for short term and low-responsibility roles.
Friday 25th September   10am – 12.  Significant  Seams, 131 Wood St, London E17 3LX. FREE

A 2 hr session with Significant Seams and Team London exploring how preparation as organisations can help us harness the skills of people that are willing to help but don’t have much time.  BOOK HERE

Time-Saving Tech for Volunteer Coordinators
Tuesday 29th September  10am-3pm Learning Lodge, Pimp Hall Nature Reserve, Off Kings Road, London E4 7HR
£50 including networking lunchnetworklunch

We’ll look at all the ways you can make your life easier as a co-ordinator with online forms, surveys, email newsletters and social media tips.  Expect practical and hands-on solutions for your job!  BOOK HERE

Planning Great Taster Sessions – getting things done with short term tasks
Thursday 22nd October 10am -12   Voluntary Action Waltham Forest, Waltham Forest Resource Hub (Central), 1 Russell Road, London E10 7ES.  FREE

A 2 hr session with Significant Seams and Team London exploring role creation for introductory tasks that lots of people can be involved in, and that benefit the organisation.  BOOK HERE

Dealing with Difficult Situations with Volunteers
Tuesday 3rd November  10am-2pm Voluntary Action Waltham Forest, Waltham Forest Resource Hub (Central), 1 Russell Road, London E10 7ES

A 3 hr session looking at some of the more challenging situations we come across and how to avoid, or deal with these issues.
£40 including networking lunch  BOOK HERE

Covering our bases…Best Practice Basics

Very engaging and informative… with a positive, inclusive ethos” Natalie, Forest Farm Peace Garden

Volunteer Management has found its way back into the news recently for reasons we’d all rather avoid – no volunteer co-ordinator wants to end up in the High Court proving their volunteer is not an employee, or settling an employment tribunal discrimination case out of court… Whilst these situations are rare, it seems a good time to remind ourselves of the basics of getting involved and keeping people involved, whatever our project and however many of us there are doing it, voluntarily or as a paid co-ordinator.

Motivations Retention and Roles is an interactive and fun half-day session, part of a course of four, for those co-ordinating or supporting volunteers as part of their role. If getting people involved and/or supporting them in their voluntee055ring is what you do – or part of it – this is for you. The session reinforces the basics of best practice in keeping people involved, in particular creating roles that best suit your organisation.

The content includes:

  • Why do people volunteer and what do they bring?
  • Reimbursing volunteer expenses
  • Working out what you want as an organisation
  • Writing killer task descriptions!

By the end of the morning session you will:

  • Understand what motivates volunteers, and how organisations benefit
  • Assess their organisation’s needs and write a task description to fill the need
  • Understand the process of recruiting volunteers and how it relates to volunteer retention
  • Be able to explain appropriate expenses and why reimbursement is necessary

You can browse other course titles here.

To book, just call Happy on 020 7375 7300. Details of the courses are online here but it’s best to call to book. The price of each half day is from £50. I look forward to seeing you there!

Work. Fair. Volunteer.

Mandatory work placements weaken our community sector.  Volunteer managers should keep sight of our definition of volunteering, and be honest about what it’s not.

In the training I do, discussion can arise when we’re looking at volunteer motivations.  “Why DO people get involved in the first place…?”  is a question I ask a lot.  We play bingo with volunteer motivations, we look at research, we tell stories of ours and others’ experiences, we unpick what it is that makes people get involved and we look at how understanding this is the key to getting the best for everyone out of volunteering.

VMT SlidesMore often than I’d hope, people’s responses include… “because they’ve been sent… because they’ve been told to”.  This is tricky.  A big reason why people get involved in something is because they’ve been asked, or even had their arm twisted into it by a persuasive friend.

How is this different to being told to volunteer by a stranger? punishing povertyPossibly a stranger threatening that you’ll also lose the state benefit you’re entitled to?

Volunteering. Spending time, “unpaid, doing something which aims to benefit someone…other than or in addition to close relatives, or to benefit the environment.”  This definition is from a national survey in 1997 and is very similar to both the Police Act and Jobseekers’ Regulations’ definitions.  Many would go further, adding that it needs to be independently chosen and mutually beneficial (Greater London Volunteering).  Voluntary.

P1020067croppedWe sometimes lose sight of the reasons people find themselves at the door of an organisation.  Maybe because we need their help, maybe because we know that the experience once through the door is a brilliant one and we think it’s worth the coercion.  (Read YMCA’s compelling argument  here.)   But whatever we call it, defining voluntary activity and how people choose to get involved is important so as not to lose sight of what it achieves.

It is the act of choosing to get involved and sticking to it that is the transformative thing, not the simple turning up.  Cajoling, motivating, nudging you to go, hearing about your first experience, encouraging you into the second visit, you getting round to it in your own time… all of these things happen from persuasive and well-meaning colleagues, support workers, friends but the choice is ultimately yours – and that’s how unemployed volunteers might build confidence, skills and attitudes that lead to employability and work.  Either this, or maintain these attributes instead of feeling gradually more useless and unemployable.LVSC Intro VOls

Mandatory work activity is not volunteering.  Volunteers of every flavour built the voluntary organisations we work and volunteer for, and motivations for this were – and remain – many and varied.  They didn’t do it because they were told to.  Plenty of people, unemployed and otherwise, are continuing to build our communities as volunteers – although some are being lost because they are being forced elsewhere to complete unmatched work placements; as well as a loss to the organisation, what loss of experience and skills for the volunteer?

Mandatory work placements in private companies – Asda, McDonalds to name just two – are simply unfair – they make a mockery of competition, and don’t achieve their goal of job creation or getting people into employment.

Mandatory work placements in voluntary organisations shift our mission from community building to disempowerment, and muddle our view as a nation of voluntary activity.

I will continue to work for support and funding to persuade, cajole, motivate, and encourage as many people as possible into volunteering: this experience has an amazing effect on individuals and communities.  Volunteering – Getting Involved – Participating – changes lives, and there are projects up and down the country providing these opportunities and getting people into them every day.

Support them. Not Workfare.

Other links:

Find out private, public and voluntary organisations participating in mandatory work activity programmes. Avoid them!

Mental Health Charity Mind’s statement on the workfare scheme and the work programme

IVR’s ‘Gateway to Work’ report: the link between volunteering and employability

Pathways through Participation research: why people get involved and stay involved.

Find your local Volunteer Centre: often the place in your area that knows the most about volunteering projects for harder to reach groups.

The high profile case of the volunteer forced to work in Poundland in favour of her own freely-chosen volunteering

Teach Them Well… Kids and Volunteering

This was originally posted on  as a Thoughtful Thursdays blog post.  Feel free to continue adding thoughts, there or here!

Being in charge of a child teaches you a lot about what’s achievable – and what you as a person want to achieve. I don’t think this learning can only come from being a parent, but for me that was the catalyst for changing my attitude to volunteering roles and young kids. This post is about sharing the things I’ve realised, and the roles I think work, and inviting a friendly flood of ideas for the ways parents and young children (and older children – why not) get involved with our organisations.wheelbarrrowstones

In the Before Times, I did a lot of assuming as a volunteer co-ordinator and broker.

“Volunteers can share childcare between each other easily, can’t they?” (They can, but it takes confidence, time and strong social networks.)

“Volunteers would want childcare or a crèche so that they can do a volunteer shift” (Will they? Really? What about involving both?)

…So what I never contemplated was that a parent volunteer – and that strange creature is now ME – might actually want to be with my offspring.  I have now discovered that in a lot of activities I’m getting involved in, I want my daughter with me.  Not because I can’t bear to be parted from her;  I am the kind of parent that needs my space and to maintain my identity, and I’ll go to quite some lengths for that.  No, it’s because the things I am desperate to learn, and haven’t stopped wanting to learn because I have a child, coincidentally are linked to the things I’d like her to learn too.  The things she won’t see from inside a classroom when she goes to school.  How people are when they work in a team, the effort that goes in to making a play session happen, how some things are important enough to stand holding a banner about in the cold…ivy and lel chopping2

These things are leading me to shift my ideas of what it means to get involved, and weekly I’m shifting my ideas of what we can achieve together.  We’ve done growing, making cob from straw and clay, running a cooking session and I’ve now found out from others about marshalling a Parkrun, fundraising and event planning all being grand carer/kid endeavours.

And the list is getting longer of wisdom I’ve gleaned from our little outings…

  •     Do take snacks.
  •     Don’t expect to get there at all.  You may be pleasantly surprised.
  •     The promise of swings later-on will get you a long way.
  •     Don’t expect to have in-depth conversations with the other volunteers – you’ll be the one explaining why the wheelbarrow has one wheel and why the slope is slopey.
  •     You know how the best volunteer co-ordinator can break things down into little chunks that more and varied people can get involved in?  Do that, but more so.  The tiniest tasks for them to get involved with alongside your (hopefully) bigger ones.
  •     Things will often feel more manageable when it’s your thing:  running your own kids session for example in your own time, or organising a ‘playing out’ in your street with your child.
  •     Expect to achieve.  Something.  And to both be excited by that achievement!

I’ve got two requests.

I’ve learned a lot as a volunteer, and now I’ve also got ideas as a volunteer co-ordinator.  What about you?  What roles are there in your organisation where parents/carers are getting involved with kids?

Do you have roles in your organisation which might suit a parent/carer and child, but haven’t yet?  Think flexible involvement, or where the volunteer has some autonomy over the time tasks take, low risk etc.?   I’ve been thinking recently about matching young kids activities with activities for older people – they seem to get so much out of being together. Maybe older people’s lunch clubs?

Are there roles that you’ve tried to involve carer/kid volunteers in, and it’s been too much of a challenge?  Please share your hindsight!

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts, whatever they may be, as a new parent-unteer and as a fellow co-ordinator.  Maybe me and the girl will pop down and road test your opportunity one day… we could write about it too…

And my second request – do you know anyone doing something with their kid that THEY wouldn’t consider volunteering, but that is essentially getting involved and getting something done?  I’d love to hear about them.

Get in touch and follow the blog (or @volunteersyeah on twitter) for more on volunteering with kids and guest posts from others doing it.  cheers!




Why All the Fuss? Managing Volunteers

This is so beautiful I want to marry it.  Here are the bits you don’t see – the reason it’s an art to get a project up and running, to get people involved, to make sure we all support each other.  The reason it needs recognition and a bit of cash every now and then.


Training: Volunteer Disclosure Checks

Volunteers… CRB…  DBS… Regulated Activity…  Barred Lists… Confusion.

A half day interactive worksh0p addressing the recent changes in criminal record checks for volunteers,  and all the great ways if keeping your organisation and volunteers safe. 

I can deliver this for your organisation… please get in touch.

  • Picking apart the JARGON
  • Activities: checking real-life volunteer roles
  • Visual explanations of different levels of check
  • Group discussion to explore individual recruitment issuesDBSFlow2auto2

This is a great way for small and medium organisations to find out about  changes to the system of checking criminal convictions and barring, and how they affect organisations and volunteers.  The course also looks at all the recruitment options you have to make sure your organisation and clients are safer.

Take a look at these resources for more of an idea of the course:

Example Activities

Example slides from the presentations

Which level of check should we use?

Session objectives:
• Highlight the changes you will need to make in your organisation as a result of CRB changes
• Explain what a Disclosure and Barring Service Check is and when it is useful
• Utilise methods such as references and interviews to improve the safety of your recruitment & selection process

Please get in touch to find our more.  Thanks!